Ukrainian lawmaker Yulia Tymoshenko led her opposition faction out of parliament Thursday amid a persistent political crisis, demanding the president dissolve the fractious legislature and call new elections to keep the new pro-Russian parliamentary majority from gaining power.
Tymoshenko vowed that her faction, the second largest in the 450-member parliament, would stay away from the legislature until Tuesday when, under Ukraine's Constitution, President Viktor Yushchenko can exercise his right to dissolve parliament if a new government is not formed by then.
"We are leaving until July 25, the day when the president gets his right to dissolve the parliament until the president dissolves it," Tymoshenko said. At least 120 lawmakers immediately quit the chamber, covering their seats with a giant blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag.
Yushchenko's former "Orange Revolution" rival, Viktor Yanukovych, formed a majority coalition last week with the Socialists and the Communists.
The new coalition has its power base in pro-Russian eastern Ukraine, and some analysts have said it would slow Ukraine's march towards the European Union and NATO.
The coalition dominated by Yanukovych's Party of Regions proposed him as prime minister, but Yushchenko has so far refused to make the nomination official. If there is no prime minister by July 25, there will also be no government, and Yushchenko will be empowered to dissolve parliament.
Yanukovych emerged from two-and-a-half hours of talks with the president Thursday, saying that the issue of dissolving parliament never arose.
He also expressed hope that Yushchenko would soon forward his nomination to parliament. "I saw in the eyes of the president a great wish, a great wish to unite our forces for me, that's enough," Yanukovych said, when asked how the president responded to his candidacy.
Yushchenko, whose party took a beating with a third-place showing in the March parliamentary elections that sparked the political standoff, has appeared reluctant to dissolve the legislature a move that opponents would certainly cast as destructive. Polls have shown that a majority of Ukrainians do not want new elections, and they also signalled that Yushchenko's party could do even worse if a new vote were held.
But the president has also seemed equally uneasy with having to share power with Yanukovych, whom he defeated in a court-ordered presidential re-run in 2004. Even if the president gains the right to dissolve parliament, he is under no obligation to use that right or to act immediately.
His spokeswoman, Iryna Gerashchenko, said Yushchenko has until August 2 to consider whether to accept Yanukovych's candidacy.
Tymoshenko warned that if Yushchenko supports Yanukovych for prime minister, she would consider it a "betrayal of Ukraine's national interests."
(China Daily July 21, 2006)