The Ukrainian Week has tried to forecast political developments for 2011
Without waiting for the decision of the Constitutional Court on the bill that makes amendments to the Constitution, extends the mandate of the current composition of the Verkhovna Rada to five years, and moves the date of the next parliamentary election to October 2012, the president will schedule the election for the fall of 2011. He will substantiate his decision by referring to the norms of the effective Constitution under which the mandate of parliament is four years and by citing recommendations of international community. The president will also appeal to the decision of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) on the repeal of the 2004 constitutional reform which recommends scheduling the next election for 2011. The Regionals will, in fact, try to hold it before their unpopular reforms totally undermine their popular support and the opposition comes to senses after a series of criminal cases opened against its leaders. If Viktor Yanukovych makes this decision, it will be a sign that Chief of Presidential Administration Serhii Liovochkin has increased its influence on the president. Mr. Liovochkin has been pushing for 2011 as the election year. The Verkhovna Rada will made amendments to the elections law: half of the seats will be filled with MPs from the party lists, while the other half will be up for grabs to those who will win in majority constituencies. This division will permit the Party of Regions to employ the scheme already used in the local elections to greatly boost its share of government offices. They will be able to form a majority on their own, without making deals with any allies, and it will vote the needed bills through.
The Fatherland party will give up some of its positions. The criminal cases brought against its leaders will hamper it in the electioneering campaign. The Front of Changes, the Communist Party of Ukraine, and Svoboda will make it to parliament. Some representatives of Our Ukraine and Volodymyr Lytvyn’s People’s Party will win under the majority scheme. The opposition will have virtually no influence on the passage of bills.
Criminal cases against opposition members
The government will complete the case against Yulia Tymoshenko: the court will pronounce her guilty in violating Part 3 of Article 365 of the Criminal Code (abuse of authority or office that led to grave consequences). As a result, she will be handed a conditional sentence and stripped of the right to assume government offices. This will prevent Ms. Tymoshenko from active participation in the election campaign and obtaining a seat in parliament. Yurii Lutsenko will continue to be kept under arrest. Criminal cases will be opened against other colleagues of Ms. Tymoshenko, in particular MP Andrii Shkil and Oleksandr Turchynov. The latter’s status will change from “witness” to “suspect” in the case about RosUkrEnergo’s gas. These two MPs will thus be prevented from making another bid for parliamentary seats.
Uniting the opposition
The opposition parties will try to resume the negotiations launched in 2010 to unite democratic forces: Mykola Katerynchuk’s European Party, Anatolii Hrytsenko’s Civic Position, Svoboda (Freedom), Batkivshchyna (Fatherland), Ukrainian People’s Movement, For Ukraine!, and Ukrainian Platform. However, the ambitions of their political leaders will be an obstacle.
The Verkhovna Rada will raise the retirement age to 60 for women and 62(65) for men and will pass the new Labor Code which will extend the working day to 9.5 hours. These unpopular measures will spark protests: the social strata affected by the new laws will demand a presidential veto or the resignation of the president and the dismissal of parliament. Their demands will be ignored or partly satisfied. Authorities will try to disperse the rallies in a democratic manner, like they did with the entrepreneurs’ protest in Kyiv.
Resignation of the government
After new and unpopular rules are implemented, President Yanukovych will fire Prime Minister Mykola Azarov by making him the scapegoat for all the mistakes. Nearly all ministers will keep their offices in the new government. The prime minister’s office will be given to either Yurii Boiko or Andrii Kliuiev.
The next Ukraine–EU summit will take place in November 2011. Europe is not pleased to see the curtailment of democratic freedoms in Ukraine. The issues of associated membership and visa-free regime will be suspended indefinitely. Ukraine will be forced to continue to walk a tightrope between Europe and Russia, which will press even more for its membership in the Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Loss of the gas transportation system (GTS)
Russia and Ukraine are negotiating an agreement to set up a full-fledged joint venture between Gazprom and Naftohaz Ukrainy. Gazprom will, in essence, become the monopolist on Ukraine’s gas market and will set its own rules of the game. A certain monitoring mechanism over Ukraine’s GTS will be put in place.
Curtailment of freedom of speech
The Verkhovna Rada will pass the draft Law “On Access to Public Information” in the redaction that meets the interests of the government. The mass media will have limited access to authorities which will try to find legitimate reasons (lawsuits, checks, revocation of licenses, etc.) to shut down the disagreeable media outlets. The Internet may begin to be monitored after the passage of respective laws.