- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 26, 2007

Ukraine entered its fifth crisis recently after President Viktor Yushchenko disbanded parliament and called early elections. Premier Viktor Yanukovich has used the crisis to portray an alleged new democratic image by staking out a claim that he is pro-Western and holds democratic values. Such an image is fundamentally flawed by Ukraine’s domestic realities.

Mr. Yanukovich has never reconciled himself to his defeat during the hotly contested 2004 Ukrainian elections. He has never acknowledged his widespread use of election fraud that the Supreme Court condemned and used to justify overturning his election. Indeed, Mr. Yanukovich blocked attempts at punishing his allies who organized of massive election fraud and the poisoning of his opponent.

In fact, discredited Chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Sergei Kivalov, intimately involved in organizing election fraud at the time, was elected to parliament in Mr. Yanukovich’s Party of Regions. Mr. Yanukovich’s election allies have reinstated Mr. Kivalov as CEC chairman in what can only be seen as a slap in the face to the millions of Ukrainians who braved the cold weather to stand on the streets of Kiev during the Orange Revolution in 2004.

Mr. Yanukovich’s government was formed eight months ago in a coalition with the Stalinist communists and anti-reform Socialists. His nondemocratic instincts have repeatedly come to the fore in his penchant to upset the balance of power put in place by constitutional reforms.

Mr. Yanukovich’s coalition and government have further damaged their claim to uphold democratic values by refusing to recognize the fundamental basis of any democracy. Mr. Yanukovich’s coalition has bribed opposition parliamentarians with the aim of creating a super-constitutional majority that could ignore presidential vetoes, and has refused to adopt a law giving rights to the opposition.

Ukraine’s constitutional crisis has been brought about by Mr. Yanukovich’s greed for power and his desire for revenge for his 2004 defeat. Two years ago, the Council of Europe ruled that the constitutional reforms were adopted illegally by the Ukrainian parliament. A recent resolution by the Council concluded that the current crisis is due to the hasty and incomplete constitutional and political reform of 2004, under which a number of changes have been introduced to the Constitution of Ukraine without taking into account the reservations of the Venice Commission and without holding a comprehensive public debate in the country.

The Council further criticized the government as having ignored repeated calls on the Ukrainian authorities to address these issues as a matter of urgency, in order to secure the legitimacy of the constitutional changes of 2004 and their compliance with European standards.

Premier Yanukovich’s Party of Regions paralyzed the constitutional court by blocking the allocation of judges by parliament. His coalition has refused to join the president’s constitutional commission to overcome major shortcomings in the constitutional reforms and instead has sought to change the constitution toward a full parliamentary republic.

Mr. Yushchenko is not a radical by nature — but he was forced into an impossible position where he could (1) do nothing and see an authoritarian parliamentary republic emerge led by Mr. Yanukovich or (2) disband parliament to re-establish the constitutional balance of power and hold fresh elections.

New elections remain the only peaceful manner for voters in a democratic society to express their opinion. As the Council of Europe’s recent resolution stated, early elections are a normal practice in all democratic countries of the Council of Europe and as such could be accepted as a key building block of the political compromise.

The crisis should be resolved by the Ukrainians — without international mediators. A long-lasting resolution should include early elections and a compromise that annuls the unconstitutional steps undertaken by Mr. Yanukovich’s coalition allies. Without these steps, Ukraine will plunge into another crisis in the near future.

The United States and the trans-Atlantic community should continue to support strongly Orange democratic values during the current crisis in Ukraine. Only President Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, the opposition leader, remain committed to the values enshrined by the Orange Revolution, and only they remain Ukraine’s true pro-Western leaders.

Taras Kuzio is an assistant professorial lecturer at the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University.

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