It looks like the legal stalemate in Ukraine could be a little closer to a solution. Possibly related to reports about the opposition offering immunity to incumbent President Kuchma in exchange for him no longer trying to factually or legally obstruct the preparations for the repeated presidential run-off election on December 26, at least most of the constitutional and procedural problems which led to parliamentary tensions last Saturday seem to have been resolved in a six hour round table talk with European mediators, including the EU’s Javier Solana and Poland’s President Aleksander Kwasniewski.
While the parties seem to have finally agreed to the dismissal of the current Central Electoral Committee, the abolition of the problematic absentee ballots, extended checks of electoral registers to keep at least most of the dead from voting, and an end to the blockade of government buildings, it is unclear at this point to which extent the issue of pre-electoral constitutional change reducing the powers of the future UkrainianPresident in favor of the parliament has been settled.
The AP notes that the fact that no agreement regarding the constitutional changes was made public after the talks “suggests there will be a tough battle … in parliament” tomorrow, despite earlier reports about a tentative agreement reached by parliamentarians, as The Telegraph‘s Kyiv correspondent Harry de Quetteville reports, quoting an opposition leader:
“If all agreements made today are carried out, tomorrow there’s a big likelihood that we will pass changes in the constitution, pass changes to the election law… and that there will be another central election commission.”
Much seems to depend on the opposition’s stance with respect to Mr Kuchma’s future. Their leadership is clearly walking on a tightrope when negotiating this issue, as their supporters on Maidan are unlikely to support immunity for the now thoroughly disrespected leader of the regime they just ousted, even though Mr Kuchma will likely be responsive to such offers by now – particularly given reports of protesters shouting “down with Kuchma!” in front of the Presidential palace, where tonight’s meeting took place.
Thus, according to the Kyiv Post, publicly, both Mr Yushenko and his ally Yulia Tymoshenko remain adamant – “The entire world is proud of Ukraine,” Yushenko told the protesters on Maidan, “[w]e are witnessing a struggle between forces of good and forces of evil.” That the alleged forces of good are apparently rather self confident by now, was made clear by Mr Yushenko in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph (via AP) –
“If the old regime tries to interfere in any way and tries to defy the will of the people and of parliament, we will simply storm our way into the Cabinet office. This is what the people expect.”
But tough talk is not only fashionable in Kyiv these days – in Moscow, President Putin once again stated that Russia is unhappy with the outcome in Kyiv but is not quite sure what to do about it.
“If in the post-Soviet space we allow – every time, for any reason – existing law to be bent to fit the situation or this or that political force, this will not bring stability, but on the contrary will destabilize this large and very important region of the world,”
he said, according to the AP, before cryptically accusing the West of reconstructing an iron curtain –
“I don’t want, as in Germany, for us to divide Europe into westerners and easterners, into first-class and second-class people, where the first-class people have the opportunity to live by stable, democratic laws and the second category of people are those with, to speak metaphorically, dark political skin.”
Meanwhile, in said West, AFP talked to John Kubiniec, the Eastern European regional head of the US pro-democracy foundation Freedom House, which spent several million dollars of US taxes to prevent fraud in the Ukrainian elections. He restated President Putin’s worst fear:
“If there is a free and fair election in Ukraine, this will be an inspiration for that to happen further eastwards … It’s going to have an impact on fledgling democracy in Russia and Belarus, but it will be gradual.”
I’m not sure if it is a statement about the normative power of the factual, but Ukraine’s incumbent defense minister, Alexander Kuzmuk, stated on Monday that his country lacks the funds, allegedly $11m, to withdraw its troops from Iraq, despite a decision to do so by the parliament. He also remarked that, “parliament’s vote Dec. 3 was non-binding and that a final decision had to be made by the coalition forces themselves.”
Hopefully, tomorrow’s decisions will be binding.