Another Election Fix?
Ukraine’s boorish MPs have always liked agood fight in parliament, but on Wednesday they had good cause, whenYanukovych’s supporters succeeded in changing the election law only four daysbefore the final vote. Changing the rules in the middle of the game is ofcourse a major scandal, and Ukrainehad been specifically warned against doing so by the OSCE and the VeniceCommission (which makes recommendations on constitutional law to members of theCouncil of Europe).
Parliamentmade three key changes. The provision for election committees to make consensualdecisions via a 2/3rds quorum was abolished – increasing the risk of partisanbias. Any vacancies can now be filled by local authorities, which are alsooften highly partisan in the different regions of Ukraine. In the east they arecontrolled by Yanukovych’s supporters, in the centre by Tymoshenko’s. Higherlevel commissions have greater powers to intervene in the decisions of lowercommissions.
The changesdo not make fraud inevitable, but they weaken the insurance mechanisms that aredesigned to stop it.
Tymoshenkohas cried foul, lobbying G8 ambassadors, the OSCE and the internationalcommunity at large to protest. She has talked of a new Orange Revolution ifPresident Yushchenko signs the law. She is perfectly entitled to protest,though she is also trying to mobilise her own supporters – and has been lookingfor something to complain about. Yushchenko signed the law with vulgaralacrity.
Twenty ninemembers of his Our Ukraine block voted for the bill on Wednesday, increasingthe possibility that they could defect to Yanukovych if he wins the presidency.This places the existing precarious parliamentary majority that backsTymoshenko as prime minister under threat.
Yanukovych’ssupporters meanwhile have reminded the world that they have never come to termswith, or even admitted, what they did in 2004.
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