Ukraine ruling coalition collapses after Communist Party is banned.

Two Ukrainian parties left the majority coalition in Parliament today. The Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) and the All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda declared they would leave Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s government in order to call for new elections and clear what the leader of Svoboda called “Moscow agents” in the chamber. The news could put an end to dissolution of the Ukrainian Communist Party that was agreed on by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Tuesday 22 July. The decision was contested by the Communist Party which filed a complaint, and declared that it underlines the "lawlessness prevailing" in Ukraine.

Pushing for parliamentary elections

The ruling coalition that was formed after the pro-European street protests that toppled Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych has come to an end this morning when pro-European UDAR and nationalist Svoboda issued statements on their websites declaring they would leave the government. Their resignation reduces the number of coalition members under the constitutional threshold of 226 deputies, which gives the President the right to dissolve the assembly within a month.

Svoboda is a far-right Ukrainian nationalist party traditionally opposed to perceived-Russian influences in Ukraine and known for its anti-Communist stance. Several party activists have notably been accused of trying to destroy Communist-era statues over the years. Its leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, declared in Parliament this morning that  "In the current situation, such a parliament which protects state criminals, Moscow agents, which refuses to strip immunity from those people who are working for the Kremlin, should not exist."  For his part, UDAR leader Vitali Klitschko deplored the lack of “constructive work in accordance with the will of the Ukrainian people”.

These declarations underline a growing discontent of the public opinion, as well as some Parliament members who increasingly complained about the absence of parliamentary elections since the replacement of Viktor Yanukovych by Petro Poroshenko in February. They believe followers of the former President have since then been hampering lawmakers’ work. In addition, recent polls indicated that 80% of Ukrainians were in favour of it.

The Parliament’s  speaker, Oleksander Turchynov, criticised the two parties’ decision and underlined that important bills needed to be addressed before the end of the day. One of them was making official the dissolution of the Ukrainian Communist Party.

Banning communism in Ukraine

The Ukrainian Parliament, the Verkhovnaya Rada, paved the way for dissolving political factions present in parliament on Tuesday, by reforming the law on rules of procedure. The new amendments vested its Speaker with the power to dissolve within fifteen days political parties of which the number of members decreased after the first Parliamentary session. This has been the case with the Communist Party : ten of its thirty-three deputies quit recently, reducing its size by a third since the last Parliamentary elections in 2012. The Parliament’s bill was supported by 232 votes out of 450, despite heavy fights in the Assembly after the announcement.

Parliament Speaker Oleksander Turchynov declared yesterday that “[with ten deputies quitting], there are not enough MPs for the faction’s functioning.” He further added that “We have corrected a historical error by disbanding the faction. I hope there will be no more communist ideology in the Ukrainian society.” The Parliament’s move follows an inquiry made in May by Turchynov to the Justice Ministry, asking for an investigation into the Communist Party’s alleged implication in the current separatist activities in Eastern Ukraine that are shaking the country. The Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko had declared in May that if he were the head of state, he “would immediately call back all the troops” from the east of Ukraine, calling special military operations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions “war against the people.”

On 8 July, the Justice Ministry filed a suit on banning the Communist Party’s activities, denounced as separatists, and Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko declared that “there are 120 pages of evidence proving the illegal activity of the communists in the lawsuit contents”. Evidence would include implication in the Russian annexation of Crimea and weapon supplies to separatists. The District Administrative Court of Kiev will start hearing the case today. Attempts to suppress Communism in Ukraine are not new : in November 2013, the Svoboda party had proposed a bill to ban communist ideology from Ukraine to “eliminate the threat to national state sovereignty”.  

Seeking Russian and European support

Petro Symonenko reacted angrily by saying that his faction would be supported in Court, and prove that "lawlessness is prevailing" in Ukraine. He added that suspicions of anti-constitutional activities and support to separatists were “nonsense”.

The party is counting on European left wing parties to back its judicial suit. Petro Symonenko declared that the Russian Communists were giving an active support, while a European Parliament’s left representative should attend their first session in court.

The Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL), a left-wing group in the European Parliament, expressed concern with regards to this event as a violation of the basic principles of democracy. They denounced a suppression of critical voices by Ukraine’s new authorities and disregard to protection of human rights. In a statement issued on Wednesday 23 July, the group asked Poroshenko to "safeguard the Communist Party of Ukraine's parliamentary statute and resulting immunity," by not signing the bill. They concluded by asserting that the group would “send relevant messages to the President of the European Parliament and the European Council.”

The joint decision of UDAR and Svoboda to leave the government is likely to hamper the dissolution of the Communist Party. The Parliament now has thirty days to forge a new coalition, or early parliamentary elections will be held in the coming months.

Sources : Reuters, Bloomberg, ITAR-TASS, Interfax UkraineThe Moscow Times, GUE/NGL website, Ria Novosti, Radio Free Liberty I, Pravda, Radio Free Liberty II.

Author : Laura Gounon

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