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Focus on Ukraine, December 8-14, 2008

December 15, 2008
Overview of political events of the week
December 8

The parliament once again failed to agree on candidates for the position of speaker. Ivan Pliushch (Our Ukraine – People’s Self-defense) and Oleksandr Lavrynovych are the two candidates being considered for the position.
Meanwhile, members of the OU-PSD faction discussed at a meeting with President Viktor Yushchenko the future steps this parliamentary political force should take. The president is demanding that the Verkhovna Rada elect a speaker and backs Ivan Pliushch for this position. As a reminder, the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc is opposed to this, calling the candidacy of Pliushch an ultimatum of the president.


Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Volodymyr Ohryzko believes Ukraine can become a member of NATO without the Membership Action Plan (MAP).         
The minister said that the Annual National NATO Accession Program and the MAP are one in the same thing. In light of this, Ohryzko fells that the MAP will no longer be mandatory should Ukraine execute the annual program.


December 9
Today’s session in the Verkhovna Rada kicked off with a few surprises.  
Leader of the OU-PSD Vyacheslav Kyrylenko called for holding talks between his political force and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc and the Lytvyn Bloc concerning the formation of a coalition. Kyrylenko said that a possible coalition between the YTB and the Party of Regions, which he believes does not comply with the national interests of Ukraine, is forcing his faction to hold such talks. 
Further, Kyrylenko believes that an agreement between political forces on anti-crisis measures and introduction of open party lists or a return to mixed electoral system should be the foundation of a coalition agreement.


Leader of the YTB faction Ivan Kyrylenko announced the renewal of the old coalition between the YTB and the OU-PSD and that the Lytvyn Bloc would join this coalition.
Members of the YTB said that if a coalition is formed between these three forces, Volodymyr Lytvyn will become the speaker of the parliament. The Lytvyn Bloc said it is ready to join this coalition.
Meanwhile, the OU-PSD said that in order for the faction to renew mutual relations with its former allies, the latter must back down from any attempts to amend the Constitution of Ukraine.


This afternoon the Ukrainian parliament elected a new speaker of the Verkhovna Rada and formed a coalition. 
A total of 244 deputies voted in favor of Volodymyr Lytvyn for the position of speaker. Besides the members of Lytvyn’s party, all members of the Communist Party, almost all members of the YTB, half of the members of OU-PSD and three members of the Party of Regions – Vasyl Hrytsak, Yuchym Zvyahilskiy and Taras Chornovil – voted in favor of Lytvyn.   


The newly elected speaker of the Ukrainian parliament Volodymyr Lytvyn announced the formation of a new coalition in the Verkhovna Rada: Lytvyn Bloc, the YTB and OU-PSD. 
Bear in mind that a part of the OU-PSD faction announced that the new parliamentary alliance was fabricated as the leader of OU-PSD Vyacheslav Kyrylenko did not sign the coalition agreement with the YTB and the Lytvyn Bloc.

December 10

President Viktor Yushchenko congratulated Volodymyr Lytvyn on his appointment as the speaker of the VR.    
The head of state said such an experienced and level-headed politician is capable of blocking the work of the country highest legislative body.
At the same time, the president congratulated the Verkhovna Rada on its first step to normal functioning and called on all deputies to immediately adopt anti-crisis bills and the national budget for next year.


Member of OU-PSD Ksenya Lyapina insists that the newly formed parliamentary majority cannot be called full-fledged until it is officially formed.
Lyapina said that all sides involved must polish the text in the coalition agreement, which has yet to be signed by the leader of the faction Vyacheslav Kyrylenko. The members of the OU-PSD feel the signature of Kyrylenko’s deputy Borys Tarasiuk on this agreement is invalid.


Premier Yulia Tymoshenko announced that the government will be reformatted according to the requirements of the newly elected parliamentary majority.
She said the Cabinet of Ministers will form three factions of members in the coalition, meaning that a redivision of ministerial posts can be expected.

December 11

The Verkhovna Rada has begun its fight against the economic crisis based on anti-crisis bills
Members of the parliament adopted in its first reading a bill on social security, by virtue of which an increase in the staffing of civil services on the budget payroll is banned for a year. Only seven bills have been registered in the parliament.


President Viktor Yushchenko called on the parliamentarians to focus their efforts and approve the national budget for next year and a package of anti-crisis bills by the end of this year.
In a meeting with new VR Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, the president requested that the VR immediately consider 15 of his bills, particularly the bill on deputy immunity.


Leader of the Party of Regions Viktor Yanukovych gave the current government 100 days to make order in the country.
If the government does not improve the situation within this set deadline, the Party of Regions will incite people to hit the streets in protest.

December 12

The parliament approved amendments to the budget for 2008. In particular, an additional UAH 6 billion will be allocated to the Pension Fund. Another UAH 1 billion will be directed towards filling the Individual Deposit Guarantee Fund. In addition to that, UAH 3.2 billion will be allocated to Naftogaz Ukrainy to compensate for the difference between buy and sell prices of imported gas.

December 13

VR Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn announced at a working trip to the Uman region of the Cherkasy Oblast that he will counteract any scenarios in which Ukrainians are planning to organize acts of public protest.
In addition to that, Lytvyn called for the need to unite all political forces in order to overcome the crisis in the country.        


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