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Focus on Ukraine, March 16-22, 2009

March 23, 2009

Overview of political events of the week

March 16

On March 15 early election to the Ternopil Oblast Council were held. According to preliminary data, around 52% of the electorate came out to submit their ballot. The radical right-wing party All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda is in first place in the Ternopil elections with the support of nearly a third of the voters.
The new party United Center, whose party list was headed by the head of the oblast state administration, is in second place with a huge gap.
The opposition Party of Regions took third place ahead of the YTB, which announced it is boycotting the election.
Political analysts say this could be testimony that the government bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko is waning in popularity.

Leader of the Party of Regions Viktor Yanukovych denied information that his political force is seemingly holding talks about a coalition with the YTB.
Yanukovych noted that last week’s joint voting was situational, though he did not rule out the possibility of holding such talks in the foreseeable future, emphasizing they must be based on a plan for overcoming the economic crisis.

March 17

Head of Ukraine’s SBU Valentyn Nalyvaichenko gave his report today to the Verkhovna Rada.
He informed that in August 2008 the SBU inspected the statements of officials in the Presidential Secretariat accusing the premier of state treason. The head of the SBU said it did not reveal a single confirmation of this fact.
Nalyvaichenko also informed that the SBU is preparing for internal staff changes. Specifically, SBU Deputy Head Tiberiy Durdynets may lose his post.

President Yushchenko proposed the current Ambassador of Ukraine to the U.S. Oleh Shamshur for the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs.
VR deputies requested that the president justify his choice. They assess the candidacy of Shamshur as compromising. The coalition members stated they first want to meet Shamshur before making a decision as they want Borys Tarasiuk to take this post.
Finally, opposition party members said Shamshur should not even hope for their vote of support.

March 18

The All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda won the elections to the Ternopil Oblast Council. According to the results of 100% of the ballots, Svoboda took 34.9% of the votes.

United Center gathered 14.2% of the votes, Party of Regions – 9.8%, YTB – 8.1%, Ukrainian National Party – 7.99%, OU-PSD – 5.52% and the Lytvyn Bloc – 3.6%. 6.78% o the electorate voted against all candidates.
These are the figures made public by the Ternopil Oblast Territorial Election Commission.

March 19

Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko travelled to Brussels on a working visit. EU High Representative on Foreign Policy and Security Issues Javier Solana urged Ukraine’s highest officials to act decisively and quickly in order to meet the conditions of the IMF Stabilization Loan Agreement agreed to in 2008 and also work together to pull Ukraine out of the financial crisis.

President Yushchenko met with European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
The high-ranking officials discussed the modernization of Ukraine’s gas transport grid. The commissioner noted that “Eastern partnership” opens a window of opportunity for strengthening cooperation, but at the same time at this stage does not envisage membership for the eastern neighbors of the EU.

The president and premier of Ukraine held a joint meeting with President of the European People’s Party Wilfred Martens.
Premier Yulia Tymoshenko assured that accord between the branches of government opens the way to the second tranche of the IMF loan.
In response to rebuke of the European officials concerning the confrontation between the head of state and the head of the government President Yushchenko said that this is an internal issue that cannot be resolved in Europe.

March 20

The Law on Ad Hoc and Special Investigative Committees, which opens the way for impeachment of the president, has been published. Recall that the president vetoed the law twice.
VR Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn signed the law in lieu of the head of state saying that the Constitution does not envisage the procedure for double presidential veto.
President Yushchenko informed that he plans to appeal the law on committees with the Constitutional Court.

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