Central Europe Review Call forpolicy proposals...
Vol 3, No 16
7 May 2001
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Ukraine newsNews from Ukraine
All the important news
since 28 April 2001

Iryna Solonenko


Initiative on presidential no-confidence vote launched

On Thursday 3 May, opposition leaders met and unanimously agreed to begin the process of preparing for a nationwide referendum designed to muster the support necessary to oust President Leonid Kuchma.

The outcome garnered the approval for two questions for the referendum's vote, one on a no-confidence vote for President Kuchma and the other on redistribution of powers among the parliament, the Government and the president (initiators argue that the parliament should form the cabinet of ministers, which is now a responsibility of the president). The opposition groups will submit these questions and the respective applications to the Central Electoral Commission for approval.

The All-Ukrainian Committee on preparation of the referendum was established on 27 April. Yuliya Tymoshenko, leader of the Motherland Party and former deputy prime minister, became its chairperson. The Committee comprises representatives of over 50 political parties and NGOs, including the Motherland Party, the Socialist Party, Ukrainian's Peoples Party "Sobor", and the Ukrainian Republican Party.

The meeting on 3 May was followed by a rally near the building of the Central Electoral Commission. The turnout for the action, according to organizers, was estimated at 1,000 people.

The same day the Forum of National Salvation made an appeal in support of the referendum calling for citizens, NGOs and movements for Ukraine to support the idea. The Forum also demanded that members of parliament initiate the process for impeaching the president.

Some experts claim that even if the referendum takes place, its results cannot be considered legitimate, since Ukrainian law does not recognize such an initiative. However, according to political observers, the referendum might have a weighty effect on national public opinion and reveal the attitude of Ukrainian citizens towards President Kuchma. This might foster support among parliamentarians, giving a boost to impeachment proceedings which parliament failed to start on 26 April (the vote to pass the resolution fell short by 17 votes).

May Day demonstrations still popular in Eastern Ukraine

On 1 May traditional mass demonstrations took place in different cities of Ukraine. Mostly left-wing and left-centrist parties organized the demonstrations.

In Kyiv, approximately 3,200 people participated in six May Day demonstrations organized by the Communist Party, Progressive Socialist Party, Communist Party of Workers and Peasants, Socialist Party, the United Social Democratic Party, and the Working Ukraine Party. Despite having similar ideologies, the parties held separate demonstrations; notably, some of these parties also have leaders who are political rivals.

The most numerous demonstrations took place in cities of the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine. These protests brought out thousands of people: Sevastopol (over 20,000), Simpheropol (over 10,000), Kharkiv (around 5,000), Dnipropetrovsk (7,000), Donetsk (5,000), Odessa (over 2,000), and Luhansk (over 2,000). Demonstrations in cities of western Ukraine gathered only several hundred people or did not take place at all.

The United Social Democratic Party alone attracted over 190,000 people to participate in its demonstrations throughout Ukraine, according to the party's press service.

US supportive of democratization in Ukraine

On 2 May the US Congress held a hearing on "Ukraine at the Crossroads: Ten Years After Independence" concerning initiatives of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (also known as the Helsinki Committee, which comprises representatives of both chambers of the US legislature and the government). During the hearing, the issues of democratic transformation in Ukraine, freedom of speech, and economic transformation were discussed.

Yevhen Marchuk, secretary of the Council of National Security and Defense of Ukraine and a participant in the hearing, had a positive evaluation of the proceedings and said it opened the possibility for Ukraine to clearly present its position. According to him, this means Ukraine further pursuing European integration and democratization.

A representative of the US Department of State said that the US advocates a more transparent privatization process in Ukraine and reduction of Ukraine's energy dependence on Russia. Commenting on the political situation in Ukraine after Viktor Yushchenko was voted out, the official stated that the US is not going to take immediate steps, and will instead choose to wait before events develop further. He also noted that the latest events in Ukraine did not reduce the level of American-Ukrainian dialogue.

Iryna Solonenko, 4 May 2001

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