By Tammy Lynch
On 25 February, Viktor Yanukovych stood in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, took an oath, and assumed the office of the presidency.
It was a quiet affair.
This was in marked contrast to the festival-like atmosphere of Viktor Yushchenko’s extended, day-long inauguration in January of 2005.
But then…the presidential election of 2010 was a much quieter affair overall, forged more by disillusionment and disappointment than by hope.
Regardless, the real fireworks may be coming over the next several months, as President Yanukovych attempts to consolidate control. Since Yanukovych won only 48% of the vote and beat Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko by just 3.5%, that task will not be easy.
As noted in Tuesday’s blog, the President and Prime Minister share almost equal constitutional powers, although the president’s decree power and control of the security services may give him an edge. In order to implement his policy objectives, Yanukovych will need to either strike a deal with Tymoshenko or force her removal and replacement by parliament.
Yanukovych’s Party has already introduced a motion for a vote of no-confidence in the government, which would force a resignation.
However, in reality, it’s much more complicated. Not only would parliament need to remove Tymoshenko and her cabinet, but they would need to nominate and confirm a new PM. The simple majority required for a no-confidence vote may exist, but the configuration for a new parliamentary majority, which approves the PM, may not.
This is because, according to Article 83 of Ukraine’s constitution, a parliamentary majority is formed only by “a coalition of parliamentary factions.”
In the past, formation of the “coalition of parliamentary factions” has meant parties or blocs joining together with the approval of the majority of each of their members. The full memberships of all of these blocs are then added together to form the parliamentary majority.
The current majority consists of The Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko, the Bloc of Our Ukraine and the Bloc of Volodymyr Lytvyn, for a total of 245 members.
Should the current majority cease to exist, Yanukovych would need to form a new majority. As noted above in the constitution, affiliated individual members cannot be included in majority coalitions – only blocs or parties. Yanukovych’s 172 seats, in addition to likely coalition partner the Communist Party (27 seats) and Lytvyn (20 seats) are not enough to provide the required 226 seats. The other blocs in parliament are BYuT and Our Ukraine. It appears currently that these blocs will not enter any coalition with Yanukovych, meaning the new President only would control a minority 199 seats and be unable to nominate a PM (the sole purview of the majority).
Should no new majority be formed within 30 days, Article 90 of the constitution allows the president to terminate parliament’s authority, which would trigger new parliamentary elections.
But there is every reason to believe that most members of parliament do not want new elections. The new configuration may result in a drop of support or total elimination of both Lytvyn’s Bloc and Our Ukraine. These forces would likely be replaced by new Serhiy Tihipko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk blocs.
This could mean there is little choice for Yanukovych but to put up with Tymoshenko for now – unless he’s able to provide enough incentives for Our Ukraine to switch allegiances. At the moment that seems unlikely, but in Ukraine, nothing is impossible.