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09KYIV1604, BLOCKADE PARALYZES RADA

September 17, 2009

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09KYIV1604 2009-09-17 16:43 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO8197
PP RUEHDBU RUEHSL
DE RUEHKV #1604/01 2601643
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 171643Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8426
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KYIV 001604 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/05/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL UP
SUBJECT: BLOCKADE PARALYZES RADA 
 
Classified By: Political Counselor Colin Cleary for reasons 1.4 (b,d) 
 
SUMMARY 
-------- 
 
1. (C)  The Rada has not held a regular session since its 
September 1 scheduled re-opening.  Party of Regions MPs have 
physically blocked the rostrum.  Seeking to appeal to voters 
in the run-up to the January presidential election, the Party 
of Regions demands passage of a bill that would raise social 
welfare payments, pensions and the minimum wage.  Regions 
leader Yanukovych has promised to continue blocking the work 
of the Rada until the bill is passed.  Some MPs believe the 
blockage could last until January.  Rada Speaker Lytvyn, 
addressing diplomats, termed the continued blockage "a real 
danger to democracy in Ukraine."  End Summary. 
 
 
REGIONS' BLOCKADE: OSTENSIBLY FOR HIGHER SOCIAL PAYMENTS 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
 
2. (U)  Immediately following the failure of Party of 
Regions-backed legislation in the opening session of the new 
fall Rada session on September 1, Regions MPs physically 
blocked the Rada rostrum and forced the closure of the 
plenary meeting.  The failed bill, which garnered unanimous 
support from Regions and Communist party MPs, sought to raise 
government social welfare payments, pensions and the minimum 
wage.  Regions allowed the Rada to open briefly on September 
4 for a special session initiated by Prime Minister 
Tymoshenko's bloc (BYuT), but again blockaded the Rada after 
the ruling coalition rejected a repeat consideration of the 
social welfare legislation.  Regions MPs continued to 
physically block work in the Rada and have succeeded in 
forcing the cancellation of all plenary meetings.  Former 
Prime Minister and Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych has 
promised to blockade the Rada until the coalition passes the 
social payments legislation. 
 
3. (C) Regions MP Yuriy Miroshnochenko told us that BYuT had 
agreed on August 31 to back the social benefits bill to 
ensure the smooth functioning of the Rada.  However, the deal 
fell apart shortly before the beginning of the session on 
September 1, prompting Regions' blockade.  He said that the 
passage of the law was important for Regions during the 
run-up to the January 17 presidential election, but that he 
was sure that President Yushchenko would veto it. 
 
4. (C) BYuT MP Valeriy Pysarenko on September 4 described 
Regions' demands as cynical and hypocritical.  He told us 
that Regions has spent the last year attacking the Prime 
Minister as a "dangerous populist" and demanding she rein in 
public spending.  Now, in the run-up to the presidential 
election, Regions wants to significantly raise social 
payments and wages to sway voters, the "worst form of 
populism;" Pysarenko asserted that the "thinking members of 
Regions" are embarrassed by it.  BYuT MP Serhiy Mishchenko 
called the blockade "legislative blackmail." 
 
"REAL DANGER TO DEMOCRACY" 
-------------------------- 
 
5. (SBU) Addressing diplomats, including Charge, on September 
14, Rada Speaker Lytyvn termed the continued blockade a "real 
danger to democracy in Ukraine."   He accused the Party of 
Regions of seeking to "usurp power."  Lytvyn decried the lack 
of decorum in the Rada and declared himself the "sole person" 
trying to engage in dialogue.  Lytvyn also lamented what he 
sees as the cynical nature of Ukrainian politics.  No matter 
who wins, he said, the main issue is redistribution of 
property and state assets. 
 
6.  (C) MP Zvarych, formerly with Yushchenko's "Our Ukraine" 
but now a supporter of Tymoshenko, told us he worried that 
the blockade could last all the way to the January election. 
 He termed this the "worst session" of the Rada since he 
became a member in the 1990s.   Zvarych is floating a 
proposal to allow for Rada voting on paper via signature 
which would negate the blockage of the rostrum.   He said 
this would be perfectly legal.  Lytvyn is interested in the 
idea but has not signed on.  The measure would require the 
opening of a Rada session, however briefly, so it could pass. 
  Apart from this, Zvarych did not see any way to stop the 
blockade unless Regions were to decide that it was hurting 
them with voters.  Zvarych noted the blanket immunity given 
to Rada deputies meant that there is no legal way to force 
them from the rostrum - there is no Sergeant at Arms. 
 
 
BLOCKADE 101 
------------ 
 
 
KYIV 00001604  002 OF 002 
 
 
7. (U)  MPs from BYuT and Regions have increasingly resorted 
to blockades to prevent the passage of, or force votes on, 
legislation.  Typically MPs from a particular party en masse 
physically block the rostrum where MPs address the chamber 
and the presidium where the Speaker conducts the sessions, 
thus preventing the Rada from functioning.  At times MPs have 
also taken over the control room of the electronic voting and 
audio systems.  Physically blocking parliament is outside the 
self-written Rada regulations and rules of conduct.  However, 
the Rada lacks a mechanism for enforcing order in parliament. 
 The blockades are usually peaceful and, according our 
contacts in the
 Rada, informally announced to the various 
faction leaders beforehand.  On September 4 after the Rada 
refused to reconsider Regions' failed social welfare 
legislation, Regions MP Andriy Kluyev approached Deputy 
Speaker Tomenko with a note a few moments before Regions MPs 
began their blockade, to allow Tomenko time to recess the 
session. 
 
 
RADA LOSING LEGITIMACY? 
----------------------- 
 
8. (C)  BYuT MP Yuriy Poluneyev lamented the long-term effect 
that the frequent blockades were having on the Rada.  He 
explained that the parliament is ridiculed in the press for 
its inability to work and for the antics of MPs.  Poluneyev 
told us that unless MPs begin acting like professionals, the 
Rada will cease to be a major player in national government 
and a place for independent policy making.  Unaffiliated MP 
Taras Chornovil claimed that discrediting the Rada as an 
independent body was beneficial to Tymoshenko and Yanukovych, 
as both were convinced they would win the presidency and 
longed to return to the strong presidential system that 
existed under former President Kuchma.  He said that it was 
disingenuous for BYuT to criticize Regions for blockading the 
Rada, because BYuT used the same tactic last fall to avoid a 
vote of no-confidence in the Tymoshenko government. 
 
 
OR "JUST PART OF DEMOCRACY"? 
---------------------------- 
 
9. (C)  Regions MP Miroshnochenko dismissed accusations that 
blockading parliament was threatening the Rada's legitimacy. 
He explained that blocking the Rada was "democratic" because 
it ensured that opposition party voices were heard and was 
"just part of democracy."  Miroshnochenko said that blocking 
"promotes and ensures compromises" and that BYuT has 
frequently used the tactic too.  Regions MP Nestor Shufrych 
told us that conflict in the Rada, including blockading the 
rostrum and presidium, was actually a positive for the 
chamber because it ensured that it remained the nexus of 
interaction between political players.  He said it was 
better, especially during the upcoming presidential 
elections, for parties to do battle in the Rada rather than 
use public provocations that could cause instability. 
 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
10. (C) Regular blocking of the Rada -- by both Regions and 
BYuT -- threatens to undermine the credibility and legitimacy 
of parliament among the population.  A prolongation of the 
present blockade would fuel already rampant cynicism among 
voters.  It could also work to Tymoshenko's advantage.   The 
message in her current poster campaign, which features the 
slogan "She works, they block," could find greater resonance 
-- and help Tymoshenko gain ground in the presidential race 
in relation to front-runner Yanukovych. 
PETTIT

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