Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Saturday Parliamentary session

I don’t think it is impossible to understate the significance of the Ukrainian Parliament special session this past Saturday. 323 deputies in that session voted to censure the Central Election Commission. The motion passed with those 323 votes. This is a total of 323 votes of 450 possible. This is, of course, only 72% of the total; the voting was not unanimous. But to do a lot of the work in that Parliament, as in every other legislature or parliament, unanimity is not necessary.

But to be in a position to win any kind of vote in the Parliament didn't look possible only the previous Monday. On that Monday, the Parliament held a previous special session to discuss the election. Only 191 deputies were there, an amount short of the number needed for a quorum to get anything done. This fact though did not stop the deputies there from choosing Yuschenko as president nor to stop him from taking a form of the oath of office. (A form, by the way, I think spoke more to Ukrainians than what the legal oath would have done. I was wrong about Yanukovych, but I mention this oath here.) The deputies of the party of Yanukovych and Kuchma, as well as the deputies of the Communist Party, all stayed away.

But from Monday to Saturday something happened. Yuschenko gained 132 deputies to carry the motion censuring the commission. What happened? Kuchma and Yanukovych hemorrhaged support from that Monday to Saturday. Deputies openly changed sides to come over to Yuschenko. This is a significant thing. And it may not bode all that well for Kuchma today as they consider impeachment him. I don’t know what size the vote must be to vote impeachment, but to lose 132 votes in five days should not make for a great degree of confidence on the part of Kuchma that he can now control events like he could.

What happened to cause these deputies to change? The people in the street. These deputies have to stand election, after all, even if they did not have any pangs of conscience in the first place. They were staring right into the face of the people and they saw their futures written there.

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