If it follows through the new legislature could be denied a quorum, possibly forcing a return to the polls.
Ukrainian opposition forces are stepping up threats to boycott the country's new parliament unless the government ends what they denounce as widespread vote-rigging following October 28 parliamentary elections. Authorities are still tallying votes more than one week after the election, fueling accusations that officials are falsifying the results in favor of President Viktor Yanukovych's ruling Party of Regions.
If all three opposition forces follow up on their threats, the legislature would be deprived of its mandatory quorum of 300 lawmakers. The opposition hopes this would invalidate the legislature and lead to repeat elections. In practice, however, the odds of repeat elections being called are slim. "Achieving this would be quite difficult," says opposition deputy Yuriy Kluchkovsky, who heads the parliamentary commission on state building and local government. "Everybody on the party list, right down to the last person on this list, must personally refuse to take up his or her seat. But this will not solve the question, because this represents only half of parliament."
Obstacles to a New Vote
Under current election law, 225 of the parliament's 450 seats are distributed through a proportional system among the parties that win at least 5 percent of the vote; the other half according to first-past-the-post races in 225 single-mandate constituencies. Candidates may represent parties or run independently. "Those who won in single-mandate constituencies also can relinquish their seats," Kluchkovsky says. "The Central Election Commission will then set a date for repeat elections, which will take place within 60 days. But until this election takes place, the parliament cannot be declared invalid."
Under Ukrainian law, the president is ultimately in charge of calling repeat parliamentary elections. Experts say Yanukovych would also be reluctant to disband a parliament strongly dominated by his own party. "The decision to conduct extraordinary parliamentary election would be taken by the president," says Oleksandr Zadorozhny, who heads the Ukrainian Association on International Law. "If the new parliament is illegitimate, then this Verkhovna Rada will continue to work. Does the president have a problem with this parliament? Not at all, therefore he won't be in a rush."
According to preliminary official results from the October 28 elections, Yanukovych's Party of Regions emerged with a thin parliamentary majority by winning just over 30 percent of the vote. That assumes the party receives support from its traditional Communist allies and a handful of independent candidates. The Fatherland United Opposition came second in the election at roughly 25 percent, followed by the Udar movement with 14 percent and the Communist Party with just over 13 percent. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has described the October 28 poll as a step backward for Ukraine's democratic development, criticism echoed by the United States.
Video: Hundreds of people rallied in central Kyiv on November 5 to protest what the Ukrainian opposition claims was vote-rigging by President Viktor Yanukovych's ruling party in the October 28 parliamentary elections. Crowds gathered outside the Central Election Commission building in response to a call to protest by opposition parties, including that of jailed ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
This post appears courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.