The European Parliament’s centre-right political group has joined Ukrainian opposition forces in condemning the Ukrainian Central Election Committee’s refusal to register imprisoned political leaders Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuri Lutsenko as candidates for the October parliamentary elections.
Tymoshenko’s party, Batkivschyna (Fatherland), has appealed to the country’s Supreme Administrative Court over the administrative refusal to register the former prime minister and Lutsenko, the former interior minister, as the party's parliamentary candidates, the Ukrainian News website reported yesterday (13 August).
Tymoshenko and Lutsenko were sentenced last year to seven and four years, respectively, for abuse of power. Tymoshenko led the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that derailed current President Viktor Yanukovich's first bid for presidency.
The former prime minister says she is the victim of a vendetta by Yanukovich.
Parliamentary elections on 28 October are viewed as a major test for the country, which is at the crossroads of the European Union and Russia. Two political forces have the greatest electoral support in Ukraine: Yanukovich’s Party of Regions and the United Opposition – comprised of Batkivschyna and the “Front for change” of Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a former foreign minister (see background).
A source cited by Ukrainian News said that the Supreme Administrative Court could consider the appeal this week.
Ukrainian News earlier reported that the Kyiv Administrative Appeals Court on 11 August upheld the election commission's 8 August decision not to register Tymoshenko and Lutsenko. The commission said its decision was based on a law which bars those convicted of committing a premeditated crime from being nominated or elected as a parliamentary deputy, if the conviction had not been annulled.
Wilfried Martens, president of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, condemned the action. Batkivschyna is affiliated with the centre-right European political group.
Under Article 76 of the Ukraine Constitution, a ‘conviction’ can be grounds for refusal of a person to be elected as a member of parliament, but it cannot be grounds for refusal to register a person as a candidate for a member of parliament, Martens said.
“Once again, the current regime in Ukraine led by Viktor Yanukovych has reconfirmed its well-known and longstanding intention to eliminate opposition leaders. … Needless to say, this is another serious setback for democracy in Ukraine and will, of course, have consequences in the EU-Ukraine relationship,” the EPP president said in a statement.
New convictions looming
In the meantime, Lutsenko and Tymoshenko could face new sentences, the Kyiv Post reported.
A district court of Kyiv is expected to announce its verdict on 17 August in the case where the former interior minister is accused of negligence. The prosecutors claim that Lutsenko displayed professional negligence when extending surveillance while investigating the 2004 poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko, who served as president from 2005 to 2010.
Tymoshenko faces tax-evasion and embezzlement charges. Her daughter says the former prime minister refuses to attend the trial due to start this week.
Tymoshenko, the main political foe of Yanukovich, was sentenced to seven years in prison last October for abuse of office, a case that the European Union condemned as selective justice.
She is now trying to get that verdict overturned by the European Court for Human Rights, which plans to hold a public hearing on her case on 28 August.
But a second conviction could keep Tymoshenko behind bars even if the European court rules in her favour.
"They [the authorities] want a second verdict before the ruling of the European Court for Human Rights," Evgenia Tymoshenko told Reuters at her mother's party headquarters.
It was also reported that the Ukrainian prosecution could press murder charges against Tymoshenko for the 1996 death of Yefhen Shcherban, a member of parliament and one of the richest people in Ukraine.