Tymoshenko denied registration as election candidate

Tymoshenko prison.jpg

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.

EPP response

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.

European Commission spokesperson Peter Stano said at a press briefing:

"As we said already last week, we noted the decision of the Central Election Commission not to allow Mr Lutsenko and Ms Tymoshenko to run in the parliament election this autumn. We are of course following this closely and these developments are not helping to improve the climate in the relations between the EU and Ukraine."

"As you know, there are several concerns that the EU, the Commission and the member states have when it comes to Ukraine specifically in the areas of the rule of law, the judiciary and the selective use of justice, and we have specified when we have been in contact with our Ukrainian partners that any improvement depends on their efforts in three areas: one of them is of course the conduct of parliament elections, and everything in relation to parliament elections, and the decision of the Central Election Commission from last week is of course not helping," Stano said.

"It’s unfortunately a logical consequence of the trials which have been conducted against these two people. We say we are concerned there’s a selective use of justice and the law has been used to persecute political opponents which is not acceptable. It’s not according to European values or European principles, and the Ukrainian authorities need to address this," the Commission spokesperson continued.

"Our position is that the Ukrainian authorities really need to address issues among others of the parliament elections which need to be free and fair and done according to international standards. Based on the conduct of these elections and everything that will precede and happen afterwards in relation to this election, we will then access our relations and proceed accordingly," he added.

The Parliamentary elections in Ukraine will take place on October 28 with 225 members of parliament to be elected by party list, and 225 in majority districts. On 20 August all registered candidates will be known.

The electoral threshold for parties is 5%. Two political forces have the greatest electoral support in Ukraine: the Party of Regions and the United Opposition (Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivschyna in coalition with the Front for change of Arseniy Yatsenyuk). Opinion polls give both main groups 23% of support.

Two more political forces can theoretically get through to the parliament. These are the UDAR party of boxer Vitaliy Klychko (7%) and the Communist party of Ukraine (6%). The party of Nataliya Korolevska, Ukraine – Forward!, which declares liberal views, and the All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda led by Oleh Tyagnybok fell short of the 5% threshold in earlier polls. However, after well-known football player Andriy Shevchenko joined Ukraine – Forward! list, the party’s chances have grown.

  • This week: A new tax evasion and embezzlement trial to begin against Tymoshenko, in her absence
  • 17 Aug.: District court of Kyiv to announce its verdict in a case where Lutsenko is accused of negligence
  • 28 Aug.: European Court for Human Rights to hold a public hearing on Tymoshenko’s case
  • 28 Oct.: Parliamentary elections to be held in Ukraine under international scrutiny

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