After Western-leaning President Viktor Yushchenko, who has been embroiled in a standoff with the premier, decreed Monday that parliament be dissolved and early elections be scheduled for late May, the parliament refused to obey and referred the decree to the Constitutional Court. The situation left Court Chairman Ivan Dombrovskiy, who was appointed in August, caught between the two conflicting sides.
"Chair of the Constitutional Court Dombrovskiy was Friday summoned by president's aides to Kiev from a short Easter vacation for consultations," Petro Symonenko said. "Despite official denials, Yushchenko met yesterday with Dombrovskiy and several other judges."
Citing reliable sources, he said that such an increased attention to constitutional judges had been caused by the decision of the Constitutional Court's collegiate to review on April 11 the legitimacy of Yushchenko's decree to dissolve parliament and conduct early parliamentary elections.
"The President was enraged by news of the decision to review his decree with great chances that it will be deemed unconstitutional," the Communist leader said.
Symonenko said Dombrovskiy had spent late Friday and early Saturday in the Constitutional Court trying to convince several judges to backtrack on the decision.
"I am sure that Yushchenko's supporters are attempting to force Dombrovskiy to commit unlawful actions, as it was in 2004, when he acted as a judge-speaker on the Supreme Court's abolishment of the results of the second round of voting during the presidential elections," the Communist leader said.
The latest twist in the simmering political crisis in the former Soviet nation of 47 million was triggered after 11 members of Tymoshenko's and pro-presidential Our Ukraine blocs defected to the majority coalition March 23.
Yushchenko, whose powers were drastically curtailed by a Cabinet law early this year, said the defections were against the Constitution. Prime Minister Yanukovych promised to revise the law on the Cabinet if the president backtracked on his decree.
Political speculation continued as the Party of Regions said Yushchenko was also preparing to dismiss the government, which had allowed the Supreme Rada to continue working despite the presidential order.
"The Ukrainian president intends to dismiss the Cabinet of Yanukovych and take over executive powers," Volodymyr Sivkovych of the Party of Regions said quoting sources in the presidential secretariat.
"The decree would indicate that the president intends to usurp power and establish a presidential dictatorship in the country," Sivkovych said, adding that no democratic elections could therefore be expected.
In addition to these accusations, the Supreme Rada, which gathered for an emergency session, also passed a resolution accusing Yushchenko of an attempted coup.
"The presidential decree to dissolve the Supreme Rada of Ukraine is unconstitutional," lawmakers said. "The head of state made the decision without consulting the Constitution and abused his office, attempting to stage a coup."
Parliament cited Article 90 of the Constitution, which allows the president to disband parliament for failure to form a coalition within a month following elections in order to protect the rights of voters.
The president's representative in the Constitutional Court, Volodymyr Shapoval, moved to defend Yushchenko and said the presidential decree was in line with the Constitution, adding that subsequent parliamentary decisions were illegal.