Archive for August 8th, 2012

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Just when you thought Ukraine’s elections couldn’t get any more farcical, another convicted criminal joins the race

August 8, 2012

Probably within the next few hours, and certainly withing the next few days, the Ukrainian Central Election Commission must decide whether Yulia Tymoshenko, nominated number 1 on the United Opposition ticket, and Yuri Lutsenko, nominated number 5 of the United Opposition ticket, can be accepted as legal candidates and therefore run in the October parliamentary elections.

The fact is, legally, as people convicted of misusing their office when last in power , not to say currently serving a prison sentence, they are not allowed to run.  That is what the law says.  The CEC doesn’t write the law but it is bound to work within it.

Why then, are they meeting to discuss the applications of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko?  The answer is international pressure.  One may ponder that in the event of the recent ECfHR ruling over Lustenko and their ruling that his incarceration is politically motivated, the CEC may have some wiggle room and allow his nomination deeming the Ukrainian court rulings against him unsound.  Then again, Lutsenko remains in prison and remains convicted, so maybe there is not sufficient legal wiggle room for the CEC.

In the case of Tymoshenko, however, there is as yet no ECfHR ruling stating her trial was also politically motivated despite international concerns due process was not followed at her trial and the widely held conviction she was indeed politically targeted.  Of course the CEC are very well aware that her case is pending the ECfHR and that the likely outcome will be that it will rule her incarceration was politically motivated and due process was flawed.  As yet though, it has not, and it seems a decision on the validity of her nomination will be have to be made under the current circumstances.  Thus there is not the legal wiggle room that maybe afforded to Lutsenko.

However, these are not the only two currently convicted and imprisoned Ukrainian ex-political leaders who are trying to run in the October parliamentary elections.

Enter stage Pavlo Lazarenko, ex-Prime Minister of Ukraine, ex-business partner of Yulia Tymoshenko, and currently sitting in a US jail finishing a 10 year sentence for laundering tens of millions of US$ of ill-gotten gains via US banks.

Mr Lazarenko is due to complete his 10 year visit to a US jail in September and thus would be able to take up a position in the RADA after the elections on 28th October.  He also has no convictions in Ukraine – only the USA.  Therefore the CEC must decide whether Ukraine recognises his convictions abroad – or not – and in either case whether it would prevent his legal candidacy.  That said, Mr Lazarenko has been on the international wanted list, circulated by Ukraine, for over 10 years.  He is wanted for, amongst other things, corruption and money laundering.

It also has to be said, when sticking strictly to the word of the Ukrainian law, he has not been resident in Ukraine for the past 5 years, which is required to run in any elections.  Obviously he has been sat in a US jail for that time – or has he?

He is still a Ukrainian citizen and he still owns and (maybe importantly) is still registered at living at an address in Ukraine for far longer than 5 years.  He is still a tax resident of Ukraine.  The question that the CEC must therefore consider is whether residency is a bureaucratic requirement which he therefore fulfills, or that of physical presence in Ukraine which he quite obviously doesn’t.

Thus, currently pending CEC candidate approval, who I will once again state can/should only operate within the existing laws of Ukraine, we have Ms Tymoshenko, Mr Lutsenko and Mr Lazarenko, all convicted ex-politicians, all presenting something of slightly differing dilemmas for the CEC.

Some interesting decisions, and precedents, will be made in the immediate future.

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