Orange Revolution Mark II? Ukraine opposition calls for street protests

By bne IntelliNews March 11, 2013

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The frustrations of Ukraine's opposition are becoming palpable and tensions are rising fast in Kyiv. The opposition took the dramatic step of calling on the population to take to the streets to protest against the administration of President Viktor Yanukovych in what some hope could launch a second Orange Revolution, which swept the country in 2004.

Ukraine's opposition will start holding popular assemblies in different regions next week and urge people to oppose the authorities, the leader of the Batkivschyna parliamentary faction, Arseniy Yatseniuk, was quoted by the Kyiv Post. "We are announcing the people's assemblies and popular uprising against the regime today near [the monument to] Taras Shevchenko," he said at an opposition rally near the Taras Shevchenko Monument in the centre of Kyiv on March 9, the press service of the Batkivschyna party reported.

Yanukovych has run roughshod over democracy since taking office in 2010 and tightened his grip on power, while his entourage - the so-called "family" - have enriched themselves through their total control of the political process. The opposition has been blockading the Rada in an effort to put pressure on the presidential administration, but it seems their patience is wearing thin.

"This is something to watch/monitor. I sense popular unease now with the Yanukovych administration is building, and it would not surprise me now if this all builds some momentum - Orange Revolution MKII?" Tim Ash of Standard bank said in a note on Monday, March 11. "I would have said there was a limited chance of a repeat of 2004/2005 this time around, as popular disillusion with politicians is high. But no one saw the first Orange Revolution coming, so never say never, and more than anything it was the sense of injustice and of a government riding roughshod over the wishes of the many, which drove momentum last time around - a kind of Precursor to the Arab Spring. Now unlike last time, there is no Yulia Tymoshenko, who is in jail, and many would say the crop of opposition leaders lacks a real spark to bring people, en masse, on to the streets. Yatseniuk is one of the leaders of the opposition movement, which is proving surprising solid/stable."

Ash goes on to point out that while Yatseniuk was previously seen as quite close to the establishment, he came out as a vehement opponent of the Yanukovych regime in the October parliamentary elections.

The number of protests is gathering momentum slowly. Around 500 supporters of jailed former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko rallied in front of the hospital where she is staying in the eastern city of Kharkiv to mark March 8, international women's day. Tymoshenko's supporters brought flowers and chocolates and were holding signs that read, "Freedom to Yulia!" and, "Congratulations, Yulia!"

In the meantime, the gridlock of parliament continues. The leader of the Svoboda faction in parliament, Oleh Tiahnybok, believes that the Verkhovna Rada in its current composition will not be able to start its work and called for early parliamentary and presidential elections, reports the Kyiv Post.

If the Rada doesn't start work after 30 following it convening, then the president has the right to dissolve the assembly and call for fresh elections. "It's all over now. The parliament won't start its work. That's all. End of story. At present, the parliament is dysfunctional... The right thing to do would be to call the early elections, both parliamentary and presidential ones," Tiahnybok said in an interview with the Ukrainian service of Radio Liberty, which was published on the website on March 9.

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