Ukrainian language law protests may provoke snap elections

By bne IntelliNews July 5, 2012

bne -

President Viktor Yanukovych said on July 4 that snap general elections are possible. The suggestion comes as Ukraine is plunged into political crisis following the resignation of the Speaker of the Rada, and violent protest erupts against new legislation giving Russian the status of official language.

Yanukovich met the heads of several parliament factions to discuss what he called a crisis in the legislature after speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn quit in the wake of the ruling party forcing through the controversial law, reports Reuters.

Without the speaker, Ukraine's parliament is paralyzed, because no laws can be put into force without the signature of both the president and the speaker of the house. Ukraine is due to hold scheduled elections in October, but to break the impasse and end the political crisis Yanukovych suggested that he could move them forwards.

"Yanukovich did not rule out that, if (deputies) fail to stabilize parliament's work, it will be necessary to move on to the early parliamentary election procedure," his office said in a statement.

Lytvyn's resignation was provoked by the passage of legislation that gives the Russian language official status in the country. The ruling Party of Regions sprang a vote on the law on the evening of July 3, leaving the opposition no time to organize a counter vote. The following day, demonstrations against the move turned violent, with riot police and protestors clashing amidst tear gas and pepper spray outside the Rada.

The issue has split the country down the middle. The Party of Regions has promised to make Russian an official language as a sop to its supporters, who largely live in the Russian-speaking eastern parts of the country. The naysayers, who mostly come from the Ukrainian-speaking western part of the country, worry that Ukrainian will be swamped by Russian and the law removes any incentive for those in the east to learn Ukrainian, which will permanently divide the country.

The language law is only the latest screw up by the Yanukovych administration, which has blundered from one PR disaster to the next. Tensions are rising steadily and the elections this October - or sooner - could turn into a flash point.

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