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The Verkhovna Rada Brawl

18. December 2012 by Lorena 0 Comments

Last week, Ukraine’s parliament had to end two separate sessions because of brawls that broke out on the floor. On Wednesday, the first day of Verkhovna Rada’s post-election session, members of Yulia Tymoshenko’s party showed up in black sweatshirts depicting the incarcerated former Prime Minister.


The trouble started when deputies tried to eject two newly-elected members. The two men, who are father and son, were elected on an opposition ticket. However, they were expected to switch sides and join The Party of Regions, led by President Viktor Yanukovych. Parliament members shouted “no to defectors!” as they rushed the podium. It was decided that the vote would be held the next day instead.


The second day had already begun with another spectacle: topless FEMEN activists carrying hobby horses awaited deputies’ arrival that day. They said that the Verkhovna Rada was a “stable for horses of oligarchs” and were protesting the continued incarceration of Tymochenko. They were joined by other, more warmly dressed, protestors.


The second day of proceedings were no more successful. As parliament attempted to swear in new members, deputies blocked the podium where electronic voting would be held. Among the many complaints of the opposition is that, despite rules forbidding it, members of parliament were voting on behalf of other members who were absent. In the end, one new member was able to be sworn in. During the afternoon, Volodymyr Rybak was voted Speaker.


Vitali Klitscho, champion heavyweight boxer and head of the UDAR party, opted to sit these rounds out. He told reporters that his hands are considered weapons in the US, and it would have been unfair for him to get involved in the brawl. They've even occurred in the US. The more spectacular confrontations have involved men beating one another with wooden canes or wielding hot fireplace pokers.


The brawl was hardly the first in Ukrainian history; violence on the floor has been common since Ukraine's independence. Fights like these are common in legislative bodies in other parts of the world, as well.


The newly formed parliament faces numerous challenges. Many opposition members fear that the ruling party is attempting to manipulate the system to gain an unfair advantage. Tymoshenko’s imprisonment, which many consider politically motivated, continues to rankle. And, five seats sit empty, as new elections are held in regions where results were challenged.


This morning, Volodymyr Rybak, the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, apologized for last week’s events. He called on members of parliament to work together, and put aside political differences.