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Tymoshenko Threatens Hunger Strike, Central European Doctors Plan Walkout

Plus, another Muslim cleric is murdered in Dagestan and Poland is ordered to provide abortions to rape victims.

by Ky Krauthamer, Joshua Boissevain, and Nino Tsintsadze 31 October 2012

1. Yanukovych’s party tries to rise above swell of election discontent


Three days after parliamentary elections, the political climate in Ukraine remains unsettled amid charges of vote fraud, a hunger strike by Yulia Tymoshenko, and reports of links between her party and the parliamentary neophytes of a far-right party accused of anti-Semitism.


Petro SymonenkoCommunist leader Petro Symonenko
What is clear is the victory by the ruling Party of Regions of President Viktor Yanukovych, which won 188 seats in the 450-member legislature according to preliminary results. Adding the 32 seats won by the Communist Party, which usually votes with Regions, and many of the 40 or so independent candidates generally seen as Regions sympathizers, the ruling party should enjoy a comfortable majority in the new parliament, the Kyiv Post writes.


Domestic critics led by jailed former Prime Minister Tymoshenko and the far-right Svoboda Party accused the authorities of manipulating the results, while U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton called the elections "a step backwards,” and Tymoshenko said she would go on hunger strike to protest the results, Agence France Presse reports.


Oleh Tyahnybok

According to some reports, Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party made a loose pre-election alliance with Svoboda. Batkivshchyna won 25 percent of the vote, while Svoboda won 10 percent, enabling it to send deputies to parliament for the first time. The pre-election surges by Svoboda and by the Communists on the opposite end of the ideological spectrum added an element of unpredictability to the campaign.


Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok dismissed the anti-Semitic label, according to the Kyiv Post, which cites some analysts as saying the party has toned down its earlier extreme nationalist views.


2. Strasbourg court rules in favor of young Polish rape victim


Poland violated the rights of a 14-year-old rape victim when public authorities tried to discourage her from having an abortion, the European Court of Human Rights ruled 30 October, the BBC reports.


The girl, identified only as “P,” became pregnant in 2008 after being raped. Although Polish law permits abortion only in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger, a hospital in her home town of Lublin refused to perform the operation. A Catholic priest at the hospital tried to persuade the girl to have the child, and the hospital issued a statement saying it would not perform an abortion, the BBC reports. After a similar experience at a hospital in Warsaw, police charged the girl’s mother with attempting to force her to have an abortion, and the girl was sent to a juvenile shelter.


Eventually, the termination was carried out in Gdansk, 500 kilometers from her home, Reuters writes.


The Strasbourg court ruled that the girl was subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment. Her rights were violated when she faced difficulties “in obtaining access to an abortion, in particular due to the lack of a clear legal framework, procrastination of medical staff and also as a result of harassment,” Polskie Radio reports.


The court ordered damages of 61,000 euros ($79,000) be paid to the girl and her mother.


3. Suspected Salafist imam killed in Dagestan


A Muslim cleric and two other men were shot dead in Dagestan 30 October in the fifth killing of a religious leader this year in the violent North Caucasus republic.


The cleric, Karimulla Ibragimov, was an imam at an unregistered mosque in Derbent, Reuters reported. He was shot dead in a car in Derbent. The Russian news agency Regnum said the other two victims were his father and brother, the Moscow Times reports.


Ibragimov, 49, is said to have been an adherent of Salafism, a strict form of Islam that is gaining ground among the traditionally moderate Muslims of the Caucasus. Several of the other clerics murdered in the region this year practiced moderate Islam, according to the Moscow Times.


Reuters, citing unnamed security experts, said the killings of clerics could be aimed at driving a wedge between moderate and more extreme Muslims, leading to a harsh reaction from the authorities and further radicalization of the population.


4. Central European doctors will voice frustrations in symbolic walkout


Hospital doctors in the four Visegrad countries plan a half-hour work stoppage 20 November to highlight their long-simmering complaints about low salaries and working conditions, Reuters reports.


“This is the final peaceful warning to the governments in the region,” the head of a Hungarian physicians’ union, Janos Beltecki, said.


The noontime protest is meant to publicize doctors’ concerns over the increasing privatization of health services, low payments by health insurers, and frustration over low salaries. Doctors’ associations say their average salaries should be in the range of 1.5 to 3 times national average wages.


Members of the Czech doctors’ union LOK did not rule out mass resignations by doctors in the Visegrad region comprising the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, the Czech Press Agency reports.


Czech and Slovak doctors have employed that bargaining tactic, with differing results. The Czech LOK union won promises large pay rises and restrictions on working hours in early 2011, lifting a resignation threat by several thousand state-employed doctors.


A year ago Slovak authorities put emergency measures in place at many hospitals when doctors threatened to resign en masse.


Doctors in large Czech hospitals now earn an average of 58,000 crowns ($3,000) a month, about 2.5 times the national average. However, their pay rose by only 6.25 percent this year, less than the 10 percent raise planned, while doctors and nurses in regional hospitals got no pay increases, CTK reports.


5. Russian opposition braces for ‘long winter’


Sergei Udaltsov
Hundreds of demonstrators marched in Moscow 30 October to protest the continuing arrests of opposition members and what they see as an effort by the Kremlin to crack down on dissent. Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, addressing the crowd in icy rain, said that the country might face “a long, political winter,” RIA Novosti writes.


The timing of the protest coincided with the Day Commemorating the Victims of Political Repression, the day Russians honor the millions who died as a result of political purges during the Soviet era. Speaking about the victims, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned what happened then should never happen again, and denounced Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s “war” against his own nation.


Protestors, however, have accused Russian authorities of using many of Stalin’s tactics, including cracking down on free speech and setting up political show trials for opposition leaders. Activists say that Udaltsov, who is facing charges of plotting a violent revolution, is the target of just such a trial, according to the Christian Science Monitor.


Moscow also approved a request for an annual nationalist rally for up to 20,000 people, according to RIA Novosti. This year’s “Russian March” held every 4 November, may be the largest-ever event for Russia’s various right-wing groups. Anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny spoke to the crowd at last year’s event. Navalny, Udaltsov, and other opposition figures were detained at a weekend protest.

Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor for TOL. Joshua Boissevain is a TOL editorial assistant.  Nino Tsintsadze is a TOL editorial intern.
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