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Ukrainian Opposition Threatens Boycott, Romania Delays Euro Adoption

Plus, Kyrgyzstan admits its huge nuclear waste problem and Georgia’s new authorities open another channel to Russia.

by Ky Krauthamer, Joshua Boissevain, Andrew McIntyre, and Nino Tsintsadze 7 November 2012

1. Ukrainian opposition threatens parliamentary boycott


Ukraine’s United Opposition coalition is threatening to boycott the newly elected parliament over what it claims to be vote tampering orchestrated by President Viktor Yanukovych’s government, Radio Free Europe reports.


The opposition also rejects the outgoing parliament’s nonbinding resolution on holding new elections in five districts opposition candidates claim to have won, Voice of America reports. The Central Election Committee said it could not establish a winner in those races.


YatsenyukOpposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk
Batkivshchyna (Fatherland), the largest opposition party, said it would not recognize the outcome of the elections until all opposition candidates are awarded “their stolen parliamentary mandates,” including the five disputed districts, the UNIAN agency writes.


The Central Election Committee is controlled by the Yanukovych administration and is preparing to invalidate results in constituencies where opposition candidates won,  Batkivshchyna deputy leader Oleksandr Turchynov said 6 November.


Two other opposition parties, Svoboda and UDAR (Punch),  indicated they may refuse to take their seats in parliament. If all three parties do so, they could deprive the 450-seat parliament of its 300-seat quorum, RFE notes. The opposition hopes this would force repeat elections.


2. President turns to top court over Lithuanian election results


Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaite, continues to reject the formation of a center-left coalition government over allegations of voter fraud by one of the coalition members. Grybauskaite said 7 November she would wait for a ruling by the Constitutional Court before considering any government deal, the Associated Press reports.


Last week Grybauskaite triggered a political standoff when she first rejected a coalition headed by the Social Democrats, saying that the Labor Party led by Russian-born Viktor Uspaskich should not be part of the government because prosecutors and election officials accused it of fraud in the country’s late-October elections. Grybauskaite said she would appeal to the court today to make a ruling on the case. The court is expected to return with a decision by 10 November, according to the AP.


If the court rules the elections fair, Grybauskaite would have to accept the coalition, the AP writes. But if the court invalidates the results “Lithuania would find itself in a very complicated political crisis since the constitution does not specify how to proceed in such a situation," one analyst said.


3. Tbilisi mulls reopening railroad to Abkhazia


The Georgian government is ready to reopen railway links to the separatist region of Abkhazia and on to Russia, Minister for Reintegration Paata Zakareishvili told Russia’s Kommersant business daily last week.


The rail link was severed during fighting in the early 1990s when Abkhazia broke way from Tbilisi’s control.


"Restoration of the railway would help refugees return home and solve many problems in general. Especially since the development of transport ties will contribute to the economic development of Abkhazia," Zakareishvili said in the interview with Kommersant.


Tens of thousands of ethnic Georgians fled Abkhazia during the civil war; many still live in refugee camps while others have settled in Tbilisi and elsewhere.


"The more economic projects carried out in Abkhazia with Georgian participation, the more chance of resolving the conflict. This approach is part of our strategy to reintegrate Abkhazia," Zakareishvili said.


The Georgia-Russia railway through Abkhazia was economically important during the Soviet period as one of the few long-distance land links from Russia to the South Caucasus and on to Iran. The existing railway from Russia to Azerbaijan is a possible alternative, but is considered unreliable because it runs through the unstable North Caucasus republics,  Democracy & Freedom Watch writes.


Bzypta (former Bzyb) railway station in Abkhazia-350Railway station at Bzypta, Abkhazia. Photo: Sergei Rubliov/Wikimedia Commons


4. Romania postpones euro zone entry


For Romania, joining the euro zone in 2015 is “out of the question,” Central Bank chief Mugur Isarescu tells The New York Times. Prime Minister Victor Ponta said 6 November that even though the 2015 deadline is not “cast in stone,” the country will continue down the path of satisfying the EU’s financial conditions for adopting the single currency, Balkan Insight reports.


Mugur Isarescu
According to Isarescu, the country has benefited from targeting the criterion of keeping the budget deficit below 3 percent of GDP. On the other hand, he said remaining outside the common currency allowed Romania more leeway in setting interest rates, controlling liquidity, and depreciating the leu when needed.


The relatively cheap leu has helped keep prices and rents lower than in Western Europe, The New York Times writes, and the economy is strong enough to attract growing numbers of skilled workers from other parts of Europe.


The new time frame for single currency adoption is expected to be worked out after the 9 December parliamentary elections.


5. Officials say Kyrgyzstan must address nuclear waste problem


Cleaning up the country’s nuclear waste is a “major long-term priority” of the Kyrgyz government, Central Asia Online quotes Deputy Prime Minister Dzhoomart Otorbaev as saying.


"Costs and potential risks are very high in both the domestic and regional contexts," Otorbaev said.


About 90 Soviet-era nuclear waste sites dot Kyrgyzstan, the website reports, but the government will need help from the international community to tackle this festering problem.


Addressing an international conference on Central Asian nuclear tailing dumps on 24 October, Otorbaev said the problem was compounded by the fact that many of Kyrgyzstan’s dumps are located near rivers. He spoke of the potential for “major mass and ecological disasters” with long-term health effects for millions of people living downstream from the dumps, Tengri reports, citing the Kazakh news agency KazTAG.


One local environmentalist told Central Asia Online that jobless people living near the dumps search them for items that can be sold. Scientist Isabek Torgoev said water in the Mailuu-Suu River and soil around tailing dumps are heavily contaminated with uranium and selenium.


About 2 million cubic meters of uranium tailings were buried at some two dozen dumps at Mailuu-Suu from the 1940s to 1960s, Kyrgyz officials said in 2009. Local residents complain of various health problems, and radiation levels can reach 30 times normal levels, reported.


Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor for TOLJoshua Boissevain is a TOL editorial assistant. Andrew McIntyre and Nino Tsintsadze are TOL editorial interns.
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