Ukrainian Lawmakers Block Parliament to Protest Absentee Voting

Ukrainian opposition parties prevented Parliament from reconvening after its winter break in protest at lawmakers who vote on behalf of absent colleagues.

Jailed ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s party, world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko’s UDAR and the right-wing Svoboda surrounded the speaker’s chair today in the capital, Kiev. They held placards with slogans demanding lawmakers “come to work and vote for yourself.”

While President Viktor Yanukovych’s ruling Party of Regions got more votes than its rivals in Oct. 28 elections, it fell short of a majority and the opposition boosted its number of seats. Yanukovych relies on support from the Communist Party and independent lawmakers to pass legislation.

“From the very start of our convocation we demand voting in person,” Klitschko said today in a statement on his website. “Parliament mustn’t operate when there are machinations taking place. We can’t talk about the legality of legislation approved without the presence of lawmakers.”

Opposition parties are demanding technological changes be made to the existing parliamentary voting system to stop identification cards belonging to absent lawmakers from being used to submit ballots.

Klitschko’s UDAR accuses parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Rybak of breaking the law and violating the constitution by allowing lawmakers to vote on behalf of absent colleagues this year. Rybak said Jan. 24 that there are “no grounds to have doubts about my actions.”

UDAR is seeking a vote on Serhiy Arbuzov’s departure as central bank governor last month be annulled and has asked prosecutors to investigate some lawmakers for abuse of office.

The hryvnia, which has declined 1.2 percent against the dollar this year, was unchanged at 8.1435 at 12:01 p.m. in Kiev.

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