Reform of Constitution raises issue of power in Ukraine

The Supreme Council of Ukraine will vote on the issue of accepting the project of Constitutional reform.

 Earlier Constitutional Court of Ukraine recognized three projects of the reform corresponding with the Constitution. Probably the Supreme Council deputies will have to chose one among the three projects, however “Project of Medvedchuk and Simonenko” is heavily favored to win. Viktor Medvedchuk is the Head of the President Administration, Petr Simonenko is the leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine). This project stipulates electing President by the Parliament since 2006, and allocation of the authority in favor of the Supreme Council. For the period from 2004 to 2006 “transitional President” will be elected by nation-wide voting.

Simultaneously with adopting the Constitutional reform the deputies plan to change the system of Parliamentary elections. Currently this system is the exact copy of Russian Parliamentary elections: 225 deputies are elected in districts and 225 more according to political parties’ nominations. If new “Law about proportional elections” is passed, all the 450 seats in the Parliament will be shared by representatives of political parties.

Constitution reforming in Ukraine started on August 24, 2002 with the address of President Leonid Kuchma to the nation on the radio. The President agreed with the opposition calls for transition   from the model of power where the President dominates over the Parliament to the model with domination of the Parliament which is common in Europe. Opposition Nasha Ukraina block (Our Ukraine) and Batkivshina party (Fatherland) which actively promoted the idea of Constitutional reform before, suddenly started criticizing Kuchma accusing him of having the intention to be reelected for the third term.

The probability of the deputies’ supporting the reform is 50 percent. The problem is that only 290 deputies strongly support the reform, meanwhile 300 deputies should vote for the reform project to be passed. Probably some deputies who are hesitating will add 10 more votes.

According to the current legislation, the reform must receive overall approval at the current session of the Supreme Council which in theory can last only until the beginning of 2004 года, and must be finally adopted in spring. On the other hand, according to the Supreme Council procedure, only two days a week are designated for voting – Tuesday and Thursday, therefore approving the reform can happen either on December 23 or December 25. After this date many deputies will be preoccupied with important business of preparing for New Year celebration, and will hardly sacrifice their time for the matters of the state.To understand the current situation in Ukraine, one has to recollect the events of the recent years. In 1999 Viktor Yushenko was appointed Prime Minister of Ukraine by the direct recommendation of the US Department of State. Viktor Yushenko has always openly demonstrated his pro-American outlook and does not deny the key role of the Department of State in his appointment. In 2001 the United States for the first time tried to established another Georgia-alike state in the post-Soviet territory. The USA initiated “Ukraine without Kuchma” action. At that time the key argument for President Kucma’s resigning and replacing him with Yushenko were so called “tapes of Major Melnichenko” compromising Leonid Kuchma. The “cassette scandal” ended in spring of 2001 with destroying street vendor stalls and Prime-Minister resignation.

Ukraine has very low degree of people’s trust to the authorities. This has been inherited from the times of the Soviet Union. Whatever the authorities do, the majority of the population oppose it. Despite the economic success of the country (in recent years in Ukraine the economic growth is higher and the inflation rate is lower than in Russia), the rating of President Kuchma is next to zero scale. Therefore Yushenko as the leader of the opposition became the most popular politician in the country after the "Cassete scandal”.

In 2002 public opinion was materialized during the Parliamentary elections when the opposition parties and the main participants of 2001 political crisis (“Yulia Timoshenko Block”, Block of political parties “Nasha Ukraina”, Socialist Party of Alexander Moroz) won the elections on the party nominations.

The Ukrainian politicians share the opinion that the primary purpose of the Constitutional reform is safeguarding the foreign policy of Ukraine form the influence of the USA and preventing new puppet president from coming into power.

The Ukranian political elite has come to understanding that this threat will be preserved for Ukraine not only in 2004, but also in foreseeable future and decided to conduct the Constitutional reform. The reformers plan that if the changed Constitution does not prevent pro-American President from coming into power, it will restrict the authority of the future President at least.

The opposition of the reform also undertakes active measures to prevent the plans of the Parliamentary majority. For instance, the Secretariat of the Supreme Council has registered 120(!) bills forbidding making amendments in the Constitution. According to the Supreme Council procedure, the bills having the magic word “forbidding” in their names must be scrutinized in the first place. It is clear that rejecting such amount of documents can take all the time in the two voting days. However, if the reform is adopted, the opposition can try to grab the power with the help of riots, as the leaders of the national-democratic movement said many times. Besides, one of the opposition leaders, namely Viktor Yushenko, met with the key plotter of the coup in Georgia Michael Saakashvili. Yushenko has done this for effect. There is no information about the Ukrainian authorities’ reaction to this Yushenko’s gesture. 

Probably, on December 23 and 25 there will be an exciting show in the Supreme Council of Ukraine, with scandals, blocking the tribunes and maybe fight. By the way, fight happened many times during the discussion of the Constitutional reform. Russian TV channels can attract big audience if they broadcast this live instead of Brazilian soap operas.


Roman Melnikov


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Author`s name Evgeniya Petrova