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The need for Constitutional changes

June 28, 2010

Well dear readers, following on from when I described the 2004 constitutional amendments to the Ukrainian Constitution as similar to a nation building plan written on the back of a cigarette packet yesterday…….I thought I should substantiate that position.

I am not alone in believing that the Ukrainian Consitution is in need of a massive and comprehensive overhaul however……..

President Viktor Yanukovych said on Friday, June 25, limits on the power of the presidency introduced in Ukraine’s 2004 “Orange Revolution” had produced a crisis of authority and urged a change in the constitution.

“The experience of state-building… shows that Ukraine’s constitution requires certain changes.”

Yes, of course, he would say that, he is in power……..but he is not alone.

What does his arch-rival have to say?

26th November 2009 – Tymoshenko said the root cause of the Ukraine’s political mess stems from a deal struck during the 2004 Orange Revolution between Yushchenko and former president Leonid Kuchma to change the constitution in a way that fractured powers and diluted presidential authority.

“This is the reason for the chaos in government and the complete collapse of the system of power. We have an absolutely ungovernable country on our hands,” Tymoshenko said.

But then she would say that, she was in power at the time.

So what of the other potential power politicians?

Yatseniuk is on record as stating the Ukrainian Consititution needs revision…….but has not stated whether it should be in favour of a parlimenatry power base or a presidential power base…….but the he is a technocrat by nature and not a politician to go blazing a trail of glory for others to follow…….so no commitment to either power base can be expected from him.

Tigipko has repeatedly stated the Urainian Constitution needs amendments…….but only when the constitution has provided hurdles to specific and topical direction that he has been involved in historically.  Nowhere has he said if he favours a parliamentary system (with ceremonial President) or full on Presidential rule.

What?  I didn’t say which system Tymoshenko and Yanukovych prefer?

Well, the swap from parliamentary to presidential and presidential to parliamentary…….depending on whether they are Prime Minister or President at the time……naturally.  Neither would get elected President and then cede power to Parliament……simply not in their personal interests to do so.

Errr, yes Tymoshenko was of a mind that a Presidential system would be best when she thought she was going to win the Presidency, whereas before, of course when both she and Yanukovych were holding the office of Prime Minister (at different times)…….parliamentary power was the way to go.

(Duplicity and flip-flopping I know…….but what do you expect?)

But what of Yushenko when he was president?  Of course, he also was frustrated by the consitutional amendments on the back of the cigarette packet that allowed a seamless move to President……and yes, he was a Presidential power base man…..of course.

So what is stopping the Ukrainian Constitution getting the overhaul it badly needs, thus removing the conflicts, overlaps and complete lack of (in some cases) definition of power responsibilies between parliament and president?

Aside from the impossibility of getting 300 of 450 MPs to vote in favour of any proposed constitutional change, such is the division and hostility between opposing factions, there is also a matter of a public referendum on any constitutional change after 300 MPs have voted for the changes.

Any proposed changes will always favour the power base of the proposer…….regardless of the national interest……such is the standard of politician in Ukraine…….thus there will never be 300 MPs vote in favour as their seat at the trough at any point in time could be severely effected.

It is completely clear that a semi Presidential/semi parliamentary system thoeoughly engulfed in blurred lines of responsibility is getting nowhere (well it is getting somewhere at the moment as parliament and president are singing from the same song sheet……but nothing lasts forever).

A fully Presidential or fully parliamentary system is really the only answer to potential stagnicity in the Ukrainian political system (as was witnessed under Yushenko and Tymoshenko).

Every major politician in Ukraine in the past 6 years has ignored the Constitution when the restrictions have got in their way…….Yushenko, Tymoshenko and Yanukovych, all equally as culpable at different times.

Will there be any changes soon?  Unlikely unless the current majority can get a majority of 300 of course.

Anyone putting up any proposals relating to changes to the Constitution to the Venice Commision, Coucil of Europe, PACE, for independent review (regardless of whether they would actually get through)?  No.

Any completely new drafts (other than Yushenko’s exceptionally flawed submission a few days before he lost his Presidency in January this year)?  No.

Ukraine to hobble along with the Constitution it has for the next decade?  Seems likely, despite the fact it really is not fit for purpose……let alone good or very good.

A way forward?  Maybe two completely new Constitutions should be drafted, one fully Presidential, another fully parliamentary completely defining power bases and submitted to the Ukrainian public in a referendum and circumventing the 300 MP vote as required by the existing Constitution?

What?……That would be unconstitutional?  Well why not, as I have already said, all the top politicians have ignored it when it has suited them to one degree or another, why shouldn’t the public (just for once) have the option to ignore it as well?

It is the only way to break the cycle it seems.

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