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Constitutional Amendments

July 3, 2014

President Poroshenko has made two nation changing decisions since his inauguration a few weeks ago.

The first was to sign the Association and Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreements with the EU.

The second was to recommence military action in eastern Ukraine.

Both will have long lasting legacies within and without Ukraine.

Whether those decisions be considered brave, necessary, foolish or dangerous is a matter of perception at present.  They will be judged as all decisions are, by history, when outcomes become clear years from now.

Nevertheless they are decisions that have implications far into the future – for better or for worse.

What then to make of the suggested amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine, submitted by President Poroshenko?

With regard to local governance, on the whole, they are a steadfast stride forward.  There is definitive devolution of central power and finances to local governance that is long overdue.  Yet another decision with implications far into the future should the amendments get passed by the RADA after Venice Commission commentary and recommendation – early 2015 before they are entered into the current Constitution as a guesstimate.

However the changes regarding central government, the powers and appointments by which branch of power – and by extension the conflicts that can – and eventually will – arise from these amendments, are striking in their short-term vision.

They seem to have been written with the issues and politics of the day as the overriding priority, rather than viewing matters through a long term lens that would – or at least could and should – assist in removing smudged lines of authority and dramatically reducing the opportunities for corruption and political manipulation at the central government level – yet they disappoint considering the opportunity at hand.

For a new president that has made several major decisions with serous and long lasting ramifications for Ukraine in a matter of just a few weeks, whilst the local governance amendments are generally very positive, the proposed changes to central governance and the interaction between parliament, president and cabinet of ministers, forewarn of major frictions yet to come if implemented.

With regard to central government change, they are thus weak, and somewhat lacking in delivering Ukraine a workable and reliable constitutional system for the decades ahead.

Quite simply, the Venice Commission will undoubtedly raise several  issues and not be short of a few recommendations either further delaying constitutional reform.

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