Friday, February 02, 2007

Parliamentary democracy versus Presidential Dictatorship//Ukraine's Political divide and the EU

The Political divide in Ukraine is a hotly debated topic with Ukraine's President engaged in a battle for power.

In the lead up to the final ballot in Ukraine's 2004 Presidential elections Viktor Yushchenko and his Our Ukraine Party agreed with all the other main political parties to Ukraine's transition from a Presidential dictatorship to a system of Parliamentary democracy.

The March 2006 Parliament elections were considered by all independent election observers to have been open, transparent and fair.

The President's Party "Our Ukraine" only received 13% of the vote. Yulia Tymoshenko 22% Party of Regions 33%, The Socialist Party 6% and Communists 4%. 22% of voters who voted of other minor parties that received less then 3% of the overall vote were effectively disenfranchised, denied any say in who will represent them. (This could be fixed if Ukraine adopts a preferential voting system)

At first it looked like the President's Party would be able to join forces and form part of a governing coalition but as time went by Our Ukraine were unable to make a decisive commitment as to who to support in forming a government. They held the rains of power via the presidency for 15 months and now they were faced with the need to share the responsibility of government more broadly and they were no too pleased.

In the end Our Ukraine missed their opportunity, their delay and indecisiveness left them out in the dark.

Now on the outside looking in Our Ukraine and the President are currently engaged in a battle of power between the Office of the President and the democratically elected Parliament.

When it look like Our Ukraine had won control of the Parliament Our Ukraine members were joyful but when things turned sour they have since embarked on a campaign to see power restored in the hands of their nominated president.

One can only wonder would they be advocating a return to a system of presidential dictatorship if they did not control the President.

Parliament versus President

Whilst Viktor Yuschenko and Our Ukraine supporters advocate a return to Presidential rule one might begin to wonder why, given he claims to be pro-west which by implication assumes falsely that his opponents are not pro-west, the west has not spoken out more to support him. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Europe does not support or like Presidential systems. A quick look at the EU political map shows you that all but one, Greek Cyprus, are Parliamentary democracies not Presidential dictatorships. Parliamentary democracy is strong in the EU and of course EU members of parliament are not going to come out and support Yuschenko or Our Ukraine's bid to instill Presidential power. Ukraine has just began its transition towards a democratic Parliamentary system and every one agreed that the March 2006 parliamentary election were open and fair. To openly take sides on this issue would put EU countries at odds with their own philosophy. Ukraine is just going to have to work this one through. The only country in the EU that maintains a resemblance of a parliamentary-presidential system if France and eve then the President has a guiding father elder statesman like role. France is also facing fresh Presidential election soon and many are asking questions as to the role of the President as a change in power is on the horizon.

██ presidential republic
██ semi-presidential republic
██ parliamentary republic
██ parliamentary constitutional monarchy

The European Union itself, membership to which Ukraine including Our Ukraine aspire, is governed not by a President but by Parliamentary rule.

It would be difficult, if not out right impossible, for European Western countries to be advocating support for one political party over another let alone supporting power to be handed back to the President. To do so would undermine the European Union itself.

The only support and argument for a Presidential system is coming from the United States and they are not apart of the European Union and Ukraine has not yet proposed becoming the 52nd State.

Democratic Parliamentary system provide more checks and balances then the former presidential rule. The executive ministerial government is accountable first and foremost to the elected Parliamentary representative. They are limited and governed by the terms of the Constitution and rule of law.The Parliament provides a daily watching brief and monitoring of the government. The President as head of state also acts as a watchdog with significant right of veto powers. Like that of the executive government the President should exercise his authority to override Parliament sparingly and in accordance with the limitations and authority of guiding law and regulations. Any abuse of that authority undermines the Office of the President bring both the Office and the Country into disrepute. Under Ukraine's Constitution Parliament has the right with a 2/3rds statutory majority vote can override the President's right of veto.

This is a very powerful check and balance and one that is in the President's favour. Obtaining 2/3rds majority of a proportional Representative body is very difficult indeed. A 2/3rds majority of Ukraine's Parliament also has the authority to amend Ukraine's constitution.

Under the former Presidential system their was no day to day checks and balances in the executive government which was appointed solely by the President. Parliament has now move from being a reactive to proactive body where responsibility for governance is in the hands of the legislators.

If Ukraine wants to become a member of the EU then it needs to consider more carefully it choice of political system and base its decision not on the individuals that currently hold office but on the merits of the system itself. Winner takes office until they are defeated at the next democratic election.