Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Will the End Justify the Means?

Two months and four days since the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, first signed a decree seeking to dissolve Ukraine's democratically elected parliament, the president has now signed his third decree dissolving parliament and setting the date for fresh elections to be held on September 30, 2007.

The compromise deal, reached at the end of May that set the stage for fresh parliamentary elections to be held on September 30, was in line with proposals that were first put forward by Ukraine's governing majority in April but rejected at the time by the president.

Unlike the previous two decrees the third decree is based on Article 90 section 3 of Ukraine's Constitution and is subject to 151 or more members of parliament resigning and the inability of Ukraine's Central Election Committee (CEC) to fullfill the vacant mandates by a count-back based on the registered party list submitted prior to the March 2006 parliamentary elections. Under the terms of Ukraine's Constitution (Artcle 82) if the elected parliament is no longer represented by 2/3rds of its complement then the authority of the parliament ceases exist and in 30 days following the loss of a competent majority the president has the authority to dismiss the parliament and call fresh elections. (Article 90 section 3) within 60 days.

The previous presidential decrees were not made in accordance with Ukraine's Constitution and as such the authority of the president to dismiss Ukraine's parliament was under dispute and challenged in the court. Viktor Yushchenko, faced with the possibility of losing all power and authority following the defection of a number of opposition members of parliament who had indicated that they would support the governing coalition, became embroiled in a bitter and destructive power struggle been the office of the president and the elected parliament.

The president, having previously given an undertaking to abide by the determination of Ukraine's Constitutional Court, when he became aware that the Constitutional Court would rule his earlier decrees unconstitutional took extra-ordinary steps to avoid judicial review and accountability by dismissing three Constitutional Court Judges on the eve of the Courts deliberations so as to prevent the court from making a ruling on his decrees. If the Court had ruled that the president's decrees were unconstitutional, Viktor Yushenko would would been under great pressure to resign as president in order to restore confidence in Ukraine's office of president and its head of state.

Public Opinion

Recent pubic opinion polls indicate that 46% of Ukrainians opposed the president's decision to dismiss the parliament and hold fresh elections whilst 40% approved. The results of the poll reflects the same result of all the other polls undertaken with the latest poll published on May 29 showing the main governing Party of Regions securing 35.6% of voters support (representing 51% of the number of parliamentary seats) with the opposition parties securing only 29.4% (43% of seats) and the Communist Party holding 6% of the remaining seats with 4.6% of the vote and the Socialists Party of Ukraine falling just below the 3% parliamentary threshold with 2.8% of the vote.

Whilst Viktor Yushchenko tries to put a positive spin on the events of the last two months, the fact remains that the ongoing conflict and political indecisiveness resulting in the president riding roughshod over Ukraine's Constitution and undermining Ukraine's democratic institutions, bringing Ukraine close to civil unrest and militarily intervention has not served well Ukraine's best interest.

It is difficult to see to what end and justification.

If anything it is the Office of the President that has lost out the most in the recent political power struggle with the president maintaining the lowest support and public trust in opinion polls compared to his rivals Yulia Tymoshenko (Opposition Leader) and Viktor Yanukovych (Prime-Minister). Most Ukrainians treat with despair resulting in a serious loss of public confidence in the state of political affairs in Ukraine.

The loss of public confidence that is the most damaging to Ukraine's democratic development.

The actions of the president in undermining Ukraine's judicial system in order to avoid judicial review of his decrees and the deployment of armed forces is the most damaging of all. Something that the president will unlikely recover from as pressure and growing dissatisfaction in the way in which the president has managed his term of office increases the less likely the president will continue to hold office if as expected the results of the election produce no overall change. The actions of the president over the last two months will be reviewed by recorded in history as a president who was prepared to do what ever it took to try and claw back presidential power and authority from Ukraine's democratically elected parliament

Looking for the positive

If there is any positive to come from recent events it will be sharpening of focus Ukraine's political elite for the need to tighten-up Ukraine's Constitution to prevent the unconstitutional abuse of power usurped by Ukraine's president. Parliament should consider and support the adoption of a full parliamentary system line with other European States as recommended by the Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe (PACE) in their report in April 2007. The extent and direction of changes to Ukraine's constitution being the next major political battle on the horizon.

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