Thursday, April 02, 2009

Parliament determines date for President's election

Ukraine will hold its next presidential elections commencing October 25, 2009.

Ukraine parliament has made a strategic move by determining the date for the next Presidential election, five years on from the commencement of the 2004 presidential election with the date for the second round ballot yet to be announced.

Viktor Yuschenko, Ukraine's incumbent President, in a desperate attempt to cling on to power and gain an additional three months in office has vowed to challenge the decison of the Parliament in Ukraine's Constitutional Court, the very court that played centre stage in the 2007 Constitutional crisis when Yuschenko dismissed Ukraine's parliament throwing the Country into seven months of political turmoil and civil unrest.

It's a question of interpretation, as to what is the term of office of the President may need to be answered by the Constitutional Court. Is the five year Presidential term a full five years down to the day or does it only refer to encompassing a five year period. Translations from Russian to English of time is not straight forward and can be different as a result to interpret

Article 103 states

Regular elections of the President of Ukraine are held on the last Sunday of the last month of the fifth year of the term of authority of the President of Ukraine.

This could in English be interpreted as meaning the last Sunday of December which is the last month of the President's fifth year of office. (2005 being his first year, and 2009 his fifth year. Why the architects of the constitution did not specify a particular week of a particular month (Say the fourth week in October)I fail to understand.

The other question is what is the President's "Term of Authority" and when does that Authority expire?

Article 104 determines the date when the President commences his term of office as being the date in which the President takes an Oath to the people at a ceremonial meeting of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. The oath is administered by the Chairperson of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine.

If I recall Yushchenko took his oath not in the parliament but in the Maidian Square. Maybe he also gave an oath within the Parliament. This in theory determines the start of his term of office but it is still unclear as to the end of his term. There are problems which ever way you look at it.

If the President's term is a full five years to the day then when is the last month? The month immediately before he commenced office or the month following. If his term is limited to exactly five years and that date falls on the date of commencement plus five years to the day then in theory he would lose office prior to any election and Ukraine would be without a head of state. The 10th of January is not the last Sunday of the last month. But that again depends on when you interpret the end of the month.

The other clause that needs to be taken into consideration is Article 85 where it states

The Authority of the Parliament comprises:
...
calling elections of the President of Ukraine within the terms specified in this Constitution.


Unfortunately unlike the US constitution a specific date as in the fourth week of October is not mentioned.

Until the Constitutional Court rules on the questions before it the decision of the Parliament stands. That means the elections are scheduled for October 25, the last Sunday of the month in which the previous Presidential elections commenced five years ago.

An Autumn election makes more sense then a mid winter election as proposed by Viktor Yuschenko. It retains the five year cycle as opposed to creeping it forward every term. A bit like having an electoral leap year of sorts.

The other factor that is no doubt on Yuschenko's mind is that Article 90 limits the authority of the President to dismiss the Parliament

The authority of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shall not be terminated during the last six months of the term of authority of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine or President of Ukraine.

Confused?... Do not expect the Constitutional court to make a quick decision... by the time it does the Presidential campaign will be in full swing and there does not appear to be a ground swell of public opinion that supports Yuschenko's proposed winter ballot.

All this for the sake of three additional months.

Yuschenko may win a legal argument but he has already lost the election and support of Ukraine.

His best bet would be to embrace the October date and if need be offer his resignation. Problem solved.. no dispute.


- Extract from Ukraine's Constitution -

Article 85

The authority of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine comprises:
...
(7) calling elections of the President of Ukraine within the terms specified in this Constitution;

The President of Ukraine is elected by the citizens of Ukraine for a five-year term, on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage, by secret ballot.
...
Regular elections of the President of Ukraine are held on the last Sunday of the last month of the fifth year of the term of authority of the President of Ukraine. In the event of pre-term termination of authority of the President of Ukraine, elections of the President of Ukraine are held within ninety days from the day of termination of the authority.

The procedure for conducting elections of the President of Ukraine is established by law.

Article 104

The newly-elected President of Ukraine assumes office no later than in thirty days after the official announcement of the election results, from the moment of taking the oath to the people at a ceremonial meeting of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

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