Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Threats to democracy need to be stopped - Arseniy Yatseniuk

Commentary on Arseniy Yatseniuk’s column

Today, 15:09 | Taras Kuzio, Source: Kyiv Post

Commentary on Arseniy Yatseniuk’s column: ‘Threats to democracy need to be stopped’
“I am convinced that all constructive forces should unite around my initiative on the holding of a referendum to defend the constitution and guarantee constitutional stability”, Arseniy Yatseniuk wrote in the Kyiv Post on June 26 and also in Ukrayinska Pravda.

Very good. But, why have you only decided to support a referendum now?

When you were first deputy head of the Presidential Secretariat between 2006-2007, why did you then not support [the Yulia Tymoshenko bloc] (BYuT)’s initiative to hold a referendum? The Constitutional Court ruled already in October 2005 that constitutional reforms needed to be put to a referendum and it is surprising that it has taken you four years to therefore call for a referendum. In 2006-2007, the president and his team (including yourself) did not support a referendum on the constitutional changes.

Waking up to call for a referendum now is pure unbridled political expediency in order to gain dividends for your presidential election campaign. “History, as we know, repeats itself. In 2004, constitutional changes were introduced right ahead of presidential elections and today we see the same thing again happening.” So absolutely true! And your interest only now in this question shows how you are not any different and cannot claim to be a “candidate of change.”

A “candidate of change” would not take an interest in the Constitution only when elections are approaching. Where were your strong principled views on the Constitution and the need to listen to Ukrainian citizens and voters through a referendum in the last four years?

Yatseniuk believes: “But I am convinced that during a political and economic crisis, on the eve of the start of a presidential election campaign such initiatives on the contrary will once and for all destabilize the situation in the country.” Why has Yatseniuk remained silent since 2006, when Ukraine has been in perennial political crises and instability? Why has he never once criticized Victor Baloga, his employer in 2006-2007, when he was deputy head of the Presidential Secretariat, or President Victor Yushchenko? It is hard not to believe that Yatseniuk had his head in the sand like an ostrich for many years and only now has woken up to the threat of political instability.

Yatseniuk says he is “categorically against any type of constitutional change.” What then is in favor of? Ukrainian voters are still unsure.

Yatseniuk does not tell Ukrainian voters what kind of constitution he supports and why. Is he in favor of a full presidential system (like in Georgia), a return to the 1996 semi-presidential system (which Yushchenko seeks), to keep the current semi-parliamentarism or to join with Regions, BYuT (and Eastern Europe) in moving towards full parliamentarism?

Every Western expert and legal adviser will say the same: that only the first (full presidentialism) or last (full parliamentarism) will bring constitutional and political stability to Ukraine, not a constitution that is “semi,” as in 1996 or 2006.

Yatseniuk should therefore please explain how “Our joint aim is to introduce into Ukraine constitutional stability” unless he backs either full presidentialism or full parliamentarism.

The presidents constitutional changes introduced very late in his first term on March 31 of this year will not bring “constitutional stability.” From Yatseniuk’s article we still do not know if he will support Yushchenko’s initiative or produce his own draft Constitution?

U.S. Judge Bohdan Futey commented on Yushchenko’s draft in the June issue of Yurydychnyi Visnyk Ukrayiny and earlier in a shortened version of the commentary in the Kyiv Post. Judge Futey critically evaluated Yushchenko’s proposals as not resolving the main problems of the 2004-2006 constitutional reforms: “Unfortunately, these changes interlaced the power of the executive and legislative branches, leaving the country in legal turmoil to this day”.

Judge Futey continues, “Generally, it is questionable whether this proposed version of the constitution merits approval” and “After careful study of the proposed constitution, it is neither supportable as a better legal document, nor would it help Ukraine function better as a state. Equality among the branches of government will not be established”.

Yatseniuk is 2-3 years late in his call for a referendum: if he as sincere and not an opportunist using the issue to win votes in election year he should have supported BYuT’s initiative in 2006-2007.

Ukrainian voters have a right to know whether Yatseniuk stands for a parliamentary or a presidential system? Currently, we can only infer that because Yatseniuk belongs to Vyacheslav Kyrylenko’s For Ukraine! Group in the Our Ukraine-Peoples Self Defence faction that he is more inclined to President Viktor Yushchenko’s preference for a presidential constitution.

It is no good simply to criticize Arseniy. You also need to show us your platform and team to prove you are really a “candidate of change.” Until then you are about as different to Barack Obama as any other Ukrainian politician

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