Friday, January 15, 2010

Mixed signals on Ukraine's constitutional future

Ukraine's president has to much power. Powers, as we saw, that were often misused and abused.

The 2004/5 constitutional amendments were a step in the right direction and yes they were a compromise.

The president powers should have had less power.

Both Tymochenko and Yanukovych have been giving mixed singles.  One hand they say they support Ukraine adopting a European model of parliamentary democracy on the other they advocate a return to Presidential authority.

The fact remains that the presidential system has and will forever fail Ukraine, dividing the nation and in the process undermining its independence and stability.

The previous parliament and government lead by Viktor Yanukovych was stable and effective. There was no basis or legal grounds for its dismissal. But so would have been  a Orange coalition had Yushchenko and Our Ukraine not sold it out.

Tymoshenko's government has never been given a chance to govern. It was undermined by Yushchenko at every step. Yushchenko weakened the government and prevented it from governing.

In 2007 the Parliamentary Assemble for the Council of Europe (PACE) in considering its report on the democratic institutions of Ukraine rightly recommended that "It would be better for the country to switch to a full parliamentary system with proper checks and balances and guarantees of parliamentary opposition and competition."

In the end no matter who wins the presidential election the losing party/candidate will soon rethink their position. Yes they need to say now that they support a strong president, but once that position has escaped them they will hopefully soon advocate a more democratic parliamentary system of governance.

The reinstatement of presidential authority as proposed by Yushchenko would set Ukraine back a further 10 to 15 years and will prevent Ukraine from ever being considered as a member state of the European Union.

Yushchenko's proposals would see the president have absolute power and absolute control over the Government, the parliament and the courts. Power that should not be placed in the hands of one individual.

Based on existing polls at best the newly elected president will represent 32% of Ukrainians if Yanukovych is elected president. 20% if Tymoshenko is elected and even less if Tigipko manages to make it to the second round.

None of the prospective candidates will have a majority in the first instance. None will hold a majority in the Parliament.

If Yanukovych is elected he will most likely seek to ride the wave and call fresh parliamentary elections in May at which Party of Regions will win close to an absolute majority. They will have their pick of coalition partners in order to form a new government.

Unless they form an alliance with Tymoshenko it is unlikely they will hold a two-thirds constitutional majority which is required to amend Ukraine's Constitution. Without two-thirds there is no legal way in which much needed constitutional reforms can be implemented.

Both Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko and Party of Regions tied to implement constitutional reform and establish Ukraine as a parliamentary system but negotiations between the two failed find common ground or agreement on the detail.

They must for the sake of Ukraine and its democratic future try again.

It will be a wise man or woman who is elected head of state and manages to give up presidential power for the sake of the nation. This is the sign of true strength. The strength to do what is right in the longer term and best interest of the nation not the perceived short term interest of the individual or political party that holds office.

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