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1 Oct, 2010 05:06

Ukrainian balance of power shifts to president

Ukraine's president is to once again have more power than the parliament. The Constitutional Court has ruled that amendments to the country's law that turned Ukraine into a parliamentary state were illegal.

It ruled that they were adopted with procedural breaches. The Constitutional Court's ruling, which overturns the 2004 decision, is final and cannot be appealed.

The supporters of the move justify it, saying that ever since Ukraine was turned into a parliamentary state, there has been no political stability due to constant infighting between the country’s president and prime minister.

It led to several political crises, including several dissolutions of parliament and reelections.

Two hundred and fifty-two parliamentarians applied to the Constitutional Court for a review of the reform. President Viktor Yanukovich has said he would be content with either outcome of the reform review.

Under the 2004 law – the change was initiated by Leonid Kuchma who was head of state at the time – parliamentary coalitions make up the country’s government and the length of term of the Supreme Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) was extended to five years.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling means that the country is returning to the original constitution of 1996. It entails that president Viktor Yanukovich will now be able to hire or fire the country’s prime minister without the consent of the parliament. He will also be able to select governors.

As for the opposition, it is furious with the Constitutional Court’s decision. The country’s former president Viktor Yushchenko said that this decision could lead to a constitutional chaos in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Yushchenko had been trying to abolish these changes himself during his five years of presidency. Now that he is in the opposition, he has changed his stance.

Political commentator Sergey Strokan says that this decision is definitely a milestone in Ukrainian politics.

“After years of constant disarray, of standoff between the president and the parliament, Ukraine is coming to sort of a new situation, where all major power will be secured in the hands of the president – and definitely, this is a necessary precondition for Ukrainian coherent development strategy,” he said.

He added that this is not the matter of personality, in his opinion, and he wouldn’t put too much emphasis on differences between Yushchenko and Yanukovich.

“I think that the main reason is that the situation changed in Ukraine and the country’s political elite realized that they can’t ensure stable economic growth unless there is no further rift, which we had been witnessing during the last six years,” Strokan concluded.

Friday's decision in fact fixes the political status quo in Ukraine, explained Irina Kobrinskaya, a political analyst from the Moscow-based Institute of World Economy and International Relations.

“If the social and economic situation is stable in Ukraine and if President Yanukovich manages to improve it, I don't think the political restructuring will cause the crisis, because the opposition in
Ukraine is rather de-consolidated,”
Kobrinskaya said. “If he fails in the economic sphere, of course, the consequences will be far reaching.”