Viktor Yushchenko in a desperate attempt to be seen relevant has called for a public debate on his proposed constitutional reforms in the lead-up to the January 17 Presidential election.
Yushchenko spouses the words “Democracy”, “European Integration” and “strong leadership”. Yet close analysis of Yushchenko’s proposed constitutional changes reveal a hidden agenda, proposals that are far from being “democratic” or helping bring Ukraine closer to Europe. It’s a recipe for disaster.
If adopted, Yushchenko’s proposals,would see Ukraine revert back to a Presidential “rule by decree” autocracy and reject European values and European models of Parliamentary democracy. It would seriously divide Ukraine and entrench absolute power in Ukraine’s head of state.
This issue should have been debated two years ago not on the eve of the next Presidential election.
Yushchenko has gone about it all wrong. The first step and question that needs to be addressed is “Should Ukraine take a backward step and reinstate absolute Presidential authority or does it adopt a European model of Parliamentary democracy?” 25 out of 27 EU states are governed by a Parliamentary system. Only France (Semi) and Cyprus are Presidential systems.
Yushchenko’s hidden agenda is not about seeking democratic reform but more about trying to gain some attraction and relevance in the lead up to the January 17 presidential poll. His current support rating is below 4% and he needs an issue that can help give him some focus, even if what he is trying to sell is tainted by deceit and wrapped up in words talking about democracy, stability and strong leadership.
Already Yushchenko’s national debate is doomed to fail. Ukraine’s major parties Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko and Party of Regions are showing no sign of wanting to participate in Yushchenko’s election agenda this side of the presidential ballot.
Whats more the changes to Ukraine’s Constitution, as proposed by Yushchenko, would be required to be passed at a national referendum and the process of holding a referendum will not take place before January 2010.
Change can not be forced on the public who will naturally distrust the reject any proposal . Unless there is wide cross factional support any proposed referendum seeking change is doomed to fail – as Europe recently learned in its proposed adoption of a constitution.
Adding to Yushchenko worries is that his proposal would not resolve the ongoing political crisis facing Ukraine and will only make matters worst as the model proposed has a number of serious flaws in its design and on closer analysts is far from being considered democratic.
There are no proper checks and balances in Yushchenko’s proposal. The President will have absolute authority and control and absolute immunity. Impeachment of the president being the sole means of accountability will be virtually impossible and can be only initiated by the proposed senate. He can dismiss the parliament if its not to his liking at any time without restriction or reason.
The system proposed by Yushchenko seeks to establish a US style Presidential system and not a European democratic parliamentary model.
Yushchenko wants to create a two-house Senatorial system based on Ukraine’s 25 oblasts and two main city regions (Kyiv and Sevastopol). Each regional oblast/electorate would elect three Senators which would be won by which every party receives the highest number of votes (Which can be as low as 34%). After the first election one third of the Senate would face re-election every two years.
Yuschenko’s proposal is undemocratic in that each oblast and region does not have equal number of constituents. Smaller Western Ukrainian oblasts with less then 350,000 voters elect the same number of Senators as regions that have 2.5 million voters. Western Ukraine will have considerable more power and representation then in Ukraine’s more populous Eastern regions.
Table showing projected Senate seat allocations based on 2007 Parliamentary election results. This table shows the extent of distortion in the out come of Yushenko’s proposed Senate System.
* 2007 Parliamentary Vote