The sound of one hand clapping Yushchenko’s solo debate

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.

Party votes 2007 % seats %
BYuT 5740511 24.62% 48 59.26%
PoR 6318266 27.10% 30 37.04%
OU-PSD 152886 0.66% 3 3.70%
Sum 23315257 52.38% 81 100.00%

* 2007 Parliamentary Vote

Region Vote-2007 % Party
Chernihiv Oblast 242869 1.99% BYuT
Chernivtsi Oblast 189132 1.55% BYuT
Cherkasy Oblast 309421 2.53% BYuT
Crimea 536569 4.39% PoR
Dnipropetrovsk Oblast 789955 6.46% PoR
Donetsk Oblast 1720073 14.08% PoR
Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast 397326 3.25% BYuT
Kharkiv Oblast 659324 5.40% PoR
Kherson Oblast 213996 1.75% PoR
Khmelnytsky Oblast 345818 2.83% BYuT
Kirovohrad Oblast 178507 1.46% BYuT
Kyiv Oblast 485666 3.97% BYuT
Luhansk Oblast 932833 7.63% PoR
Lviv Oblast 752127 6.15% BYuT
Mykolaiv Oblast 304075 2.49% PoR
m.Kyiv 629904 5.15% BYuT
m.Sevastopol 118917 0.97% PoR
Odesa Oblast 526179 4.31% PoR
Poltava Oblast 292145 2.39% BYuT
Rivne Oblast 302552 2.48% BYuT
Sumy Oblast 271361 2.22% BYuT
Ternopil Oblast 342930 2.81% BYuT
Vinnytsia Oblast 433455 3.55% BYuT
Volyn Oblast 325709 2.67% BYuT
Zakarpattia Oblast 152886 1.25% OU-PSD
Zaporizhia Oblast 516345 4.23% PoR
Zhytomyr Oblast 241589 1.98% BYuT
Foreign Embassies 8566 0.07%
sum 12220229 52.41%
Total Vote 23315257 100.00%
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One Response to The sound of one hand clapping Yushchenko’s solo debate

  1. UkrToday says:

    OPINION ON THE DRAFT LAW OF UKRAINE
    AMENDING THE CONSTITUTION

    “The Constitution submitted by the President of Ukraine to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on 13 March 2009."

    The text of the draft appears in document CDL(2009)068 published by the Venice Commission and also contained in the detailed review (copy here).

    "It was obviously translated hastily and the text is often scarcely comprehensible. Some remarks made in this Opinion may be due to problems of translation.”

    “Under the terms of Article 155 of the current Constitution any constitutional reform has to be approved by a two-thirds majority in the Verkhovna Rada, amendments to Chapters I, III and XIII of the Constitution in addition have to be approved by a referendum. The present draft is the proposal of a new version of the Constitution, which- while often similar to the present text- contains amendments to all Chapters. It thus requires for its adoption both the two-thirds majority of the constitutional composition of the Verkhovna Rada and approval by referendum.”

    The proposed amendments to Ukraine’s Constitution by the President of Ukraine

    1. significantly alters the balance of power and constitutional representation in Ukraine;

    2. seeks to establish Ukraine as a Presidential system of governance;

    3. the proposed creation of a Senatorial bicameral Parliament establishes Ukraine as a federation of disproportionate administrative regions and as such is undemocratic in its design and implementation.

    The representational model for the proposed Senate does not meet current European standards or democratic values.

    The disparity between electorates with the same level of representation denies Ukraine the right of one vote one value.

    The disparity in representation is further exacerbated as a result of the proposed use of first-past-the-post method of voting in electing Senate candidates.

    The three staggered Senatorial terms of office further diminishes the representational model which in turn undermines public confidence in the authority and democratic composition of the proposed Senate

    The President is granted a Senatorial position for life even if he/she has been voted out of office and not elected to a second term;

    4. there is no provision for the purouging of the Senate or double dissolutions of both houses of parliament;

    5. diminishes and restricts the rights and authority of the Parliament to hold parliamentary inquiries;

    6. does not address a number of issues already identified by the Venice Commission in review of the V Shapoval draft proposals;

    7. removes a number of significant checks and balances against the misuse and abuse of Presidential authority. Most notably the changes to the impeachment procedures or the President;

    The President can only be impeached by the Senate if the President has intentionally committed a crime.

    The President would not be held accountable or subject to impeachment for breaches of oath or Ukraine’s Constitution as is the case in the grounds for dismissal of Judges;

    8. The president can dismiss the parliament's legislative body at any time and for no reason other then it is not to his liking.

    9. the President appoints and dismisses 100% of Ukraine’s Constitutional Court Judges;

    10. fails to address a number of significant issues and points of conflict in the current constitution;

    11. does not provide for stable or democratic governance

    More information

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