Viktor Yushchenko, devoid of any real issue of substance in the lead up to the campaign, has embarked on a crusade to make the next Presidential election a referendum on Constitutional reform in support of his proposal to reinstate absolute presidential authority over Ukraine.
Whilst Yushchenko spouses the words of democracy his actions and policies are far from being democratic or constitutional.
In a desperate attempt to regain relevance Yushchenko wants his version of the constitution to be put to referendum at the next Presidential election in which he hopes to control the agenda.
The devil is in the detail and there is no way the Constitution, without wide support, can be properly debated and understood. The time to debate reform has passed and most certainly should not be the main focus of the Presidential campaign.
The issues are complicated and require proper consideration as to the alternatives and impacts of the proposed changes. They can not and should not be considered as part of the Presidential election campaign as much as Yushchenko would like to have his proposed reforms the focus of the campaign.
Which ever candidate advocates one way or the other support or disagreement on Yushchenko’s model they will be judged not on the real issues confronting Ukraine but on the notion of President versus Parliament. What would happen if Yushchenko complied with the ruling of the courts and held a referendum during the Presidential election on the question of Ukraine’s membership of NATO?
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Under Yushchenko’s proposed Constitutional reforms the President would have absolute authority and control over Ukraine’s courts, the appointment of the government and even the parliament without proper checks and balances.
The President would have the right to dismiss Ukraine’s Parliament at any time if its not to his liking. Whilst parliamentary immunity is removed, immunity for Judges and the President remains in tack with the President’s immunity made absolute by making it impossible to impeach the President except only on conviction resulting from a deliberate intention of committing a crime – Breaches of oath and Ukraine’s Constitution no longer are taken into consideration as grounds for the President’s impeachment. Further more the only body that can impeach the President is Yushchenko’s proposed Senate of regions.
The structure of the Senate, based around Ukraine’s existing oblasts, would seriously divide Ukraine stretching it to breaking point by giving an unfair representational bias towards Western Ukrainian regions at the expense of Ukraine’s more populous Eastern and Southern regions. This disproportional representation would be a recipe for disaster fueling disunity and distrust exacerbating the tensions that already exist.
Yushchenko’s Senate will require national elections with one third of the Senate facing reelection every two years, along with the associated costs in holding an election. Senators will be elected by a undemocratic outdated first-past-the-post voting system with the same group of electors, who have the highest vote, electing all three regional representatives. The majority (50% or more) will go unrepresented. (Eg in 2007 in Zakapattia oblast Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine secured less then 34% of the regions votes but was still the highest polling party and as such would win all three Senate positions with only 152,000 votes. Whilst in Donetsk Party of Regions with over 1.7 Million votes would also only elect three senators)
What’s more Yushchenko seeks to grant himself a senatorial position for life, even if he is voted out of office he still will have a seat and salary in Ukraine’s Senate – For life.
When making an assessment of any proposed constitutional reform you need to ask yourself what would the effect of these changes be if the person you do not support is elected to office and holds absolute power without checks and balances to limit abuse of Presidential authority.