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Ukraine: People losing constitutional rights on Constitution Day

Photo: rian.com.ua

Ukraine marks its Constitution Day on June 28. Twenty-one years ago, on this day, the Supreme Rada adopted the text of the basic law declaring Ukraine as a presidential and parliamentary republic.

On the wave of the Orange Revolution in 2004, the text of the Constitution was changed dramatically: powers of the presidential branch were cut in favor of the parliament and government, sparking a serious conflict between the president and the prime minister, specifically, Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko. Coming to power in 2010, Viktor Yanukovych restored the Constitution adopted in 1996 with the support of the Constitutional Court. His political rivals blamed Yanukovych of power usurpation.

Meantime, Yanukovych and even Leonid Kuchma would dream of Petro Poroshenko’s administrative powers (including in the information and security fields) amid falling approval ratings. Although in 2014, Ukraine returned to the Constitution amended in 2004 (parliamentary and presidential system, which was one of Euromaidan’s demands), current model of state government is de-facto super-presidential.

The presidential branch is gradually expanding over judiciary too, specifically through judicial reform. There will be a transitional period (though there is nothing so permanent as temporary things) until December 31, 2017, during which Poroshenko can establish, reorganize and liquidate courts independently, as well as replace judges. In addition, salaries of the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court judges will skyrocket exceeding the average salary by 60-70-fold ensuring total loyalty of the judiciary. For comparison, in “New European” countries, salaries of judges exceed the average salary some 4-5-fold.

To gain a full control over power institutions, Petro Poroshenko just needs to dismiss Interior Minister Arsen Avakov representing Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front financial and political group, and establish control over local self-government. So far, he will hardly to cope with these tasks. Local elites are more and more distancing themselves from central power joining regional law-enforcement and criminal groups. Actually, Maidan and the events that followed it speeded up the process of Ukraine’s feudalization. The local councils had repeatedly appealed to central government for decentralization/special status/distribution of power, which is just the tip of the iceberg.

Poroshenko’s term is expiring, but by losing president’s post he will lose his assets and will have to flee like Yanukovych did. A new constitutional reform is much spoken of now. They suggest reducing president’s powers in favor of the Supreme Rada and the Cabinet. Perhaps, this will make the next political season in Ukraine. For Poroshenko, this may become a chance to minimize risks from losing power after elections of 2019. On the other hand, he may fight for prime minister’s post and remain in power also after 2019.

Yet, Poroshenko has a number of other important tasks to fulfil in autumn 2017:

a) to block adoption of the impeachment law probably to be drafted by Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivschyna. This is a solvable issue, since even if drafted, the bill will hardly get 100 votes “for.” Though it should have been a matter of dignity for Poroshenko to pass a law regulating the impeachment procedure, considering the country’s pro-European line.

b) To prevent any amendments to the Constitution concerning the Minsk Agreements. It has been repeatedly mentioned before that Donbass’ reintegration will return about 2 million non-loyal electors to Ukraine and necessitate a revision of the system of relations between the center and the regions, which may break the political balance established after Poroshenko’s election. Yet in 2001, the balance of powers could be certainly changed in favor of the regions, but Supreme Rada “killed” the results of the nation-wide referendum that supported a shift to the two-house parliament where the upper house would be presenting the interests of the regions.

Another matter that this autumn the constitutional rights of Ukrainians that have been restricted dramatically may be abolished at all with the coming medical, pension, land “reforms,” amendments to the Housing Code and Labor Code within the interests of representatives of Ukraine’s big capital and syndicate of “globocrats.” Since there is lack of civil society (despite imitations by “Soros’ pupils”) in Ukraine and there is “mopped up” political field, no one can hold those in power from passing these “reforms” and plunging the country into “social hell”. Consequently, the only benefit of ordinary people from the Constitution will be one more “non-working day”.

Denis Gayevsky, Kiev

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