The Struggle for Power

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has announced hat he will hold a referendum on canceling the constitutional reform that will cut down his authority. However, even if a referendum is held, it won't help him.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (L) is trying to stop power from slipping out of his hands.

The parliament is determined to reduce the presidency to a ceremonial function and Yushchenko is not in a position to prevent that power from slipping from his hands.

The Ukrainian president was exceptionally busy last week. On Friday, Yushchenko he was somewhere to be seen on television all day and, on Saturday, he made a speech on he radio.

His message mainly concerned the crisis of state that arose after the parliament passed a no-confidence vote against prime minister Yury Ekhanurov. The crisis was possible only because of the constitutional reform that began on January 1, he argued. He made it clear that he would cancel the reform that is undermining the foundations of the Ukrainian state.

Yushchenko said that he intends to put that reform up for a popular referendum. He did not name a date for that vote, however, add to the complexity of an already difficult situation before the parliamentary elections.

Former president Leonid Kuchma initiated the reform in his second term 2003. Kuchma wanted to weaken his successor and move into the prime minister's position. The country's Supreme Rada confirmed the reform, which would change the country from a president republic to a presidential-parliamentary republic, while in the throes of the Orange Revolution, on December 8, 2005.

Its passage was the result of a compromise reached between Kuchma and the opposition. Under the constitutional changes that came into effect on January 1, the parliament's authorities became significantly wider. The prime minister, ministers of defense and foreign affairs and all the rest of the administration is to be appointed by the parliament. In addition, governors will no longer be appointed by the president, but will be chosen by him after being proposed y the parliament.

Kuchma's reform never suited Yushchenko. However, he had to accept the changes during the Orange Revolution to avoid further conflict with the outgoing authorities. For almost a year, he did not attempt to dispute the reform. Then conflict with Yulia Timoshenko began and led to the dismissal of her government.

Yushchenko did not motivate the cancellation of the reform with objections to them, but with procedural violations in the way they were carried out. “With such changes and such procedures, Ukraine will have a complicated future,” he said.

Under the current Ukrainian constitution, the president's initiative is enough for the holding of a referendum. However, Yushchenko is most likely bluffing. Only the Constitutional Court can establish that there were violations in the way the reform was passed and the results of a referendum can only be recommendations for the government. Therefore, political scientists say, a referendum would have no legal consequences.

Yushchenko came up with the idea of a referendum for lack of alternatives. He cannot cancel the reform legally, in the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court is now inactive in Ukraine. Only six of the necessary 18 judges have been appointed and the parliament has been refusing to appoint the remaining members since last year. The opposition parties allied to block the appointment of four judges last Thursday.

Acting Minister of Justice Sergey Golovaty proposed that the president get around the opposition by appearing in the parliament along with the chairman of the Supreme Court and the members of the Constitutional Court and swear in new judges “against the will of [Speaker of Parliament Vladimir] Lirtvin.”

Members of the opposition threatened Golovaty with the loss of his position in return. “The president and the chairman of the Supreme Court could find themselves in an inconvenient position when they are not allowed into the camber,” Litvin warned.

The conflict between the president and the parliament seems insolvable. It is useful for the opposition because it allows it to weaken the president's position. When asked at the end of last week if she would run for president, Timoshenko answered “Not under any conditions.

After January 1, 2006, the position of president will be on the level of the manager of the city architectural authority. I plan to carryout a policy so that the people understood sooner or later that they can depend on me in the most complex circumstances and elect me their prime minister.”

The current political situation in Ukraine is reminiscent in its essence of position of Russian authorities in October 1993. The Orange Revolution and Yushchenko's rise to power was analogous to Russia in 1991. However, a year after the Maidan, the victors' team fragmented and the parliament, controlled by former allies of the president, is hindering him at every step in its efforts to wrest power from his hands.

For lack of legal instruments in this fight, Yushchenko has been forced to appeal to the people. He can theoretically keep his power by dissolving the Rada and passing a new constitution without it. In reality, he does not have the strength to do that. He has no broad support in society, because neither the Orange forces nor their opponents will accept such a move.

The security forces are not loyal either. The biggest of the, Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko, is a representative of Alexander Moroz's socialist party, and political reform has always been a propriety for that party. The transition to parliamentary republic was a condition for Moroz's support of Yushchenko during the presidential elections. That means that the Ukrainian 1993 will not turn out the way the Russian one did.

Source: Kommersant