Ukraine: Repeating Russia's History

MOSCOW, Russia -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced in the parliament on Thursday his plans to prepare a new constitution that would be adopted on a referendum.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko during his annual 'state of the nation' address in Kiev

Trying to find a way out of the legal deadlock, created last year when he was elected president, Yushchenko risks provoking a new wave of political instability in the country.

One of the reasons for "color" revolutions in former Soviet republics is that the reform process in Russia's neighbors is lagging far behind. This means that they are now experiencing what Russia has already gone through. There are almost inevitable confrontations between parliaments and presidents that are unable to divide terms of reference.

The most recent example is today's Ukraine. It has experienced its Orange Revolution, which can be compared to the August 1991 attempted coup in Russia. It was then that the last remnants of the Soviet regime became a thing of the past. Afterwards, Ukraine, like Russia in the past, entered the period of power distribution. It is enough to recall the standoff between President Yushchenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (cf. Boris Yeltsin and Alexander Rutskoi), who used to fight against the regime of former President Leonid Kuchma together.

Then, just like in Russia, came the period of a confrontation between the president and the parliament, when they were literally tearing apart the country's constitution. Speaking of today's Ukraine, no expert in constitutional law can prove the legitimacy of the country's parliament, government, president and prosecutor general's office. Theoretically, the Ukrainian Supreme Court could unravel the knot of contradictions, as such cases are within its jurisdiction, but it cannot do anything because it does not have the required quorum due to the political confrontation between the parliament and the president.

President Yushchenko, who under the political reform lost most of his powers on January 1, decided to cut the Gordian knot in a pure Yeltsin style, swiftly and decisively. Today he raised the question in the parliament of a comprehensive constitutional reform that should bring real power back to the president. Even the decision-making mechanism follows Russia's example: there will be a national referendum.

Given that the explosive proposal came ahead of March parliamentary elections and that Yushchenko's chances for a legitimate victory are slim, judging by opinion polls, the president decided to play all or nothing, aggravating the political situation in the country and perhaps even trying to disrupt the election, replacing them with a referendum.

Russia saw all of this in 1993. It led to a long confrontation between the parliament and the executive power, which ended in the onslaught on the parliament, arrests of the opposition and, finally, the victory of the new Yeltsin constitution on the referendum, which has remained in force ever since.

If Yushchenko intends to follow suit, it will be a bold move. He will not necessarily be able to repeat Yeltsin's feat. No one in Kiev, neither the president, nor his rival Viktor Yanukovich or Timoshenko, knows which way the crowds that made the Orange Revolution will sway. What's more, the crowds don't have the answer either. So it will not be too easy to repeat Russia's 1993 history in Ukraine in 2006.

Source: RIA Novosti