Constitutional Chaos

KIEV, Ukraine -- Eleven years ago on June 28 Rada members worked through the night to reach a compromise deal that resulted in the adoption of the fundamental law of the land, independent Ukraine’s Constitution.

Verkhovna Rada deputees sign the constitution on June 28, 1996.

Ukraine had reached a milestone in its development as a democratic state. The document was praised by international constitutional experts for the guarantees of individual rights it provided for Ukraine’s citizens.

Eleven years later, Constitution Day is celebrated as a national holiday, but the current state of the country’s charter leaves little to cheer.

The Constitution has been torn and tattered in the process of political reforms that were supposed to transform the country from a presidential-parliamentary republic into a parliamentary-presidential one.

Instead, the country has been thrown into legal chaos since former President Leonid Kuchma single-handedly announced the reforms five years ago.

More recently, the Constitutional Court was discredited as an institution by politicians looking to use the bench as a political instrument, and by its judges, who proved unable to serve as an independent check on the powers of the executive or legislative branches.

Problems with the Constitutional Court began in 2005, when a majority of judges ruled that any fundamental changes to Ukraine’s political system must be submitted to and approved by a national referendum.

Despite the ruling, the country’s politicians proceeded with the reforms. Last August, the Rada under speaker Oleksandr Moroz’s leadership even passed a bill prohibiting the Constitutional Court from ruling on the reforms – a clear violation of the democratic principle of a tripartite division of powers.

The preamble to the Constitution clearly states that the law of the land is guided by the 1991 Declaration of Independence that was confirmed by the Dec. 1 referendum that year.

The Rada formally declared Ukraine’s independence, but that decision was validated only after it was submitted to and approved by a national referendum.

Ukraine’s elite appears to have agreed that early Rada elections will resolve the political crisis. But the deeper issue of political reforms that spawned the crisis remains unaddressed.

The way of restoring Ukrainian’s faith in the institutions of government and in the very notion of democracy is clear: Let the people decide what political system suits the country best.

Source: Kyiv Post