Bill Labeled As Presidential Power Grab

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych will further strengthen control over the government, weakening Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, if a proposed bill is approved by Parliament next week, lawmakers said Thursday.

Viktor Yanukovych

The bill seeks to increase the role of First Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov and other deputy prime ministers by expanding their offices and putting them under closer supervision of the president.

Yanukovych would also obtain the power to appoint and to dismiss the minister without portfolio, a key position in the secretariat that sets the government’s agenda and controls its paperwork.

The minister is currently appointed by the Cabinet.

The proposed changes are part of a bill submitted by the government earlier this month and may be labeled as urgent by lawmakers.

“I think this bill will be reviewed in the near future,” Volodymyr Oliynyk, a senior member of the Regions Party, said.

“All bills from the government, and especially bills like this one, are approved very quickly.”

The bill will be reviewed by the Conciliatory Council, a meeting of group leaders and committee chairmen, on Monday to set the date for its debate in Parliament.

The increase of the role of Arbuzov – a key ally of Yanukovych – comes after Regions Party lawmakers last month had de-facto rejected his candidacy for the post of prime minister.

Following internal discussions within the party, most of its lawmakers had provided support to Azarov, whose candidacy was subsequently submitted by Yanukovych. 

The development underscored a quiet split within the ruling party amid fears that appointment of Arbuzov would strengthen Yanukovych too much and weaken other political and business groups within the ruling party.

The groups were also concerned that Arbuzov may push through his controversial plan for a regulation that slaps 15% tax on hard currency conversion transactions.

The plan, which was apparently designed to prevent downward pressure on the hryvnia, was flatly rejected within the Regions Party.

Yanukovych appointed his key allies to key positions within the Cabinet, including finance, revenue collection and law enforcement positions - following a reshuffle of the government on December 24, 2012.

Source: Ukrainian Journal