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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Constitution adjusted to new president?

Expert says, no conceptual amendments to constitution are needed for local self-government to have additional powers, only revised Budget and Tax Code, as well as local self-government legislation
7 May, 2014 - 18:05

Verkhovna Rada is in recess, so these dedicated servants of the people can celebrate the International Workers’ Day (May 1) and V-E Day (May 9), even though the situation in the east of Ukraine appears to be going from bad to worse. Before the MPs could enjoy their holidays, however, Prime Minister Arsenii Yatseniuk spoke in parliament, during an open session concerning amendments to the basic law, and gave them homework to do: “Before May 25, all political forces must reach a consensus, demonstrate their unity, and vote for a new wording of the Constitution.”

The VR audience’s response varied. The whole atmosphere and MPs taking the floor were proof that the amendments were not easily acceptable by the opposition and powerful majority.

“Today all [MPs] are in certain groupings that support a certain presidential candidate; some are in favor of Poroshenko, others are in favor of Tymoshenko. The Verkhovna Rada is a political playground, here they can lash out at each other, trying to add to their ratings that way. Some say everything should be changed, others say nothing should be changed, and still others are capitalizing on these differences, winning political dividends,” The Day was told by a nonaffiliated coalition member who preferred to remain unidentified.

The Party of Regions adopted a destructive stand for two months, working out and submitting its amendments to the constitution. Regionnaire Mykhailo Chechetov told The Day his party wants Russian to be legally accepted as Ukraine’s second official language, also administrative decentralization in Ukraine as a unitary state, with local authorities receiving most powers, including local elections by direct vote. When asked about his party’s position being a mirror reflection of that adopted by Russia’s leadership, Chechetov replied that the Party of Regions was defending the stand taken by its electorate. Meanwhile, VR lobby talk was about the Regionnaire constitutional amendments having been authored by Kremlin ideologues.

No accord on the current ruling echelons of power. UDAR’s Pavlo Rozenko told The Day: “Our country has actually wasted two months. Even now we don’t have a single and comprehensible text of constitutional amendments. All this is adding up to the existing social tensions.” He added that the electorate is spending the weeks left before the presidential election, trying to figure out who the next president of Ukraine will be. He said, “I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the Constitution remaining basically unchanged if the ‘right kind’ of president is elected… But if the ‘wrong kind’ of head of state comes to power, the vertical chain of command in Ukraine may well be liquidated.”

In fact, Prime Minister Arsenii Yatseniuk proposed to strip the president of the right to appoint the defense and foreign ministers, also to liquidate the oblast and raion state administrations.

Some Ukrainian MPs complain that nothing will work under the circumstances, that the problem with amending the constitution has everything to do with reaching a maximum compromise that spells a minimum of amendments, considering that there are lots of speculations concerning the draft basic law.

Rozenko is convinced that no conceptual amendments to the constitution are needed for the local authorities to have additional powers; that all it takes is a new wording of the Budget and Tax Codes, as well as of the law on local self-government.

These three laws, he says, will make it possible for the central administration to safely expand the economic, social, cultural, and other powers of the local authorities. In his own words, “Should anyone want to have decentralization, this wouldn’t take two sessions of the Verkhovna Rada, Venice Commission findings or Constitutional Court rulings. All this would take figuring everything out calmly and making the right decisions. Regrettably, no one seems to be in the mood, not even on the Cabinet level.”

Political haggling is underway.

By Yulia LUCHYK, The Day