Inside Ukraine Newsletter, Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, April 5, 2004
KYIV- A huge All-Ukrainian rally of supporters of President Leonid Kuchma's
constitutional reform initiative, held Friday in Kyiv's giant National
Palace of Culture, heard an address delivered personally by the president
most observers convinced that Kuchma's main aims remain unchanged, i.e. to
at all costs the candidacy of former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko and to
maintain the powers of his rule, either directly or indirectly.
Over 3,000 delegates to the All-Ukrainian Civil Forum, made up mostly of
regional and district officials and Kuchma activists from all Ukrainian
oblasts and cities listened as the president launched a sharp verbal attack
on the rightist opposition, criticized a "bureaucracy unable to reshape
itself," promised to maintain stability at all costs, and extolled the
virtues of the proposed political reforms as "a fundamental dismantling of
the nomenklatura-administrative system." Observers could not escape the
irony that Kuchma's words were delivered to some of the most prominent of
the so-called "nomenklatura-administrative system."
Many found it interesting that there was no discussion of the nature of the
reforms by either the president or other speakers, only promises to finalize
the reforms by all means.
MNeither was there any mention of the fact that two earlier versions of the
reforms had been rejected and that the debate still rages even now in the
Verkhovna Rada about the final form of the constitutional amendments that
must be voted by a constitutional majority of 300 Rada members in order to
come into effect.
MWhat is absolutely clear is that the presidential administration and the
pro-presidential majority in the Rada are utterly intent on keeping in place
the strong powers that the ruling clique has built up in the ten years of
Kuchma's presidency. The Rada majority, while quite sure that maintaining
current powers is essential, is less certain about the continuation in
office of the current president.
MKuchma's words and actions in recent weeks leave most observers in little
doubt that the president has come to the conclusion that he and only he is
able to adequately rule the country. With the Constitutional Court ruling in
December that said that Kuchma could run for a third term based on the fact
that he had only been elected once since the constitution was adopted, an
increasing number of Rada members and analysts think the president's
protestations of a lack of interest in a third term ring hollow.
However, it is recent inquiries from the president to the Constitutional
Court that raise the most questions as to presidential intentions. The
questions posed by the president require the court to give specific answers
to questions as to how and under what circumstances it might be possible for
the president to dissolve the parliament. The constitutional article setting
forth the president's powers in regard to the dissolution question are
subject to a wide variety of interpretations.
Among the opposition in the parliament, there is an increasing belief that
the president has - or at least believes he has - powers that may easily be
brought into force to dissolve parliament and to then rule by decree for an
undetermined period. Some of the more skeptical observers believe that what
the president has in mind is a prolonged period of presidential rule, based
on assertions that only in this way would it be possible to maintain
and financial stability.
With a Constitutional Court that is largely compliant with presidential
wishes, a parliamentary majority in the Rada that identifies its own
political and financial interests closely with the sitting president and a
power elite in the regions that has been molded by years of acquiescence to
the presidential will, the outlook for turning the rule of Ukraine in a
humanizing direction seems more bleak with each passing day.
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