10 February 2014, 16:19

Constitutional reform may downgrade Yanukovych to figurehead president

Constitutional reform may downgrade Yanukovych to figurehead president

Ukraine’s MPs are due to take up drafts constitutional reform today, the drafts that have been prepared by the Batkivshchina and UDAR party factions. The opposition insists on a return to the constitution of 2004 and on setting limits on presidential powers. Meanwhile, the EU Foreign Ministers are due to meet in Brussels this Monday to discuss the situation in Ukraine. Sweden and Poland will come up with their proposals on changing the stand on Ukraine.

Besides a return to the old constitution, the drafts provide for a simplified system of impeachment and voting, and also deprive the President of any role to play in the Constitutional Court lineup. The opposition feels the Court should be formed by the MPs and a congress of Ukraine’s judges. Unlike the constitution of 2004, which restricted presidential powers, the currently presented draft actually turns Yanukovych into a figurehead President, says the Director of the Institute for Strategic Planning, Alexander Gusev, and elaborates.

“The changes under discussion will largely trim the presidential powers, reducing his function to receiving credentials from foreign Ambassadors. The President’s duties will boil down to representing Ukraine during receptions. He will de facto stop being Head of State, with all powers due to be transferred to Parliament”.

Meanwhile, the EU Foreign Ministers are scheduled to meet in Brussels today to take up two documents on the EU policy on Ukraine. The first one, “20 Theses on Eastern Partnership”, has been drafted by Sweden and provides for boosting visa-free travel programmes, as well as promoting inter-parliamentary ties. The other document, drafted by Poland, suggests considering additional financial support moves for the Eastern Partnership countries. But this may prove just another form of bringing pressure to bear on the Ukrainian authorities, says the Deputy Director of the Centre for Ukrainian and Belarusian Studies of Lomonosov Moscow State University, Bogdan Bezpalko.

“I think Brussels will promise bright prospects, but some time in a distant future, and will chiefly resort now to emotional and psychological notions than will speak in terms of business or industrial development. This will prove just another stage of pressurizing Ukraine to ensure the goals that the EU politicians will stand to benefit from. The pledges will only serve to lure Ukraine into the EU. Russia is the only country to have been aiding Ukraine thus far. Russia has granted a 15 billion dollar loan to Kiev and has agreed to lower the price for natural gas deliveries. The EU will blackmail Ukraine, because the latter is in a pre-default situation, with lots of unpaid debts. Ukraine is currently very easy to manipulate”.

Sweden and Poland were the authors of Eastern Partnership, an economic rapprochement between the European Union and Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. The two latest documents by Sweden and Poland are but another attempt to promote their project, says Alexander Gusev, and elaborates.

“The objective is to pull the six countries in question away from Russia, since Russia will fail to configure anything in the post-Soviet area without Ukraine. The EU is quite serious about drawing up a strategy on Ukraine and the entire post-Soviet area, with these two countries playing the first fiddle there”.

Meanwhile, talks between the authorities and the opposition are going on in Ukraine. The UDAR party leader Vitaly Klitschko has challenged President Victor Yanukovych to appear before the “Maidan” protesters for public debate. According to the Party of Regions MP Anna German, the debate can only take place if Klitschko is prepared to conduct it on a national scale.

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