Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has said that President Victor Yushchenko and his team are too weak to abolish constitutional reform due on 1 January 2006 which will cut presidential powers in favour of the prime minister and parliament.

In an exclusive interview with Interfax-Ukraine, Tymoshenko insisted that a new constitution should be passed through a nationwide referendum, as the imminent constitutional changes were hastily approved to resolve the deadlocked presidential election in 2004.

"All changes to the constitution and amendments to the election law were made by means of lobbying and compromise. Some lobbied while others then pictured some kind of ugly compromise." Tymoshenko harshly criticized the constitutional amendments, saying that the new structure of government is "not a parliamentary model but a lack of any system".

"The negative aspects include a lack of monitoring, a lack of responsibility and concentration of power in one set of parliamentary hands," Tymoshenko said, adding that "several leaders of parties will simultaneously appoint the executive, the chief prosecutor, the Accounting Chamber and the leadership of the legislature".

Tymoshenko described as a "pleasant aspect" the fact that "apart from electing the president in a nationwide election, citizens will also be able to elect the prime minister, as it is obvious that the political force which will muster the majority of votes in the parliamentary election will form the executive, the parliamentary majority and all other areas.

At the same time, Tymoshenko said that the prime minister will have a limited influence on members of a coalition government. "This is a unique situation when it is unclear in what way will the prime minister lead her diverse team, as each minister will have several bosses. This is primarily the party leader, and also, on the other hand, the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada.

The prime minister will come third as a minister's supervisor, while the president will occupy no place at all," Tymoshenko said. She added that after the election the main responsibility for the situation in the country will rest with MPs who "will de facto manage the country on an everyday basis".

Tymoshenko did not rule out the possibility that the majority that will be created after the election "may be created just to be created again in six months' time and to be created yet again in another six months' time, which will also entail changes in the government".

She also said that local councillors' immunity should be abolished and local councils should be formed only by parties which get into parliament in order to strengthen the central government's role following the reform.

"Parties of local importance may get into all local councils. On the other hand, all those who will get there will have immunity, that is, they will be immune to any actions by security structures. Third, there already exists the experience of creating executive committees in regional and city councils, which practically finalize the self-contained nature of this chain of authority. What does this mean?

This means that there will remain virtually no central influence on local governments, because a strong city council, district council and regional council will put any governor and any head of a state district administration in their place within three minutes' time," Tymoshenko said.

In this respect, she insisted on the abolition of local councillors' immunity and on the return to the first-past-the-post system in local elections, and "if this is impossible, on the formation of local councils only by parties which overcome a [three-per-cent] barrier to the Verkhovna Rada".

"I see with a sinking heart what will happen after this parliamentary election if we fail to make at least elementary amendments to centralize power," Tymoshenko said.

But she expressed "absolute confidence" that political reform will come into force on 1 January, "because the president and his team are too weak at present to change so radically the course of political events and abolish the reform".

"Should the president have retained the unity of the team, society's trust would have been retained at a level it was during the revolution and there would have been enough political will and strength to prove that this reform was introduced not quite legally," Tymoshenko said.
Action Ukraine Report

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