Over the last few months, Ukraine’s young democracy has faced a difficult challenge. This has taken the form of a constitutional crisis and an attempt by certain parliamentary forces to monopolise power by illegitimate means. Among other things, this crisis has revealed serious weaknesses in our political institutions and a lack of responsibility on the part of some of our leaders.
Our task now is to remedy these problems in a way that allows Ukraine to move forward again.
I want to reassure our friends across Europe – especially those who were so generous in their support during the Orange Revolution – that Ukraine will emerge stronger as a result of the steps we are taking to overcome our problems. In consulting the people directly through new elections, we are showing that Ukraine will never step back from the path of democracy. Mistakes have certainly been made, but brick by brick we are building our own democratic tradition rooted in European values.
European parliamentarianism is the heart of Ukrainian democracy. The Ukrainian people want their rights and freedoms to be guaranteed properly, not ritually. We must not only acknowledge the obvious gains of the last three years, but face up to inherited and acquired problems. We must learn to see each success and each failure as important elements of our democratic evolution.
Our recent crisis demonstrated a threatening disparity between the democratic slogans of certain politicians and their commitment to democratic values in practice. Combined with flagrant constitutional violations, clear examples of political corruption sparked off public resentment and paralysed the work of parliament and government.
In my opinion, European parliamentarianism means a constructive dialogue between the parliamentary majority and opposition, and a willingness to exercise power with humility, responsibility and restraint. Parliament can function when the majority ignores the opposition and blatantly revises election results; parliamentarianism cannot.
We are grateful to all European institutions for following the situation closely and encouraging a peaceful, negotiated solution. Our partners throughout Europe know that the snap election being held on 30 September is not extreme but an ordinary, valid tool of democracy, an opportunity to renew our politics and repair the relationship between the people and their government.
More than new elections, the Ukrainian people want change in the way that the business of politics is conducted. That is why I have initiated a profound renewal of the country’s political system. One of its cornerstones is repealing immunity for parliamentarians. This is essential if the integrity of parliament is to be restored. Parliament is for making laws, not hiding from them.
We desperately need new, fair and unbreakable rules of state and public life, an honest and independent judiciary, and political institutions strong enough to defend the constitution when it is attacked. We also need political leaders who accept their responsibility for making the system work in the national interest.
The elections in September are an opportunity to begin that work afresh.
By Viktor Yushchenko
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