Conflicting views on new Constitutional Assembly
A Presidential Decree which appeared on the official website on Thursday evening creates a “Constitutional Assembly” – a consultative-advisory body under the President which is supposed to prepare amendments to the Constitution.
The Constitutional Assembly is supposed to organize public and professional discussion of amendments to the Constitution and prepare the relevant draft laws which the President would submit to parliament.
The body has 94 members and is headed by Ukraine’s first President Leonid Kravchuk. His deputy is the Director of the Koretsky Institute of State and Law Yury Shevshchuchenko, while the Secretary is the President’s Adviser Marina Stavniychuk. There are four MPs: Serhiy Kivalov and three others all from the ruling majority.
Others appointed to the body include the former Speaker of Parliament and member of the Socialist Party, Oleksandr Moroz and the Head of the Central Election Commission Volodymyr Shapoval.
The Decree states that parliamentary factions and political parties may submit proposals to the Assembly.
No opposition members
On 30 January the Leader of the Front for Change Arseny Yatsenyuk stated that the united opposition parties within the Committee against Dictatorship had decided to not take part in the work of the Constitutional Assembly since, they said the President and his people do not themselves comply with the Constitution. They also consider that such a body should be created by parliament which passes the Constitution, not the President. Andriy Shkil from BYUT told the Deutsche Welle Ukrainian Service that they see the Constitutional Assembly as a fig leaf concealing the destruction of democracy in Ukraine. They are convinced that whoever is on it, they will be there to fulfil Yanukovych’s wishes.
The Venice Commission
The EU has consistently called on Ukraine to make any changes to the Constitution on the basis of full cooperation between all interested parties and with the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. The Secretary of the Venice Commission, Tomas Markert was basically positive about the creation of the Assembly and did not think the opposition should boycott it. He said that from what he had heard, the Assembly would first be considering issues regarding court proceedings and local self-government which are urgent.
The Head of the Centre for Political and Legal Reform, Ihor Koliushko who is one of the members of the Assembly also believes that the opposition is making a mistake by not taking part in dialogue on the subject of constitutional amendments but not offering an alternative. Public discussion is needed, he stresses. He also names as urgent the issues of judicial reform, and administrative-territorial reforms and reform of local self-government.
Just as contentious are the issues of the Constitutional Court and relations between the President, Cabinet of Ministers and Parliament. However he sees no possibility at present of holding dialogue on this “because here even within the framework of the current Constitution either the worst variants and interpretations are chosen, or the current Constitution is flagrantly violated.”
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