Saturday, 2 October 2010

Ukraine Court Overturns Measures Limiting Presidential Powers

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s highest court ruled that parliament violated the constitution during the Orange Revolution in 2004 by approving measures limiting the power of the president.
The decision automatically restores the president’s ability to choose the prime minister and Cabinet, increasing the power of Viktor Yanukovych who was elected this year, said Anatoliy Holovin, who heads the Constitutional Court in Kiev.

Lawmakers passed the amendments in December 2004 under pressure from then-President Leonid Kuchma, who sought to limit the powers of Orange Revolution leader Viktor Yushchenko if he became president.

Millions had poured into the streets after Yanukovych, Kuchma’s chosen successor, defeated Yushchenko in an election the Supreme Court later annulled because of fraud.

Kuchma refused to approve changes to the electoral law to prevent fraud during a re-run of the contest unless lawmakers rescinded the president’s right to choose the prime minister and Cabinet. At the time, Kuchma’s allies controlled parliament.

About 252 members of the 450-seat parliament supported the appeal, saying the amendments were unconstitutional because lawmakers didn’t have the Court’s agreement before approving the changes, the Constitutional Court said on its website.

Under those amendments, which took effect in 2006, the president is mainly in charge of foreign policy and appoints the defense and foreign ministers.

Yuschenko eventually won the 2004 contest and served as president until February this year, when Yanukovych unseated him. Yanukovych has the support of 264 members of parliament.

The Constitutional Court consists of 18 judges, with the president, parliament and Congress of Judges each appointing six members of the court for nine-year terms.

Four justices were forced to resign between Sept. 2 and Sept. 9, according to the court’s website. The Congress of Judges replaced them on Sept. 21, the court said in a statement.

“There was political pressure and an attempt to control the court through the replacement of judges, which undermined trust,” said Yuriy Yakymenko, an analyst at the Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies in Kiev.

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