Ukrainian PM Wants Constitutional Change

photo_verybig_1022446Presidential powers have been trimmed in Ukraine since the Orange revolution and the president has lesser sway.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, describing herself as “Ukraine’s biggest nationalist”, on Thursday called for an overhaul of the constitution to end “chaos” in the way the country was run.

Interviewed by Reuters on a visit to Japan, Tymoshenko also dismissed any suggestion that Ukraine would fail to meet its foreign debt obligations to the letter.

A loan programme with the International Monetary Fund, she said, would soon be back on track to enable Ukraine to withstand the world financial crisis.

With a presidential election set for early 2010, Tymoshenko remains one of Ukraine’s most popular politicians, after breaking with President Viktor Yushchenko. Allies in the 2004 pro-Western “Orange Revolution”, they now disagree on nearly all issues.

Twice appointed prime minister by Yushchenko, she said Ukraine’s constitution needed further change to end arguments over the division of powers. That could mean new reductions of presidential powers, as occurred during the “orange” upheavals.

“I believe a presidential system with a logical set of responsibilities is good, responsibilities to civil society,” she said.

Alternatively, she said, there should be a parliamentary system built on a set of checks and balances, with the aim of having a strong branch of authority. “The main thing is to have logic in the system of running the country and not chaos,” she said.

Presidential powers have been trimmed in Ukraine since the Orange revolution and the president has lesser sway now over the appointment of key ministers.

In Sepetember, Tymoshenko’s bloc and the opposition Regions Party joined forces in parliament and voted in laws enabling the government to ignore presidential decrees, sparking the coalition to collapse. Parliament later overturned the laws.


Tymoshenko rejected allegations that she had sought to please Russia to help her electoral prospects and hurt the national interest in a January deal that restored suspended gas flows to Europe, but raised prices for Ukraine.

“All reasonable analysts understand that all these notions about Tymoshenko betraying the national interest in favour of Russia in some way are purely a public relations stunt before the presidential election,” she said.

“I have been and remain Ukraine’s biggest nationalist,” she said.

Yushchenko, lagging far behind Tymoshenko and opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich in opinion polls, sees the gas accord that Tymoshenko helped clinch in January as a defeat. She said it was the best available deal and eliminated gas intermediaries she had long denounced as corrupt.

Ukraine, she said, now scrupulously paid its bills to Russia for imported gas, ruling out any new disruption of supplies.

“There are no complaints in terms of the timetable or amounts paid,” she said. “We removed a great corrupt cancer from the gas sector. And we removed it completely, we carried out thorough chemotherapy. Our oil and gas sector now has healthy financing.”


Ukraine, she said, would meet all its foreign debt obligations without fail despite lingering doubts in the West.

“Let me do away with this notion once and for all. Ukraine is nowhere near being in a position of default,” Tymoshenko said.

“We are implementing our budget and meeting all our debt obligations, even those that are being called in ahead of term. I do not see even the slightest threat that this might occur.”

Tymoshenko issued her pledge a day after a similar assurance from Yushchenko.

The prime minister blamed any notion of default on “irresponsible Ukrainian opposition politicians who are trying to engage in some profiteering in times of economic crisis”.

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