KIEV, Dec. 19 – Ukraine should not try to approve its new constitution at a referendum and should rather do this by adopting amendments in Parliament, Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Rybak said Wednesday.
“In my view, the constitution cannot be approved by referendum,” Rybak said in a statement released by Parliament. “The constitution must be approved by Parliament.”
The comment underscores a change after acting Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych, who until recently was widely expected to be approved as the speaker of Parliament, said last month the constitution may be approved at a referendum.
President Viktor Yanukovych last week personally picked Rybak over Lavrynovych to be nominated and supported as the new speaker of Parliament following October 28 parliamentary elections.
Rybak’s comments ease fears among opposition groups that Yanukovych may try to approve the amendments at a referendum, skipping the lengthy and legally challenging process of getting the amendments approved in Parliament.
The speculation said Yanukovych may seek an easy way of getting re-elected to a second term in office by changing the constitution to allow election of the next president in Parliament as opposed to a nation-wide vote.
This plan suffered a setback on October 28 when Yanukovych’s Regions Party failed to collect enough votes that would guarantee easy approval of the amendments in Parliament.
Legislation calls for amending Ukraine’s constitution in three separate steps: first, with the approval by 226-vote majority in Parliament, approval by the Constitutional Court and then by 300-vote majority in 450-seat Parliament. The process may take at least 6 months.
Yanukovych’s plans to seek his re-election in March 2015 have suffered a setback after the recent parliamentary elections showed overwhelming support for opposition parties.
Yanukovych established a panel a year ago to draft new amendments to the constitution, but the amendments hadn’t yet been released.
The panel is led by former President Leonid Kravchuk, who has earlier this year spoke against using referendum for approval of the new constitution.
The speculation about the planned use of referendum intensified after the approval of the law on referendum earlier this year.
The bill was allegedly drafted by the Justice Ministry, led by Lavrynovych, according to Yuriy Karmazyn, a lawmaker from the opposition Our Ukraine group. (tl/ez)