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Clash looms as Yushchenko powers challenged
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, Dec. 18 – Ukraine has been rapidly drifting towards a major political clash on Monday after the government had openly challenged constitutional powers of President Viktor Yushchenko by refusing to dismiss seven top police officials.

Yushchenko used his constitutional powers Friday to suspend the government’s resolution appointing the officials that are thought to be loyal to Yanukovych’s Regions Party and its political allies.

But the Internal Affairs Ministry indicated on Monday that seven deputy ministers will continue working until the Constitutional Court rules otherwise effectively ignoring Yushchenko’s power to suspend the Cabinet’s resolutions.

“The deputy ministers continue to work in full capacity,” Kostiantyn Stehniy, a spokesman at the ministry, said. “They are a paramilitary structure and they have to fulfill their duties.”

This is the first time the government has openly challenged the presidential constitutional powers to suspend its resolutions, an extremely dangerous precedent that may provoke a serious crisis.

Yanukovych, a pro-Russian figure, has been steadily challenging Yushchenko, a pro-Western leader, mostly trying to reverse the country’s foreign policy course, since becoming the prime minister in early August.

But the latest development has been especially disturbing suggesting the standoff has been spreading to the Internal Affairs Ministry, which controls a total of 200,000 armed police officers throughout Ukraine.

Yushchenko has been recently seeking to strengthen control over law enforcement organs. He sought to get a stronger control over SBU security service by replacing Ihor Drizhchaniy as the head of the service. However, Parliament, led by the pro-government coalition, back lashed at Yushchenko last week by refusing to dismiss Drizhchaniy, causing unease in the presidential camp.

The government, led by Yanukovych, has been aggressively trying to win greater powers in confrontation with the president following controversial constitutional amendments that had been enacted earlier this year.

The amendments shifted many presidential powers, such as the right to appoint and to dismiss ministers, to the pro-government coalition in Parliament, effectively strengthening the prime minister.

But Yanukovych has been increasingly trying to get control over both, domestic and foreign policies, apparently pushing the president to the sidelines of the country’s policy making.

The standoff may force the president to dismiss Parliament and to call new election, a scenario that has been increasingly likely, analysts said.

“Yes, [the dismissal] is possible,” Viktor Baloha, Yushchenko’s chief of staff, said in an interview with Kommersant daily published Monday. “If today’s confrontation between the braches of power continues then various options are possible.” (tl/ez)




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