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Ukraine closer to constitutional crisis
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, Jan. 14 ?? Ukraine moved a step closer to the constitutional crisis on Friday when Parliament had overwhelmingly voted to approve a law that dramatically reduces powers of the president.

The law, pushed for by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, was also backed by opposition lawmakers loyal to former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, allowing Parliament to overcome a veto from President Viktor Yushchenko.

The law, approved by 366 lawmakers in the 450-seat legislature, is part of a deal between Yanukovych and Tymoshenko that is apparently aimed at marginalizing the president and his party.

???This alliance has clearly an anti-presidential nature,??? Volodymyr Fesenko, the head of the Penta political consultancy, said.

Yanukovych and Yushchenko had been battling for control over the country??s foreign policy since early August when Yanukovych was approved as the prime minister.

But Tymoshenko??s joining forces with Yanukovych is a major setback for Yushchenko that may completely re-shape the country??s political landscape and even change the foreign policy course.

???What happened is a complete usurpation of power, complete elimination of powers of the president,??? Yuriy Lutsenko, Yushchenko??s advisor and a former internal affairs minister, said. ???Now we??re back to 1999 when Ukraine has lived under one center approving all decisions.???

The law allows the pro-government coalition to appoint ministers of foreign affairs and defense if the president fails to nominate them within 15 days. It also allows the coalition to nominate the prime minister if the president fails to do so within 15 days after the coalition has been formed.

Yushchenko criticized the law, which he said brings in ???a disbalance to the Ukrainian system of power.??? He suggested that he will probably send an appeal to the Constitutional Court asking to cancel some of the law??s controversial clauses.

???Most likely and most effective [solution] would be to review by the Constitutional Court those clauses of the law that come in conflict with the constitution,??? Yushchenko said on Sunday. ???A wider response would be the area of amending the constitution.???

The approval of the law came two days after Yanukovych and Yushchenko had apparently agreed to work together to prevent the looming crisis by jointly amending the constitution. But Yanukovych has apparently changed his mind after Tymoshenko had indicated her lawmakers would help the pro-government coalition to overcome the veto.

???All political agreements have been failed,??? Arseniy Yatseniuk, a deputy chief of staff at the Yushchenko office, said on Friday.

As part of the deal with Tymoshenko, lawmakers loyal to Yanukovych voted to approve a bill that may officially declare Tymoshenko the leader of the opposition in Ukraine.

Tymoshenko has been competing with Our Ukraine, Yushchenko??s party, for the role of the leading opposition force after Our Ukraine officials had quit the Yanukovych government several months ago.

The approved bill would marginalize Our Ukraine by effectively promoting a two-party political system in Ukraine that may be dominated by Yanukovych??s Regions Party and Tymoshenko??s group.

Another bill approved by the Yanukovych-Tymoshenko alliance on Friday may help Tymoshenko regain control over the Kiev city council. The bill allows a party to expel lawmakers from local councils if they vote against the party line. (tl/ez)

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