29.07.2006 | Yevhen Zakharov

Address to the National Roundtable at the President’s Secretariat on 27 July 2006


In my view, the Declaration of National Unity is a good document and could be signed. However it lacks clear guidelines as to what needs to be done first, second, and so forth. I would like to dwell on this a little.
Firstly, it is vital that the Constitutional Court begins functioning once again. One of the classic definitions of democracy is that it is a war of everyone against everyone under the control of the law.  We are observing the war of all against all, however there is no law exerting control over it since the Constitutional Court is effectively out of action. Ukraine cannot today be considered a law-based state since the law is exercised by precisely this Constitutional Court. All decisions which have been taken in the absence of the Constitutional Court are basically not legitimate, and one should be prepared for the possibility that the latter, when it finally begins functioning again, will cancel such decisions. I would note that this issue, in my view, is more important than the choosing of a government since governments in Ukraine exist for a year, 18 months, no longer, while the judges of the Constitutional Court are appointed for nine years.

Secondly, the disastrous consequences of the so-called “political reform”[1] call for the latter’s review.  Throughout last year human rights organizations repeatedly and publicly warned of the threat which these changes posed. It Is aggrieving to observe that all our predictions have proved correct. Its implementation has created competition between legitimate and real centres of authority – that of the President and of the Prime Minister – within one executive branch of power which will lead to the country being less governable. The “reform” has effectively created a threat to state sovereignty and independence in general. It has destroyed the unity of foreign and internal policy, introduced principles of the worst form of political collectivism, turning parliamentary deputies into voting machines, entirely dependent on the will of their leaders, in fact, I would say rather the owners of their factions. The “reform” has significantly increased the influence of selfish interests of powerful financial-industrial groups on parliament, at the same time reducing the people’s access to power. This is a conspiracy of the rich against the poor, and I fail to understand why the Ukrainian left-wing, which is so concerned about the well-being of poorer Ukrainians, is so adamantly in favour of this “reform”.  After all, Rawls’ principle, that inequality is beneficial to all does not function in Ukraine, and the “reform” clearly hampers its introduction.

What we have seen over the last few months has convincingly proven that Ukraine cannot yet be a parliamentary republic. Our young democracy is simply not ready for this. Our political parties are only capable of dividing people into their own people and the others.  The totalitarian thinking of Ukrainian politicians cannot comprehend parliamentary democracy. Our politicians are not able to make agreements and reach compromises; they are capable only of forcing their opponents, insulting them, gaining a victory over them. It should be understood that the amendments introduced to the Constitution continue the objective grounds for political confrontation in society. It is therefore vital to reassess the principles of Ukrainian politics enshrined in the Constitution. I don’t know how this will be done, whether through the Constitutional Court  or by making new amendments to the Constitution, but it must be done.

Chamberlain once wrote in “Ukraine – a subjugated nation” that the Ukrainian people were permanently betrayed by the national elite. I would hate to think that an American will one day write this about our present political elite.

[1]  The “political reform” mentioned refers specifically to the constitutional amendments passed in a ‘package vote’ also including crucial electoral law reforms on 8 December 2004.  The amendments reduce the powers of the President and create a situation where some Ministers answer to the President, while others directly to the Prime Minister. More on the changes and on the response of KHPG and other human rights groups can be found at  The constitutional changes came into force on 1 January 2006. (translator’s note)

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