COMMENT: Ukraine grand coalition plans to oust president, divvy up power

By bne IntelliNews June 5, 2009

Viktor Luhovyk of Dragon Capital -

Amendments to the constitution drafted by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's bloc (BYuT) and the opposition Party of Regions and leaked to local media reveal the two parties' plan to elect a new president in parliament in September and divide political powers between the parties that will join the planned grand coalition.

In line with earlier reports, the constitutional amendments published replace a direct presidential election with a vote in parliament and introduce a new system of checks and balances between the president and the government. Under the plan, PM Tymoshenko is expected to stay on as head of government, basically retaining all her current powers, while Region's leader Viktor Yanukovych will be elected president with greater authority over law enforcement bodies. The new constitution also puts off the next regular parliamentary elections for two years, until 2014.

The released draft law forms the core of BYuT's and Region's power-sharing agreement and wards off the risk of either of them losing the upcoming nationwide presidential election, expected in January 2010, amid growing voter disillusionment exacerbated by the continuing economic decline.

Both BYuT and Regions - which together have a more than a two-thirds majority of 331 votes in the 450-seat parliament, or 31 votes more than the minimum needed to change the constitution - have started to talk openly in the past two days about their long-lasting coalition talks, but so far stopped short of making their alliance official. Both parties are expected to hold separate meetings in coming days to formally approve their union.

President Viktor Yushchenko called the planned coalition deal a coup d'état plotted by BYuT and Regions to usurp political power in Ukraine for years to come.

In general, before we analyze the proposed new constitution in greater detail, we think the two largest parliamentary parties' plan has positive implications in terms of accelerating economic reforms and stabilizing domestic politics. However, the plan to cancel direct presidential elections and prolong the current parliament's tenure will likely draw criticism from the West, which is likely why BYuT and Regions are said to be negotiating with other parliamentary factions to refute accusations they are allegedly planning a "two-party dictatorship."

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