Comment: Ukraine's Cabinet Law will lead to "might makes right"

By bne IntelliNews January 19, 2007

International Centre for Policy Studies in Kyiv -

The approved version of the "Law On the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine" is unlikely to reduce tensions in relations between the government and the president, argues Ivan Presniakov, political analyst for the International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS). Instead, the rules under which the president and government operate have become even more controversial.

The president's office has confirmed that the text of the new law as passed violates the constitution in 11 provisions and the president intends to appeal to the Constitutional Court with a demand that the legislation or individual provisions within it be declared unconstitutional.

Until the Constitutional Court hands down the necessary ruling — which could take some time, given the court's current work load — the president on one side and the gvernment on the other will be governed by mutually exclusive legal norms. The cabinet will follow the law just passed, while the president will follow his understanding of the constitution, which is the highest law of the land, says Presniakov.

This will have negative consequences for the functionality of the entire political system in Ukraine. Whereas earlier the main centres of power freely interpreted gaps in the constitution to their own benefit, the passing of the Law on the Cabinet of Ministers raises the question of whether there are actually any generally accepted rules that the main institutions of power can interact over.

According to the ICPS analyst, the competition between the president and government could well go beyond the legal pale. If this happens, "might makes right" will be the rule of the day.

The government will ignore presidential decrees that counter the Law on the Cabinet of Ministers, while the president will ignore cabinet resolutions that counter his understanding of the constitution. In practice, decisions will be implemented in those instances where the decision-maker has direct power over those who must carry out the decision, Presniakov says.

Different interpretations of the way that candidates for Minister of Foreign Affairs or deputy heads of local administrations and deputy ministers are appointed, as well as different interpretations of how ministers countersign legal acts of the president and the role of the National Security Council could make the work of the government much more difficult and even bring it to a halt altogether.

More about Ukraine's politics and public policy can be found on the ICPS site: click here

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