Home / News / World /  Ukraine opposition seeks vote to curb president’s powers

Kiev: Ukraine’s opposition urged lawmakers on Tuesday to curb the powers of President Viktor Yanukovych as a step toward resolving the country’s political crisis. “By returning to the country’s 2004 constitution, which shifts authority from the president to parliament, the opposition may be more willing to take a share of power," UDAR party leader Vitali Klitschko said.

The opposition is forcing the issue as it seeks to build international support behind it. “The European Union (EU) and the US are discussing potential aid if Ukraine forms a new government," US state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday in Washington.

Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Rybak ordered a break in the constitutional-change debate until 4 pm in Kiev after opposition leaders called for sweeping political changes amid the biggest anti-government rallies since Ukraine gained independence in 1991.

Seven demonstrators were killed in clashes last month as protesters have braved freezing temperatures to camp out on a central Kiev square following Yanukovych’s decision to snub an EU association pact.

“We are going back to the constitution which makes lawmakers subjects of the law, rather than vote-button pressers," Vitali Klitschko, the leader of the UDAR party, told the parliament on Tuesday. “Society will explode unless politicians act now," he said.

Potential compromise

It’s not clear whether Yanukovych’s administration would accept the political compromise, which may include the pro-demonstration opposition joining the government, the president’s powers reduced, an unconditional amnesty for detained protesters, western financial support for the new cabinet and potential early elections.

“Yanukovych repeated his view that he won’t use force to resolve the conflict on the streets and that he’s open to early elections," Yurii Miroshnychenko, a lawmaker and the president’s official representative in parliament, told ICTV, according to the Ukrainska Pravda website.

The president said that if politicians can’t now come to an agreement, reach a joint decision and implement it, then the only democratic way of resolving the situation is early elections, Miroshnychenko was cited as saying by Pravda.

Ukraine has been rattled by the biggest anti-government protests since gaining independence in 1991, with seven demonstrators killed in clashes last month.

While violence receded after parliament repealed anti-protest laws and the prime minister resigned last week, street rallies continued and the opposition has refused to take cabinet posts.

Aid prospects

The prospect of western aid is boosting Ukraine’s bonds, with the yield on dollar-denominated notes due in June dropping 17 basis points, or 0.17 percentage point, to 13.37% at 11:59am in Kiev, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The next step is the creation of a new government, and then we will consider what support we would be able to and be prepared to provide," Psaki said. “The EU is discussing if we can do something more in this particular phase," European commission PresidentJose Barroso said on Monday in Brussels.

Barroso said EU’s main offer for Ukraine continues to be the association agreement that Yanukovych refused to sign in November, which would open the bloc to Ukraine’s exports.

“Russia agreed in December to lend Ukraine $15 billion and to reduce the price for natural gas deliveries after Yanukovych rejected the EU pact. After buying $3 billion of Ukrainian bonds in December, further aid may be on hold until a new cabinet is formed," President Vladimir Putin said on 29 January.

‘Entire organism’

“Ukraine needs to change its entire organism as possible EU and IMF aid won’t resolve all of the country’s woes," Oleh Tyahnybok, head of the Svoboda opposition party, told the parliament.

He demanded lawmakers immediately vote on the constitution change and a government report into the killings, abductions, torture of protesters.

“Under pressure from Western diplomats, Ukraine allowed an activist, who was abducted and tortured, to leave to Lithuania to get medical treatment," Rasa Jakilaitiene, spokeswoman for Lithuania’s foreign ministry, said on Monday.

“Although they almost destroyed me physically, they didn’t break my spirit," Dmitri Bulatov said in a statement from the Vilnius University Hospital, where he’s being treated. “I’ll continue the battle that’s begun, I’ll continue forward and seek democracy in Ukraine. I won’t withdraw." Bloomberg

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