Ukraine rules in favour of stronger presidential rule

Fri Oct 1, 2010 1:51pm IST

Judges of Ukraine's Constitutional Court attend a hearing on constitutional reform in Kiev, September 23, 2010. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/Files

Judges of Ukraine's Constitutional Court attend a hearing on constitutional reform in Kiev, September 23, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Gleb Garanich/Files

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KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's Constitutional Court ruled on Friday that a 2004 law handing many of the powers of the president to parliament was unconstitutional and it said all previous powers should be returned to the presidency.

The landmark ruling meant the way was clear for pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovich, elected in February, to be able to choose his own government and rule in a presidential republic rather than a parliamentary one.

Announcing that the court had found the 2004 law "not in compliance" with the constitution, the court's chairman, Anatoly Golovin said "the institutions of power" should immediately return the presidential powers as they existed before the changes.

Since the pro-Moscow Yanukovich came to power, his allies have pressed for him to recover presidential powers -- lost during political turmoil in 2004 -- on the grounds this will equip him to push through vital reform in the ex-Soviet republic of 47 million people.

They asked the Constitutional Court's 18 judges to rule that there were irregularities in a constitutional law brought in during the upheaval of the 2004 Orange Revolution bringing the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko to power.

That law -- supported by Yanukovich's camp to frustrate Yushchenko once he was in office -- shifted some presidential powers to parliament, chiefly the right to name the prime minister and most cabinet members.

The curbs stymied Yushchenko's five years in office and set up a confrontation with parliament and his premier Yulia Tymoshenko. Infighting paralysed decision-making and contributed to Yushchenko's downfall in this year's election.

Friday's court ruling means that Yanukovich -- who has quickly consolidated power since taking over from Yushchenko -- looks likely to rule in a presidential system like that of many other former Soviet republics, including Russia.

Since taking office, Yanukovich has tilted foreign policy back towards Moscow and ended Ukraine's pursuit of NATO membership, while saying his country remains committed to integration into the European mainstream.

Yanukovich's supporters say greater powers will give him confidence to reform the cash-strapped economy which is relying on a $15 billion International Monetary Fund loan programme to help it meet crippling gas bills from main supplier Russia.

(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Natalya Zinets; Editing by Charles Dick)

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