Ukraine’s parliament changes its rules to amend Constitution


Oleh Lyashko speaks from the podium in parliament. Credits: Facebook

28 Jan. — Ukraine’s parliament, with 229 votes cast in favour, introduced amendments to the law “On Standing Orders” which make it possible for changes to be made to the Constitution in the next session. The new version of the law was signed by President Petro Poroshenko without delay.

The legislative body’s previous rules stipulated that the adoption of amendments to the Constitution in the second, final, reading must take place only in the session of parliament following the one in which the given amendments were considered in the first reading.

A provision has now been added to the text of the law, according to which if the constitutional draft law is preliminarily approved by parliament but for some reason or another is not considered at the following regular session, then it is considered in the session after it.

The Standing Orders were adjusted in relation to the necessity of introducing amendments to the country’s constitution which are stipulated by the Minsk Agreements and regulate issues about the decentralisation of power. In the first reading, the amendments were adopted on 31 August 2015, and if the law had remained unchanged, then they should have been passing the second reading by 2 February. However, the formal lack of the support of a constitutional majority (300 votes) for President Poroshenko did not allow for the second reading to take place in due time.

The final adoption of the constitutional amendments with regard to decentralisation is extremely disadvantageous to Poroshenko right now. It could deprive Ukraine of a bargaining chip in the negotiation process with Russia and the DPR-LPR, as well as reinforce tensions in an already potentially unstable parliamentary coalition. Postponing the vote was the only advantageous path for Poroshenko, the coalition and Ukraine as a whole.

With this goal in mind, 51 people’s deputies prepared an appeal to the Constitutional Court in which the parliamentarians requested an explanation of the term “the following regular session”. The authors of the appeal asked for clarification on whether it might mean “a different”, not necessarily “the following” in the literal sense where it would mean the chronologically next session of parliament. Receiving an affirmative answer, the deputies’ majority introduced the changes to the Standing Orders that would make it possible to amend the Constitution as far into the future as September 2016.

The actions of the pro-presidential deputies and members of the Opposition Bloc siding with them, who are advocating the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, have predictably provoked the public indignation of various factions. Self Reliance, the party of Mayor of Lviv Andriy Sadovo, announced that it  is appealing the adopted changes in the Constitutional Court. Oleh Lyashko, the leader of Radical Party, has already called the events a coup and again pointed out that the Opposition Bloc voted on the side of the president.

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