On June 28, the day Ukraine celebrated three years of its constitution, President Leonid Kuchma lost the authority to release decrees on economic issues virtually unrestrained by the parliament. Yesterday, a transitional provision of the constitution of 1996, which allowed the president to issue such decrees for three years after the adoption of the main law, expired. If not vetoed by the legislature within thirty days, every economic decree signed by Kuchma acquired the status of law, allowing the executive to steer the economy at critical moments independently from the opposition-dominated parliament. The expiration of this constitutional provision even prompted some analysts to say that Ukraine has moved closer to a parliamentary form of government (Ukrainian television, Eastern Economist, June 28).
Premier Valery Pustovoytenko’s cabinet, along with a powerful Kuchma ally (the organization of industrial directors called the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs), had on several occasions called on the legislature to prolong “the rule by decree,” motivating it with the need to accelerate economic reforms conducted by the government. Kuchma, however, apparently refused to lobby in the parliament for his extraordinary economic authority to be extended. He has, in fact, virtually no real chance to achieve this now, four months before the elections, when the parliament–in which all of his main contenders sit–is especially opposition-minded (Studio 1+1, June 28, May 25).
Kuchma’s opponents say that his right to issue economic decrees was often masterly used by those entrepreneur-politicians close to him commonly labeled “oligarchs” for pursuing their own goals, which often did not coincide with national interests. Kuchma’s timely use of economic authority, on the other hand, to some extent cushioned consequences of the Russian crisis of last August for the Ukrainian economy. Economic decrees were also handy for negotiating loan conditions with the IMF and World Bank (Den, June 26; see the Monitor, March 15). Now, the nation’s economic maneuvering will become more cumbersome and predictable. At the same time, no significant economic moves should be expected from either the parliament or the president, at least until after the presidential elections scheduled for October 31.–OV
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