President Leonid Kuchma won the April 16 plebiscite with Soviet-style numbers. Eighty-two percent of eligible voters came to the polls, and 80-90 percent of them backed the president on each of the constitutional reforms he proposed: shifting from a one-house to a two-house parliament, cutting the number of deputies from 450 to 300, limiting the immunity of parliamentarians from prosecution, and giving the president the power to send the legislature packing if it can’t form a majority or produce a budget in a reasonable period of time.
Two fans of executive power, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin, hailed the vote. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, with a more tender regard for legislative prerogatives, called it unconstitutional. In any case the plebiscite is not the final word. The Constitutional Court says the Rada–the one-house parliament that is marked for extinction–must now amend the constitution to conform with the outcome of the vote. The Rada’s speaker says the process will take at least a year, maybe longer.