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Ukrainian Parliament,  President at Odds Over Lawmaking Authority


The Ukrainian parliament has convened, despite a presidential warning that the fall legislative session is illegitimate. VOA Moscow Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports the issue involves larger constitutional questions about Ukraine's power structure.

The issue of legitimacy surrounding the fall legislative session in Ukraine pits the country's president against the prime minister and the speaker of parliament, also known as the Supreme Rada.

In April, President Viktor Yushchenko used his constitutional authority to dissolve parliament, after Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych tried to lure opposition lawmakers into the majority in order to force a vote of no confidence in the president.

In a nationally-televised address on the eve of the fall session, Mr. Yushchenko accused Rada members of engaging in intrigue, fraud and political theater in an attempt to disrupt parliamentary elections set for September 30.

"Gentlemen of the Rada," says the Ukrainian president, "Calm down, do not abuse people's patience and do not turn the Parliament into a laughing stock". Mr. Yushchenko says he wants everyone to hear his statement, above all, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, leader of the parliamentary majority.

Mr. Yanukovych won the presidential election in 2004, but the Ukrainian Constitutional Court determined the initial vote was fraudulent. The attempt to steal the election prompted millions of Ukrainians to demand new elections in nearly of month of street demonstrations that came to be known as the Orange Revolution. Mr. Yushchenko won the the second, internationally monitored, election.

The Prime Minister did not attend the opening of the fall session, but his office issued a statement saying the constitution mandates the uninterrupted work of parliament until the elections.

Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Moroz, whose Socialist Party is struggling in pre-election polls, also cited the constitution as he declared the pre-election session legitimate and laid out plans for the coming weeks.

Speaker Moroz says he will discuss a legislative agenda and reserves time for a plenary session around September 15 to discuss a budget.

Ukrainian law mandates that the prime minister send a budget to lawmakers by September 15, which leaves very little time for parliament, legitimate or not, to discuss a national fiscal plan before elections at the end of the month.

Lawmakers voted Tuesday to deprive themselves of parliamentary immunity. Some politicians on the left want the president to lose his immunity as well.

Political analysts Oleksandr Lytvynenko says the current struggle over parliamentary legitimacy stems from a flaw in the constitution, which does not clearly delineate authority between the president, prime minister, and parliament.

Lytvynenko says various political circles want to review the constitution in order to return some powers to the presidency, giving the office more centralized, and coordinating authority. But he says, there are radical voices led by Communists to abolish the presidency altogether.

Lytvynenko adds that the constitutional power structure in Ukraine pleases no one. The analyst says it remains to be seen whether the country will amend its supreme law through a referendum, which President Yushchenko supports, or by a vote in Parliament. Lytvynenko expects the political struggle over this issue to be fierce.

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