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UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SATISFIED WITH REFERENDUM RESULTS. Leonid Kuchma on 17 April said he is satisfied with the 16 April referendum vote which overwhelmingly approved all four questions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2000), Interfax reported. According to Kuchma, the voters expressed their assessment of "a majority of political parties that opposed the referendum." The president promised to submit "specific proposals" to the parliament to introduce constitutional amendments in line with the referendum as soon as its results are official. Kuchma noted that "the people's will needs to be not only respected but also implemented." He said the question about the introduction of a bicameral parliament was "purely political" and pledged to set up a group composed of lawmakers, government officials, and "experts" to prepare proposals on how to form and put in operation a two-house legislature. (See End Note below.) JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNIST LEADER SAYS PARLIAMENT TO LOSE INDEPENDENCE. Petro Symonenko said on 17 April that the parliament "will totally lose its independence" and become "subordinated to the Presidential administration and the Cabinet of Ministers" following the introduction of constitutional amendments approved in the referendum, Interfax reported. According to Symonenko, local authority representatives interfered with the preparation of the referendum and "grossly" violated civil rights and freedoms during the voting. "This referendum is another step toward dictatorship and the destruction of democratic institutions in our country," he noted. Symonenko added that the Central Electoral Commission has proven unable to ensure the observance of law during the plebiscite and demanded a change of the commission's composition. Symonenko predicts an ouster of the current cabinet and early parliamentary elections as a result of the referendum. JM

UKRAINE'S MAJORITY LEADER FORESEES PROBLEMS IN AMENDING CONSTITUTION. Leonid Kravchuk, leader of the parliamentary majority, told Interfax on 17 April that the executive and legislative branches "are entering into a very harsh controversy if not a conflict" over the implementation of the referendum results. According to Kravchuk, the parliamentary majority has only 265 deputies and cannot guarantee the introduction of all constitutional amendments approved in the referendum. In his opinion, the parliament will likely pass without problems the amendments regarding the reduction of deputy seats from 450 to 300 and the abolition of deputies' immunity from criminal prosecution. Kravchuk foresees "difficulties" in approving the amendments about the president's right to dissolve the parliament and the introduction of a bicameral legislature. JM

Ukrainians Support Giving President More Powers

Electoral commission results on 17 April showed that Ukrainians gave overwhelming backing for President Leonid Kuchma's proposals in a referendum.

Nearly 29 million people--about 80 percent of those eligible to vote--took part in the referendum, which officially began on 6 April and ended with its heaviest day of polling on 16 April.

Between 80 and 90 percent of respondents voted the way Kuchma hoped they would on the four referendum issues.

Voters supported giving the president increased powers to dissolve the parliament; to lower the number of parliamentary deputies from 450 to 300; to remove deputies' immunity to criminal prosecution; and to create a second parliamentary chamber. The president would appoint members of the second chamber, which is intended to represent the interests of the regions.

Kuchma said the referendum was needed to end years of infighting among parliament deputies and a deadlock between the presidency and parliament. He said the deadlock had crippled attempts to introduce vital economic reforms and had prolonged the country's decline into poverty.

But his opponents from across the political spectrum criticized the referendum, saying it undermined parliament. They said the referendum was unconstitutional, although Ukraine's Constitutional Court ruled it could go ahead.

The Council of Europe, the 41-nation body that monitors democratic and human rights standards, also criticized the referendum. It has said Ukraine's membership could be suspended if Kuchma tries to impose the referendum's results without parliament's approval.

The Council of Europe and other international bodies did not send observers, and some accusations of vote-rigging have surfaced. The Election Commission said it is investigating, and added that any violations were few in number.

But parliament has such a poor reputation among many Ukrainians, who regard most of its members as corrupt and incompetent, that an outcome against parliament was almost a certainty.

Indeed, the questions that gained the highest popular approval were for reducing the number of deputies and stripping them of their immunity from prosecution.

But although Kuchma has convincingly won the first battle--to hold the referendum and secure the results he wanted--he could now face months of feuding with parliament to implement those results.

The very threat of the referendum prompted parliament to reorganize itself last January into a majority that has been supporting Kuchma's reform proposals. But he says the majority is unstable and the referendum results must be implemented.

But to do that, a parliamentary majority must first vote in favor of a bill proposing the amendments. Next, a twothirds majority of parliament must vote in favor of each of the actual amendments.

To get a two-thirds majority is going to be extremely difficult. But Ukrainian legal experts are not sure whether deputies may vote against constitutional changes legally approved by Ukrainian voters.

Also unclear are what steps, if any, the president may take if deputies reject the results of the referendum. If he tries to impose them against parliament's will, that could not only provoke suspension from the Council of Europe but, more important, could again wreck Ukraine's chances to press ahead with essential economic reforms.


RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 2, No. 15, 18 April 2000

A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team


REFERENDUM APPROVES ALL FOUR QUESTIONS. With nearly 100 percent of the votes counted, the Central Electoral Commission announced on 17 April that an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians said "yes" to all four questions in the 16 April constitutional referendum. According to the commission, 28.86 million voters (or 78.77 percent) took part in the ballot. The commission allowed early voting in the referendum beginning on 6 April, and 27.8 percent of voters took advantage of this opportunity.

According to preliminary results, as quoted by Interfax, the first question about the right of the president to dissolve the parliament if it fails to pass a budget within one month or form a majority within three months, was approved by 84.78 percent of those voting and opposed by 13.79 percent.

The second question about the abolition of lawmakers' immunity from criminal prosecution was okayed by 89.06 percent and opposed by 9.57 percent.

The third question about cutting the parliament from 450 to 300 deputies was approved by 89.97 percent and opposed by 8.68 percent.

The fourth question about the introduction of a bicameral parliament was supported by 81.81 percent and opposed by 16.67 percent.

The highest turnout was reported in Zakarpatska Oblast (96.77 percent), Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast (88.43 percent), Sumy Oblast (87.42 percent), and Ternopil Oblast (87.24 percent). The lowest turnout was in Sevastopol--45.54 percent. Central Electoral Commission head Mykhaylo Ryabets commented that according to the law on referenda, a plebiscite is valid if the nationwide turnout is no less than 50 percent and that its validity does not depend on a regional distribution of votes. Ryabets added that his commission has not recorded any violations that could "essentially" influence the referendum results.

Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz, who earlier announced that he will not take part in the referendum, told Interfax on 17 April that the referendum results were "planned" beforehand, adding that the executive authorities exerted pressure on voters. "I am really surprised at such low results of the voting, inasmuch as it was necessary to obtain 100 percent [support] or even slightly more," Moroz commented ironically. Moroz noted that the implementation of referendum results will require "more political battles," adding that "everything will not be so easy as it appears to the initiators of the referendum."

"RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report" is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.

SERGEEV SEES BASIS FOR COOPERATION WITH NATO. Speaking in Kyiv on 17 April, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said that Moscow and NATO could cooperate in specific areas, such as fighting terrorism, as long as Russia "is not just the object of talks and consultations" but "can take part in decision-making" within the alliance, Western agencies reported. If that does not happen, Sergeev warned, Russia will seek to expand the defense relationships it has with Belarus and Ukraine. Military relations with Ukraine, he added, are improving and there is every basis to assume that issues arising from Russia's naval base at Sevastopol will be resolved quickly. PG