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29 November, 2012

Opposition Rings the Alarm Bell

Members of the opposition fear that a new law on referendums is intended to pave the way to joining the Customs Union with Russia.

“We know that this law is geared towards holding a referendum that would make Ukraine a member of the Customs Union (with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. – Ed.),” Arseniy Yatseniuk, chairman of the united opposition council, announced.

A campaign to promote decision-making through referendums was launched in Ukraine in mid-2012.  According to Kommersant-Ukraina, it was masterminded by Viktor Medvedchuk, leader of the Ukrainskiy Vybor (Ukrainian Choice) NGO.

Under Medvedchuk’s guidance, a draft of amendments to the Constitution was worked out and submitted to the Constitutional Assembly attached to the President of Ukraine. Unlike the current Constitution, this document is fully in line with the new law on referendums and excludes parliament from implementing referendum-approved decisions.

“I believe that the first referendum under the new law must be held precisely on Ukraine’s membership in the Customs Union,” Medvedchuk recently said in a newspaper. “This will help our government and the opposition shed illusions of the European choice as being allegedly Ukraine’s only alternative.”

The opposition believes that the president had also other reasons to sign the bill – the possibility of amending the Constitution without involving parliament and electing the president in parliament.

Opposition MP Viacheslav Kyrylenko recently said that the opposition would challenge the law “On Referendums” in the Constitutional Court. “We will ring the alarm bell to raise awareness that a referendum makes it possible to pass any anti-Ukrainian decision – such as joining the Customs Union or the Common Economic Space – and legalize usurpation of power!” he said emotionally.

The new law defines all-Ukrainian referendums as “a form of direct democracy in Ukraine … in which citizens make decisions on issues of national importance.” It further defines four types of all-Ukrainian referendums: legislative (on passing or amending a law), ratifying (on changing Ukraine’s territory), general (on any issue except the state budget, taxes and amnesty) and constitutional (on adopting the Constitution in a new redaction, amending it or repealing constitutional amendments).

Moreover, under this new law, the Verkhovna Rada is excluded from the process of implementing referendum results. The president has the final say in calling a referendum.

The referendum law was signed by President Viktor Yanukovych on 27 November and will enter into force the next day after its official publication.

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