Ukraine became an independent state following the Act of Independence of 24 August 1991 approved by referendum of 1 December 1991. The current Constitution was adopted on 28 June 1996 and amended on 8 December 2004.
The Constitution has the highest legal force and direct effect. It governs the competences of inter alia the Parliament of Ukraine (Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine), the President, the Cabinet of Ministers, local self-government, other bodies of executive power as well as the judiciary. Furthermore, a chapter is devoted to Human and Citizens’ rights, freedoms and duties.
Ukraine is an independent, democratic, social, law-based republic. State power is exercised on the principle of division into legislative, executive and judicial power. Ukraine is composed by 24 regions (oblasts), the cities of Kyiv (capital) and Sevastopol that have special status as well as the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, cf. below. The state language is the Ukrainian language, but the free development, use and protection of Russian and other languages of national minorities of Ukraine is guaranteed.
Legislative power is vested in the Parliament of Ukraine, which consists of 450 National Deputies elected for a five-year term on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage, by secret ballot.
The Parliament inter alia introduces amendments to the Constitution, adopts laws, approves the state budget, determines the principles of domestic and foreign policy and grants consent to the binding nature of international treaties.
Further, it calls elections of the President, may remove the President under a procedure of impeachment, and gives approval to decrees of the President on introducing state of martial law or of emergency. It appoints to office – upon the submission of the President of Ukraine – the Prime Minister of Ukraine, the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Further, it appoints – upon the submission of the Prime Minister – other members of the Cabinet of Ministers and a long range of high ranking officials as well as decides on the resignation and dismissal of the mentioned.
The Parliament adopts laws, resolutions and other acts by the majority of its constitutional composition, except in cases envisaged by the Constitution, cf. Article 91. A number of central issues are to be determined exclusively by laws, including human and citizen’s rights and freedoms, citizenship, rights of national minorities and the judicial system.
The President of Ukraine may order the early termination of power of the Parliament in specified cases inter alia where it fails to form a coalition proposing candidature for the office of the Prime Minister.
The right of legislative initiative in the Parliament lies with the President, National Deputies, and the Cabinet of Ministers.
When a law has been passed by the Parliament, it is forwarded to the President. The President may return the law to the Parliament within 15 days with substantiated and formulated proposals for its consideration in which case the law must be passed by a majority of two-thirds of the constitutional composition of the Parliament.
The President of Ukraine is the Head of State and elected for a five-year term on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot. A person cannot be President for more than two consecutive times.
The President inter alia ensures state independence, represents the state in international relations, negotiates and concludes international treaties, adopts decisions on the recognition of foreign states, is the Commander-in–Chief of the Armed Forces and heads the Council of National Security and Defence. Further, the President issues decrees and directives that are necessary for the execution of the Constitution and the laws of Ukraine and appoints or proposes to the Parliament a long list of high ranking officials.
The powers of the President may be terminated prematurely on the grounds of resignation, inability to exercise powers for reasons of health and removal from office by procedure of impeachment in the event he or she commits state treason or other crime. The decision of removal of the President following a procedure of impeachment is adopted by no less than three-quarters of the constitutional composition of the Parliament after the review of the case by the Constitutional Court and the receipt of the opinion of the Supreme Court.
The highest authority within the system of executive authorities is the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, which is composed by the Prime Minister, the First Vice Prime Minister, Vice Prime Ministers, and Ministers.
A coalition of Parliamentary factions in the Parliament submits proposal concerning a person’s candidature for the office of the Prime Minister to the President. Upon the submission of the President, the Prime Minister is then appointed by the Parliament, cf. above.
The Cabinet of Ministers inter alia ensures the implementation of domestic and foreign policy of the State, ensures the execution of the Constitution and the laws of Ukraine, issues resolutions and orders that are mandatory for execution, takes measures to ensure human and citizen’s rights and freedoms, elaborates the draft law on the state budget of Ukraine and sets up and liquidates ministries and other central authorities.
A resolution of no confidence in the Cabinet of Ministers by the Parliament results in the resignation of the entire Cabinet of Ministers.
Local state administrations exercise the executive power in regions, districts and the cities of Kyiv and Sebastopol. Heads of these administrations are appointed and dismissed from office by the President upon the submission of the Cabinet of Ministers.
Local self-government - that is, the right of a territorial community of a village, settlement or city to independently resolve issues of local character within the limits of the Constitution and laws of Ukraine – consists of the right to inter alia manage property, approve programmes of socio-economic and cultural development, approve budgets and establish local taxes.
Judicial power belongs to the courts, which are comprised of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, high courts, courts of appeal and local courts. The Constitution guarantees the independence and immunity of judges.
The Constitutional Court is the sole body of constitutional jurisdiction. It consists of 18 judges appointed by the President (6), the Parliament (6) and the Congress of Judges (6). The judges are appointed for nine years without the right of being re-appointed. The chairman is elected by and among the judges for a three-year term.
The Constitutional Court inter alia decides of the constitutionality of legal acts of the Parliament, the President, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Further, the Constitutional Court gives official interpretations of the Constitution and the laws of Ukraine as well as opinions on the conformity between the Constitution and international treaties and procedures of impeachment against the President.
The courts of general jurisdiction has the Supreme Court as its highest judicial body. The creation of extraordinary and special courts is not permitted. The first appointment of a professional judge for a five-year term is made by the President of Ukraine. Judges are elected for permanent terms by the Parliament. The chairman of the Supreme Court is elected by the Supreme Court itself.
The High Judicial Council forwards submission on the appointment and dismissal of judges from office, exercises disciplinary procedures and adopts decisions in regard to violation of judges and procurators of requirements concerning incompatibility. The Council consists of 20 members and is elected by the Parliament, the President, the Congress of judges, the Congress of Advocates, as well as representatives from the legal educational establishments and the Procuracy.
The Autonomous Republic of Crimea (ARC) is an inseparable constituent part of Ukraine with its own Parliament (Verkhovna Rada of the ARC), its own Council of Ministers and it own Constitution adopted by the Parliament of the ARC and approved by the Parliament of Ukraine by no less than one-half of the constitutional composition of the Parliament of Ukraine. Justice is administered by the courts of the unified system of Ukraine.
The ARC inter alia designates elections of deputies to the Parliament of the ARC, organises local referenda, manages property, approves budgets of the ARC, participates in ensuring the rights and freedoms of citizens and the promotion of legal order and public security as well as participates in the development and realisation of state programmes for the return of deported peoples. Further, it exercises normative regulation in enumerated areas, cf. Article 137.
The Parliament of Ukraine may cause the early termination of the powers of the Parliament of the ARC where the Constitutional Court finds that the Parliament of the ARC has violated the Constitution of Ukraine or the laws of Ukraine. Further, the President of Ukraine may revoke acts of the Council of Ministers of the ARC.
Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine may be submitted by the President of Ukraine or by one-third of the National Deputies of Ukraine. It must first be adopted by the majority of the Parliament and then – at the next regular session of the Parliament – by at least two-thirds of the Constitutional composition of the Parliament.
Special rules, however, apply for amendment to the Constitutional chapters on General Principles, Elections, Referendum and Introducing Amendments to the Constitution. Amendments to these chapters may be submitted by the President of Ukraine or by two-thirds of the National Deputies of Ukraine. It must then be adopted by two-thirds of the Parliament and approved by All-Ukrainian referendum designated by the President of Ukraine.
Posted: June 2008
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