Ukraine – Semi-presidential history

In a previous post I referred to some of the difficulties involved in determining when a country should start to be classed as semi-presidential. As someone who does not speak Russian, I find this issue particularly problematic in the case of former USSR countries. Most simply grafted a directly elected president onto a nominally parliamentary system in 1990-91. In this way, they probably became semi-presidential at that time. However, it is extremely difficult to find the texts from this period in order to confirm this situation and, if they are available, the texts are usually in Russian. Therefore, I tend to date the start of semi-presidentialism from the time of the first consolidated constitution. These are generally available.

The case of Ukraine is interesting in terms of its semi-presidential history. I only had the opportunity to become familiar with this case when I was examining a PhD by Eugene Mazo late last year. Anyway, one of the things I learnt from the PhD was that Ukraine was not semi-presidential, as defined in this blog, from June 1995 until the passage of the current constitution in June 1996.

The first presidential election in Ukraine was held on 1 December 1991, just a few months after the declaration of independence in August of that year. So, Ukraine became semi-presidential during that period.

By June 1995 the constitution-making process had already been going on for nearly four years. A problem was that any constitution had to be passed by a 2/3rds majority of all members. Moreover, elections failed to return a full set of deputies. So, the supermajority requirement was insuperable.

In June 1995 an agreement was reached between the president and parliament to pass an interim constitution by way of an ordinary law, hence avoiding the supermajority requirement. This so-called ‘constitutional agreement’ created a presidential regime. It was in force until the end of June 1996. During that time, the president could not dissolve the assembly; the president could appoint the government without parliamentary approval; and parliament could not dismiss the government.

At the end of June 1996 with the deadline looming a full constitution was finally agreed. This constitution was, of course, semi-presidential.

Therefore, there is a one-year gap in Ukraine’s semi-presidential history.

There are publications by Eugene Mazo available at:

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