Parliament elects new prime minister
Following the approval of Anatoliy Kinakh for the post of premier by the parliament, on 1 June the formation of the new cabinet was almost complete. All 15 ministers have already been nominated. Two vice-prime minister positions remain vacant (although one has already been appointed). President Kuchma said the configuration of the cabinet would be finalized within the next few days.
The process of forming the new government started right after the parliament approved the candidacy of Anatoliy Kinakh, who heads Ukraine's Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, for the post of prime minister by 239 votes (226 votes were needed out of the 450-member parliament) on 29 May. Those votes came from the centrist pro-presidential factions with support of the Socialist faction and MPs who do not belong to any faction.
This became possible even without support of the Communists, the largest faction of Ukrainian parliament, whose votes are often decisive as was the case when the former prime minister Viktor Yushchenko was voted out on 26 April. The right-wing parties, considered as part of the opposition—the two Rukh parties and the Reforms and Order Party—did not vote.
Surprisingly enough, the change of prime minister has not seriously transformed the cabinet. Out of 15 ministers from Yushchenko's cabinet, ten ministers have retained their posts. Oleh Dubyna, former deputy prime minister, has now become the first deputy prime minister.
Yushchenko's cabinet consisted of 20 posts: prime minister, first vice prime minister, three vice prime ministers and 15 ministers. On Thursday, 31 May Anatoliy Kinakh said two new ministries would be established in Ukraine—the Ministry of Industrial Policy and Ministry of European and Economic Integration.
New government position introduced
On 29 May President Leonid Kuchma signed a decree concerning the introduction of a new position within the government—the post of state secretary.
According to the decree the state secretary of the Cabinet of Ministers, state secretaries of ministers and their deputies are appointed by the president for the whole term of his office (five years). Resignation of the cabinet or any of its members would not result in the resignation of state secretaries. According to the decree, the positions of the first deputies and deputies of ministers as well as the post of the government secretary will no longer exist.
The prime minister, the first deputy prime minister, prime ministers and ministers become political figures. They will provide for organizational and political management, whereas all other functions are transferred to state secretaries of ministers (including appointment of personnel and budget expenditures). As Volodymyr Lytvyn, head of the Office of the President said, "practically all leverages of influence are concentrated in the hands of secretaries of ministries."
Many analysts and politicians claim that the move has a two-fold meaning. On one hand it strengthens the role of the executive and by default will expand presidential control. On the other hand, it means preserving some consistency in the work of government, which is subjected to uncertainty any time that the cabinet changes.
This common practice in European countries, as many argue, is intended to make the government more stable and independent from political change. However, taking into account Ukraine's current predicament and the recent tendency of President Kuchma towards increasing his power, with this decree, some argue, Ukraine de facto turns into a presidential republic.
Ukraine cited for human rights abuses
Amnesty International has once again listed Ukraine on a list of 149 countries where human rights are systematically abused.
This information was made public through the annual report of the organization placed on its Internet website. According to Amnesty International, Ukraine is scrutinized for the bad behavior of its legal enforcement bodies towards detainees. Ukraine is also blamed for the poor conditions of its prisons and actions by Ukrainian frontier guards.
On 1 June the Summit of the heads of states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) took place in Minsk.
The CIS was established in December 1991 during a meeting in Alma-Ata (Almaty, Kazakhstan). Ukraine, although being a founder of the CIS, neither acceded to the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly or to the CIS Collective Security Act (1992) and the CIS Charter (1993). Ten former Soviet Union states are full-fledged members of the CIS, whereas Ukraine is an associate member of the organization and Georgia has the status of observer in it.
The major topic of discussion at this year's summit was the establishment of a free trade zone. Prior to the summit it was decided that the free trade zone should be established as soon as possible. President Kuchma said its establishment is unlikely in the near future. He also said that increased cooperation within the CIS should be based on pragmatic economic interests, not on purely political grounds.
Iryna Solonenko, 1 June 2001
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