Monday, April 23, 2007

Ukraine court hears arguments from MPs

KIEV: Thousands of demonstrators surrounded Ukraine’s constitutional court yesterday as parliamentary deputies told judges why a presidential decree to dissolve parliament should be declared invalid.
For a fifth day running the court heard arguments on the legality of President Viktor Yushchenko’s April 2 decree to dissolve the legislature amid a feud with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, plunging the ex-Soviet country into a constitutional crisis.
The 17 judges of the court later adjourned until tomorrow. They still have to hear more members of parliament as well as representatives of the government and the central electoral commission.
Deputy Yaroslav Mendus told the judges that Yushchenko had exceeded his authority by claiming the constitution allowed him to dissolve parliament.
“Only the constitutional court is allowed to interpret the basic law. If the president gets involved in this, it means we have serious problems,” Mendus said.
The president has justified his move by saying that Yanukovich’s parliamentary majority had violated the constitution by luring pro-Yushchenko deputies into switching sides.
Yanukovich has opposed the dissolution and members of his majority asked the court to rule the decree illegal.
It is not clear when the court will make a decision.
On the streets outside, thousands demonstrated both for and against the dissolution amid a police presence that has grown significantly since a demonstration delayed the hearing for an hour on Wednesday.
Both sides’ supporters have held protests in the capital nearly every day since the president issued his controversial decree.
The latest round of talks between the prime minister and president on Friday failed to break the deadlock.
The stand-off is being closely watched by outside powers anxious about the political course of this country of 47mn people, located between the European Union and Nato to the west and Russia to the east. – AFP