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Ukraine’s Parliament OKs Electoral Reforms

December 8, 2004

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) _ Ukraine’s parliament adopted a package of electoral and constitutional changes Wednesday in a compromise intended to defuse the nation’s festering political crisis.

The package was approved in a 402-21 vote with 19 abstentions. Lawmakers stood and cheered as President Leonid Kuchma signed the measure in the chamber.

``Over the last 100 years, Ukraine has more than once suffered through a crisis, but there was always enough commonsense to find a way out and a decision,″ Kuchma said.

After signing the text of the amendments and laws package in two blue leather folders with a golden Ukrainian trident, Kuchma shook hands with parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn and deputy speakers. Lytvyn then firmly clasped both folders and held them up to show to deputies.

Lytvyn said that parliament would return after a brief recess to consider legislation to reshuffle the Central Election Commission.

Supporters of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko had pushed strongly for electoral changes to close loopholes for fraud in the Dec. 26 rerun of the presidential runoff election. But they had resisted the constitutional changes, which would transfer some presidential powers to parliament.

A coalition of communists, socialists and pro-government factions had not opposed the electoral changes, but had agreed to pass them only along with the constitutional changes.

Kuchma said that he already has accepted the resignation of the prosecutor general, a key opposition demand.

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