Yushchenko wants Church to operate independently of the Moscow Patriarchate
- 17:00 | 09/ 02/ 2006
KIEV, February 9 (RIA Novosti) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko told
parliament Thursday that a new constitution should be drafted and put to a
national vote as part of a full-scale political reform.
"A new version of the constitution should be drafted by a constitutional
commission and subjected to a nationwide referendum," Yushchenko said in
his state of the nation address.
The president is unhappy with the constitutional amendments in effect since
January 1, which have dramatically expanded parliament's powers at the
expense of the presidency, but he assured the MPs that he would not force
any changes before the March 26 legislative election.
The pro-Western leader, seeking European Union and NATO membership for
Ukraine, acknowledged the importance of developing partnerships with Russia
and other eastern neighbors as long as national interests were served. But
he said he wanted the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to operate independently of
the Moscow Patriarchate, something the Russian Church strongly disapproves of.
Yushchenko said his government's economic and social policies had produced
impressive results in 2005, citing a 20% year-on-year increase in real
incomes and a 30% increase in welfare benefits. He said the country's
budget revenues had grown by 54% over the year and the reserves of the
Central Bank had doubled to 10 billion hryvnias ($2 billion).
The president said the executive branch would continue working to improve
the quality of life of its 47 million citizens. He pledged to focus
particularly on the renovation of the dilapidated housing infrastructure,
following repeated breakdowns of heating and electricity facilities during
this winter's cold spells.
Yushchenko, swept into power a little more than a year ago on the back of
Orange Revolution protests against electoral fraud, said the legislature
and the executive branch should put their differences behind and unite. He
has been at odds with the assembly since he ignored its no-confidence vote
for the cabinet a few weeks ago.
According to public opinion polls, the president's Our Ukraine party has a
far lower chance of success in next month's race than the party led by
Viktor Yanukovych, Yushchenko's rival in the 2004 election.