Modern Ukraine is a relatively young state, having established its independence on August 24, 1991. As every sovereign nation, it has its own Constitution.
The Constitution of Ukraine
was adopted by the Fifth Convocation of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s legislature, on June 28, 1996 by a vote of 315 out of 450 votes.
On February 21, 2014, Ukraine’s parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of a return to the country’s 2004 Constitution that would limit the President’s power. A total of 386 MPs voted for the relevant law, by so doing, asserting the 2004 Constitution to be the basic law of the nation.
Ukraine’s Constitution consists of 15 chapters:
- General Principles
- Human and Citizen Rights, Freedoms and Duties
- Elections. Referenda
- The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine
- The President of Ukraine
- The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. Other Executive Bodies
- The Office of the Prosecutor
- The Judiciary
- The Territorial Structure of Ukraine
- Autonomous Republic of Crimea
- Local Governments
- The Constitutional Court of Ukraine
- Amending the Constitution of Ukraine
- Final Provisions
- Transitional Provisions
This document defines Ukraine as a democratic, independent, social and legal state and outlines the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens. All other laws and regulatory acts of Ukraine must comply with the Constitution.
The history of the Constitution in Ukraine starts in the times of Kyivan Rus. The head of the state, Grand Prince Yaroslav Mudriy—the Wise—established a set of laws that de facto
had constitutional force in the 11th century.
By the 18th century, Hetman Pylyp Orlyk had written a proper Constitution, entitled “Pacts and Constitutions regarding the Rights and Freedoms of the Zaporozhian Army” (Pakty i Konstytutsii Prav i Volnostei Viyska Zaporozkoho)
. The document, written in 1710, consisted of a preamble and 16 articles, defining the rights and duties of all the kozak warriors. During that epoch, most men were kozaks, meaning that this Constitution covered many people of Ukraine.
During soviet times and Ukrainians were under four different Constitutions, adopted in various times. Until June 8, 1995, Ukraine's supreme law was the Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Ukrainian SSR (adopted in 1978, with numerous amendments). On June 8, 1995, President Leonid Kuchma and Speaker Oleksandr Moroz (on behalf of the parliament) signed the Constitutional Agreement for the period until a new constitution is drafted.
On February 21nd, Following the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, The Parliament passed a law that reinstated the December 8, 2004 amendments of the constitution. A total of 386 MPs voted for the law. The document was passed under simplified procedure without any decision of the relevant committee and was passed in the first and the second reading in one voting.
The 2004 Constitution, which was in effect until 2010, limits the presidential powers and broadens those of the parliament and government.
On June 25, 2015, President Petro Poroshenko has signed decree No. 119/2015 on the establishment of a constitutional reform commission to make changes to the country’s basic law.
The commission is being established in order to develop agreed proposals to improve the Constitution of Ukraine, taking into account modern challenges and the needs of society. It is expected that this work will involve representatives of various political forces, as well as civil, domestic and international experts.
The decree of the president also specifies the status of the constitutional commission, its tasks, the procedure and form of its work. All the developments will be implemented through the issuing of presidential decrees and the submission of corresponding bills to the Verkhovna Rada.
The draft changes to the Ukrainian Constitution dealing with the decentralization of power have been submitted to the parliament sent to the Venice Commission on June 26.