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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 February, 2004, 00:45 GMT
Kuchma retreats over constitution

By Helen Fawkes
BBC in Kiev

Ukraine's President, Leonid Kuchma, has backed down over a controversial change to the Ukrainian constitution.

His concession came less than 24 hours before a new parliamentary session was due to get under way.

His supporters had been trying to introduce an amendment that would mean parliament rather than the people chooses the president in 2006

The proposals had provoked widespread international condemnation and protests by the opposition.

The new session of Ukraine's parliament which opens on Tuesday was expected to be a stormy affair until President Kuchma came up with a compromise deal late on Monday.

Leonid Kuchma
It is not clear if Mr Kuchma's compromise will defuse the crisis
The controversy began in December when a bill to reform the constitution was given initial approval by MPs.

The most contentious element was to allow parliament to elect the president instead of the people.

This led to opposition protests which blocked the work of parliament.

There was talk of introducing bailiffs to bring order to the chamber.

Last week the Council of Europe threatened to suspend Ukraine from its organisation over what it said was the country's political crisis, caused by the constitutional proposals.

The European Union, as well as the UK and US ambassadors to Ukraine, expressed concern that the changes were being made to the constitution just nine months before a presidential election.

Parliament is expected to hold a final vote soon on other amendments.

Ukraine MPs back election reform
24 Dec 03  |  Europe
Profile: Leonid Kuchma
26 Sep 02  |  Europe
Ukraine MPs can elect president
11 Dec 03  |  Europe
Huge anti-Kuchma rally in Kiev
09 Mar 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Ukraine
12 Nov 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Ukraine
12 Nov 03  |  Country profiles

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