President Victor Yushchenko believes Ukraine’s new constitution should be drafted in the first half of 2008, Maryna Stavniychuk, his representative to the Central Election Commission and the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, said at a press briefing on Tuesday, according to the President`s press-office.

Stavniychuk said Yushchenko was going to issue a decree to set up a National constitutional council. She said it would be headed by the president and consist of up to one hundred members, who will represent “all institutions of civil society.”

Yushchenko wants the country’s new constitution to be a “social contract, a consensus document which should be supported and accepted by the main political forces and the people of Ukraine at a national referendum,” she said and added that her boss would call a constitutional referendum when a draft constitution was thoroughly discussed, calling such an approach “rational and sensible.” 

“The president believes constitutional reform is of fundamental importance for the development of society and thinks this challenge cannot be resolved when the country and its people are engaged in a political campaign with electoral slogans and promises,” she said to explain why the president had not broached the subject during last month’s election campaign. “The constitution should be improved in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere, when political forces can act in an absolutely responsible manner.”

Stavniychuk said Ukraine’s parliamentary forces supported Yushchenko’s proposal to amend the constitution.

Speaking of the need to introduce constitutional reform, she described the country’s supreme law as “evidently inconsistent with the challenges facing the country and society” and said it was necessary to create mechanisms for guaranteeing the observance of rights and freedoms and making all Ukrainians equal before the law. It is important to restore checks and balances in Ukraine’s government to solidify its status as a democratic and legal state, she said, adding that Yushchenko wants also to reform the system of local self-government. Stavniychuk said the new constitution should also fix Ukraine’s EU and WTO prospects.

The president is “consistent and resolute in his actions aimed to introducing strategic changes in the state and society,” she said.