Constitution of Ukraine

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The Constitution of Ukraine (Ukrainian: Конституція України) is the nation's fundamental law. The constitution was adopted and ratified at the 5th session of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine on 28 June 1996.[1] The constitution was passed with 315 ayes out of 450 votes possible (300 ayes minimum).[1]

Other laws and other normative legal acts of Ukraine must conform to the constitution. The right to amend the constitution through a special legislative procedure is vested exclusively with the parliament. The only body that may interpret the constitution and determine whether legislation conforms to it is the Constitutional Court of Ukraine.

Since 1996 the public holiday Constitution Day is celebrated 28 June.[2][3]

In 2004 there were adopted amendments that significantly changed political system. Erroneously those changes are referred sometimes as the 2004 Constitution. In 2010 Viktor Yanukovych who served as President of Ukraine revert those changes relying on decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. Following the Euromaidan events, the 2004 amendments were reinstated.


Until June 8, 1995, Ukraine's supreme law was the Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Ukrainian SSR (adopted in 1978, with numerous later amendments). On June 8, 1995, President Leonid Kuchma and Speaker Oleksandr Moroz (acting on behalf of the parliament) signed the Constitutional Agreement for the period until a new constitution could be drafted.

The first constitution since independence was adopted during an overnight parliamentary session after almost 24 hours of debate of June 27-June 28, 1996,[1] unofficially known as "the constitutional night of 1996." The Law No. 254/96-BP ratifying the constitution, nullifying previous constitutions and the Agreement was ceremonially signed and promulgated in mid-July 1996. However, according to a ruling of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, the constitution took force at the moment when the results of the parliamentary vote were announced on June 28, 1996 at approx. 9 a.m. Kiev local time.[1] Ukraine was the last of the post-Soviet states that adopted its own constitution.[1] On Constitution Day 2018 President Petro Poroshenko remarked that the 1710 Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk is the predecessor of Ukraine's current constitution.[4]


The Constitution of Ukraine is divided into 15 chapters:

  1. General Principles
  2. Human and Citizens' Rights, Freedoms and Duties
  3. Elections. Referendums
  4. Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine
  5. President of Ukraine
  6. Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. Other Bodies of Executive Power
  7. Prokuratura (Prosecution)
  8. Justice
  9. Territorial Structure of Ukraine
  10. Autonomous Republic of Crimea
  11. Local Self-Government
  12. Constitutional Court of Ukraine
  13. Introducing Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine
  14. Final Provisions
  15. Transitional Provisions


In accordance with Chapter XIII: Ukraine's Constitution can only be amended with the consent of no less than two-thirds of the constitutional composition (the 450 Ukrainian lawmakers) of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.[5][6]

In addition amendments to Chapter I — "General Principles," Chapter III — "Elections. Referendum," and Chapter XIII — "Introducing Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine," can only be amended by the parliament of Ukraine on the condition that it is also approved by an All-Ukrainian referendum designated by the President of Ukraine.

In May 2012 President Viktor Yanukovych set up the Constitutional Assembly of Ukraine; a special auxiliary agency under the President for drawing up bills of amendments to the Constitution, the president then will introduce them in parliament.[7]

2004 and 2010 amendments and 2014 return to 2004 amendments

On December 8, 2004, the parliament passed Law No. 2222-IV amending the constitution.[8] The law was approved with a 90 percent majority (402 ayes, 21 nays, and 19 abstentions; 300 ayes required for passage) simultaneously with other legislative measures aimed at resolving the 2004 presidential election crisis. It was signed almost immediately in the parliamentary chamber by the outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and promulgated on the same day.

These amendments weakened the power of the President of Ukraine; he/she lost the power to nominate the Prime Minister of Ukraine and this became the task of the parliament solely.[9] The President could only appoint the Minister of Defence and Foreign Minister.[9] The President also lost the right to dismiss members of the Cabinet of Ukraine but gained the right to dissolve parliament.[9] If no coalition in parliament could be formed to appoint a Prime Minister, the President would have no choice but to call new parliamentary elections.[10]

The 2004 constitutional amendments were passed in the Parliament only with limited consultation and discussion between political forces, in the context of the Orange Revolution. They therefore attracted criticism from several internal (Ukrainian political parties) and external bodies (the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and the Venice Commission).[11]

The amendments took force unconditionally on January 1, 2006.[10] The remaining amendments took force on May 25, 2006, when the new parliament assembled after the 2006 elections.

On October 1, 2010, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine overturned the 2004 amendments, considering them unconstitutional.[12][13] The Court had started to consider the case on the political reform in 2004 under a motion from 252 coalition lawmakers regarding the constitutionality of this reform of July 14, 2010.[14][15][16] The 2010 nullification decision was highly controversial. The Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner received several reports alleging that the resignation of four judges in the run-up to the decision occurred as a result of extensive pressure by the executive.[17] On November 18, 2010 The Venice Commission published its report titled The Opinion of the Constitutional Situation in Ukraine in Review of the Judgement of Ukraine's Constitutional Court, in which it stated "It also considers highly unusual that far-reaching constitutional amendments, including the change of the political system of the country - from a parliamentary system to a parliamentary presidential one - are declared unconstitutional by a decision of the Constitutional Court after a period of 6 years. ... As Constitutional Courts are bound by the Constitution and do not stand above it, such decisions raise important questions of democratic legitimacy and the rule of law".[18]

On February 21, 2014 the parliament passed a law that reinstated the December 8, 2004 amendments of the constitution.[19] This 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 by 386 deputies.[19] The law was approved by 140 MPs of the Party of Regions, 89 MPs of Batkivshchyna, 40 MPs of UDAR, 32 of the Communist Party, and 50 independent lawmakers.[19] According to Radio Free Europe, however, the measure was not signed by the then-President Viktor Yanukovych, who was subsequently removed from office.[20]

See also

Previous Constitutions


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Ukraine celebrating 20th anniversary of Constitution, UNIAN (28 June 2016)
  2. Yulia Tymoshenko Goes On Trial A Day Before Constitution Day, Eurasia Daily Monitor (30 July 2011)
  3. 1996: THE YEAR IN REVIEW, The Ukrainian Weekly (29 December 1996)
  4. Ukraine's leaders congratulate Ukrainians on Constitution Day, Interfax-Ukraine (28 June 2018)
  5. Ukraine marks Constitution Day on June 28, UNIAN (28 June 2018)
  6. BYT not to vote for prolonging term of parliament, president, Kyiv Post (January 31, 2011)
  7. Klitschko:UDAR won't join work of Constitutional Assembly, Kyiv Post (7 December 2012)
  8. Laws of Ukraine. Verkhovna Rada decree No. 2222-IV: About the amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine. Adopted on 2004-12-08. (Ukrainian)
  9. 1 2 3 The Handbook of Political Change in Eastern Europe, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013, ISBN 0857935372 (page 732)
  10. 1 2 ELECTION DEFEAT A COLD SHOWER FOR YUSHCHENKO Archived 2016-03-05 at the Wayback Machine., The Jamestown Foundation (29 March 2006)
  11. EUObserver, 16 October 2010
  12. Summary to the Decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine No. 20-rp/2010 dated September 30, 2010 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-26. Retrieved 2014-03-11.
  13. Update: Return to 1996 Constitution strengthens president, raises legal questions, Kyiv Post (October 1, 2010)
  14. Constitutional Court to issue ruling on 2004 political reform on Friday, Kyiv Post (September 30, 2010)
  15. Political analysts: Cancelation of 2004 political reform may deepen split in Ukraine, Kyiv Post (August 25, 2010)
  16. Ukraine court to rule on wider presidential powers, Kyiv Post (September 30, 2010)
  17. Freedom House Report on the State of Democracy and Human Rights in Ukraine, April, 2011 - Source Freedom house
  18. OPINION ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL SITUATION IN UKRAINE dated December 20, 2010 - Source Venice Commission
  19. 1 2 3 Ukrainian parliament reinstates 2004 Constitution, Interfax-Ukraine (21 February 2014)
  20. Sindelar, Daisy (February 23, 2014). "Was Yanukovych's Ouster Constitutional?". Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty ( Retrieved February 25, 2014. Yanukovych, however, failed to sign the measure.

Further reading

  • Sedelius, T.; Berglund, S. (2012). "Towards Presidential Rule in Ukraine: Hybrid Regime Dynamics Under Semi-Presidentialism". Baltic Journal of Law & Politics. 5 (1): 20–45. doi:10.2478/v10076-012-0002-2. 
Note: The English publication of Ukraine's constitution on the Official Rada and President's web sites are outdated. For a copy of the current version (dated 25 May 2006) see Wikisource.
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