The Application of the Presidential Veto to the Constitutional Laws: the Foreign Practice and Ukrainian Experience

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In the article the possibility and the advisibility of the presidential veto’s application to the constitutional laws is discussed. The author analyzes the constitutions of some foreign countries, the current wording of Constitution of Ukraine, explores the theoretical aspects of the institute of legislative veto and amending the constitution.

Key words: constitution, legislative veto, constituent power, the Decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, legislative power, dissenting opinion.

 

The constitution is a key means of state power limitation. From this point of view it is quite obvious that the issue of the amendments to the basic law is especially relevant in the light of the contemporary constitutionalism.

At the present stage of the legal science development the institute of the legislative veto is a subject of the research of the numerous Ukrainian scientists including V. Shapoval, N. Zhuk, F. Venislavskiy, Y. Todyka, V. Danilov. The problems of the application of the presidential veto to constitutional laws is seen primarily in the context of the presidential power features/ Therefore, this institution clearly needs the further research.

As a general rule, the President does not have the authority to apply the veto to the laws amending the Constitution (constitutional laws). Another approach is introduced only in a few countries: the Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, Lithuania, Armenia and Turkey. The absence of the right to veto the constitutional laws stems from the legal nature of the constitutional laws which are constituent acts, not the legislature. Therefore, the constitutional laws shall not be subject to the presidential veto. This rule is the consequence of one of the basic principles of law: the people is the sole source of power. Furthermore, the people do not authorize the president to block his acts. In addition, the constitutions of all states provide the distinct procedure for consideration and adoption of the laws amending the Constitution. Constitutional laws, as a general rule, do not require a signature of the Chairman of Parliament and of the President for their promulgation. They come into force immediately after their adoption and become an integral part of the Constitution. With this in mind, the best way of the presidential veto regulation is an absolute veto of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan concerning the constitutional laws, which can not be overridden by the parliament. “If the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan does not sign constitutional laws, they do not come into force” (the Art. 123 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan) [2]. The President of Belarus may not only apply veto to the constitutional laws, but this veto is overcome in another, more severe way than in the case of ordinary law (at least three-fourths of the constitutional composition of both chambers of parliament while for ordinary laws two-thirds of the Parliament is enough) [1]. Such examples show the obvious presidential prerogative in the process of amending the constitution in the abovementioned states which forms a significant imbalance of powers and lays the risks to its deepening.

The states which provide the possibility of application of the presidentional veto to the constitutional laws stipulate a special procedure of their re-examination and approval. For example, in Lithuania the three-fifths of the votes of the constitutional composition of the parliament are required to overcome a veto applied to the constitutional law, while for ordinary laws – merely the majority of the members of the Seimas (Ch. 2 of the Art. 69 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania) [5]. In Georgia the President’s veto on the law amending the Constitution shall be overcome by the two thirds of the constitutional composition of the parliament (Ch. 4 of the Art. 68 of the Constitution of Georgia) [3]. In Turkey the presidential veto applied to the constitutional law shall be overridden by the parliament composed at least of two thirds. In such a case the President obtains the right to nominate that law to the referendum as it is stated in the Ch. 6 of the Art. 104 of the Constitution of Turkey [6]. However, the law amending the Constitution of Armenia after its re-approval by two thirds of the parliament obliges the President to nominate it to a national referendum, in accordance with the requirements of the Ch. 5 of the Art. 111 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia [8].

The question of the possibility of the presidential veto’s application to the laws amending the Constitution of Ukraine was not regulated in the text of the basic law edited from 1996 but found its legal interpretation in the Decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine of the 11th of March, 2003 (in the case of the constitutional petition of 73 deputies about the constitutionality of the presidential veto applied to the Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to the Art. 98 of the Constitution of Ukraine”). The Constitutional Court of Ukraine rendered that application of the presidential veto on the law amending the Constitution of Ukraine. In the reasoning of this decision the only body of constitutional jurisdiction in Ukraine was governed by the fact that the basic law does not contain warnings regarding the impossibility of the application of the presidential veto to the certain categories of laws. The court also took into consideration that Chapter XIII of the Constitution of Ukraine which regulates the procedure of amending the Constitution of Ukraine does not provide a distinct procedure for the signing and promulgation of such kind of laws [11]. The judge of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, V. Shapoval set out in his dissenting opinion regarding the abovementioned decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine that the only body of constitutional jurisdiction in Ukraine made casual interpretation of the Constitution of Ukraine without examining the legal nature of the legal act on amending the Constitution of Ukraine [10]. This position was confirmed by the judge of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, M. Savenko. M. Savenko stated in his dissenting opinion regarding the same decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine that the law amending the Constitution of Ukraine is not identical to any other law adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on the implementation of its mandate as the sole legislative body [9]. The constitutional law is the form of constituent power. Adopting the law on amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine acts as a constituent authority. Apart from this, constitutional laws are adopted by a qualified majority of two thirds of the constitutional composition of the parliament, so the application of the veto to such acts makes no sense because the same number of votes are needed to overcome the veto according to the Ch. 4 of the Art. 94 of the Constitution of Ukraine [9].

Applying the veto to the Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine”, the President of Ukraine referred to its unconstitutionality. However, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine carries out the statutory preliminary constitutional control of the law amending the Constitution of Ukraine which is prerequisite for further consideration and approval of this law by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Accordingly, using the right of veto to the law on the grounds of its unconstitutionality, the President of Ukraine blatantly ignored the opinion of the only body of the constitutional jurisdiction in Ukraine, thereby violating the provisions of legislation by which decisions and opinions of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine are binding for the President of Ukraine. M. Savenko is convinced that the presidential ability to veto laws amending the Constitution on the grounds of unconstitutionality casts doubts on the feasibility of the compulsory preliminary constitutional control over such laws carrying out by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine.

The contemporary version of the Constitution of Ukraine (Ch. 30 of the Art. 106) clearly stipulates the inability to use the legislative veto to the laws amending the Constitution of Ukraine [7]. This constitutional requirement corresponds to the fundamental legal principle according to which the adoption of the constitution and amendments to it is the form of the constituent power, not the legislature. The President of Ukraine is the body that is not authorized for implementation of functions of constituent power. The constitutional ban on the return laws of Ukraine on amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine for reconsideration by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is one of the guarantees of the principle according to which the people is the only source of power in Ukraine.

REFERENCES:

  1. The Constitution of the Republic of Belarus: [electronic resource] / Access: http://www.president.gov.by/press19329.html#doc.
  2. The Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan: [electronic resource] / Access: http://ru.president.az/azerbaijan/constitution.
  3. The Constitution of Georgia: [electronic resource] / Access: http://worldconstitutions.ru/archives/130/2.
  4. The Constitution of Kazakhstan: [electronic resource] / Access: http://www.constitution.kz/razdel4/.
  5. The Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania: [electronic resource] / Access: http://lib.rada.gov.ua/LibRada/static/LIBRARY/catalog/law/lit_konst1.htm#гл6.
  6. The Constitution of Turkey: [electronic resource] / Access: http://worldconstitutions.ru/archives/84/5.
  7. The Constitution of Ukraine // Vidomosti of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. – 1996. – №30. – 141 p.
  8. The National Meeting of the Republic of Armenia: [electronic resource] / Access: http://www.parliament.am/parliament.php?id=constitution&lang=rus#8.
  9. Dissenting opinion of the Judge of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine M. Savenko concerning the Decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine of the 11th of March, 2003 (in the case of the constitutional petition of 73 deputies about the constitutionality of the presidential veto applied to the Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to Art. 98 of the Constitution of Ukraine”) // Official bulletin of Ukraine. – 2003. – № 16. – P. 710.
  10. Dissenting opinion of the Judge of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine V. Shapoval concerning the Decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine of the 11th of March, 2003 (in the case of the constitutional petition of 73 deputies about the constitutionality of the presidential veto applied to the Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to Art. 98 of the Constitution of Ukraine”) // Official bulletin of Ukraine. – 2003. – № 16. – P. 718.
  11. Decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine of the 11th of March, 2003 (in the case of the constitutional petition of 73 deputies about the constitutionality of the presidential veto applied to the Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to Art. 98 of the Constitution of Ukraine”) // The Official Journal of Ukraine. – 2003. – № 16. – P. 710.
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