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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kuchma Takes Direct Control, Parliament Reaction Uncertain

KIEV -- President Leonid Kuchma has taken direct control of Ukraine's central and local governments, which gives him more leverage to reform the economy but could set him at odds with parliament, analysts said Tuesday.

Two Kuchma decrees, announced on state television Monday evening, gave the new president hands-on control over the government and subordinated the elected heads of Ukraine's 27 regional councils directly to him.

"There needs to be a strict, effective mechanism for carrying out economic reform," said Petro Lelyk, Kuchma's adviser on domestic policy. He said Kuchma was planning to sign two additional decrees restructuring the government.

"Collective decisions (by parliament) are not what is needed in the crisis Ukraine now faces. The decrees provide a mechanism for building an effective executive."

The decrees are in line with Kuchma's stand since his inauguration three weeks ago that Ukraine needs a strong presidency to carry out badly needed economic reforms.

"This is consistent with what he's said all along, which is that the thread of executive power should lead to the president -- that the president is the boss," said a Western diplomat.

Kuchma's advisers said parliament's leadership had been told about the content of the decrees before they were issued.

But the fact that Kuchma waited for parliament to recess until mid-September before issuing the decrees suggests he feared a backlash from the assembly.

Most communists and their allies make no effort to hide their desire to make the post of president largely symbolic or eliminate it altogether.

"This does have some potential for trouble in parliament. They could either see it as Kuchma throwing down the gauntlet, or the majority could go along with it," the diplomat said. Kuchma has already clashed with parliament over economic reform since his decisive presidential victory.