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Ukrainian president says wants more powers

KIEV, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich called on Tuesday for constitutional reform that would strengthen his powers and enable him to push through tough economic reform.

Yanukovich said the former Soviet republic needed a new, stable political system led by a “strong president” to guide it through potentially painful structural reforms.

“In order to achieve this we need to reform the constitution thoroughly,” he said in a televised speech on Ukraine’s Independence Day.

Ukraine curbed presidential powers in favour of parliament through constitutional amendments introduced in 2004 when pro-Western politician Viktor Yushchenko came to power after the “Orange Revolution” street demonstrations.

The curbs, promoted by Yanukovich’s supporters at the time, limited Yushchenko’s effectiveness as president and set up confrontation with parliament and prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The dispute ultimately contributed to his downfall in an election earlier this year.

Yanukovich supporters now say his hand should be strengthened so he can push through unpopular reforms such as raising household gas prices and slimming down the bloated pension system.

Many of the reforms have been undertaken at the behest of the International Monetary Fund which has extended a new $15 billion stand-by arrangement to Ukraine to help stabilise its economy.

Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Mark Heinrich