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President: PM should lead party in March
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, Nov. 10 – President Viktor Yushchenko indicated Thursday that Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, not him, should formally lead Our Ukraine party in the crucial general election in March 2006.

The issue of formal leadership in Our Ukraine may have a major impact on which party actually wins the election and is able to claim the post of the prime minister.

“I think it would be very good if the party’s led by Yuriy Ivanovych [Yekhanurov],” Yushchenko said in televised comments Thursday.

Our Ukraine, if formally led by Yushchenko, would score much better at the election, while leadership by any other figure, including Yekhanurov, means the party would struggle, opinion polls have suggested.

Based on this logic, many Our Ukraine activists have been insisting that Yushchenko should lead the party for the election. Yushchenko has promised to give an official response by Nov. 12.

Although there were no legal impediments for the president to formally lead the party at parliamentary election, such decision would most likely unleash a wave of criticism from opposition groups.

Former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whose parties would independently oppose Our Ukraine at the election, stand to benefit should Yushchenko decide not to lead the party, analysts said.

Our Ukraine, when formally led by Yushchenko, enjoys support of between 17% and 20% of respondents, about the same as Yanukovych and Tymoshenko parties, opinion polls have indicated.

However, should Our Ukraine be led by any other figure, its popular support plunges to between 5% and 10% with chances increasing for either Yanukovych or Tymoshenko to win the vote. In this case, Yanukovych or Tymoshenko may replace Yekhanurov as the prime minister after the March 2006 vote, analysts said.

Yushchenko suggested Nov. 6 that if things were really bad for the party and his participation would have been instrumental in shaping the future government, he would decide to keep the leadership.
However, the latest remarks indicate that Yushchenko, in anticipation of the criticism, hesitates and may eventually let Yekhanurov run the party. (nr/ez)

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