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Yushchenko takes on Our Ukraine leaders
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, Oct. 22 – After seeing the group’s political influence dwindle dramatically over the past 12 months, President Viktor Yushchenko on Saturday took on the top management of his party, Our Ukraine, sharply criticizing their performance while calling for a reorganization.

Yushchenko blamed the management for the party’s humiliating defeat at the March 26 election and its subsequent failure to build a pro-Western coalition that would form the government.

“The party is going through a serious internal crisis. It failed to produce an idea that would yield a success,” Yushchenko said, addressing the party’s congress. “The only idea that has been declared is ?we are the party of the president.’ I appreciate it. But this is too little.”

The criticism is apparently aimed at Roman Bezsmertniy, Our Ukraine’s de-facto leader through the election and subsequent four months of coalition talks.

It also affects such figures as Petro Poroshenko and Mykola Martynenko, once Yushchenko’s close allies, that are thought to have been the party’s key decision makers until now.

“I don’t want the party to turn into a joint-stock company in which key shareholders allegedly decide on what the party needs, while in fact solving their own interests,” Yushchenko said. “The top management must be responsible for this.”

Immediately after Yushchenko’s address, Bezsmertniy announced the congress will be postponed for three weeks, the time that may be used to re-group and to re-shuffle the top management.

Yushchenko’s criticism comes after Our Ukraine has lost much of political clout and public support following the September 2005 corruption scandal that had split the pro-Western camp.

The split is thought to help the Regions Party, a pro-Russian group, to win the election and eventually to form the pro-Russian government in August that has been ever since challenging Yushchenko’s pro-Western policy.

Our Ukraine scored 13.9% of the vote on March 26, compared with 32.1% collected by the Regions Party and 22.2% by the group led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, another pro-Western group.

Yushchenko’s criticism is seen as an attempt to boost the party, which stands firms behind Ukraine’s fast accession to NATO, the World Trade Organization and liberal economic reforms.

Yushchenko has been apparently seeking to promote Arseniy Yatseniuk, his deputy chief of staff and a favorite, to the leading role in the party, analysts said.

Yatseniuk, along with Viktor Bondar, a former Transportation Minister, and Yuriy Poliachenko, a former Healthcare Minister, have recently become members of Our Ukraine. This technically opens door for their promotion within the party, analysts said.

The plans to boost the party’s image may be a sign that Yushchenko has been considering a scenario in which Parliament could be dissolved and early elections announced, analysts said.

The dissolution of Parliament may materialize if Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych continues his strong pro-Russian policy, such as dismantling of Yushchenko’s plans to join NATO and the WTO, analysts said.

Yushchenko said: “If we count on future prospects we have to take radical steps to improve the situation in the party.” (tl/ez)




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