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PM may seek early presidential election
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, Feb. 28 – Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s group in Parliament, the Regions Party, on Wednesday suggested a bill that calls for early presidential and parliamentary elections Sept. 30 as a way out of political crisis.

The bill, which would be highly controversial, is apparently aimed at putting pressure on President Viktor Yushchenko to discourage him against considering a possible dismissal of Parliament.

“We are not afraid of the early election, but here is a warning: if you force us then there will be both [presidential and parliamentary] elections,” First Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, a senior official at the Regions Party, said. “We will go for it.”

The development underlines an escalating political crisis in Ukraine that may evolve into the constitutional crisis that would most certainly trigger turmoil throughout the country.

The bill suggested by the Regions Party is currently discussed among government coalition partners, including the Communist and Socialist parties, and may be submitted to Parliament on Friday.

The bill calls for the election elections of both, the president and Parliament, on Sept. 30, according to Vasyl Kyseliov, a senor member of the Regions Party.

The bill apparently faces opposition from the Socialist Party, a group whose popularity has dwindled dramatically over the past six months. Voters are expected to punish the Socialists for their unexpected alliance with the Regions Party when they had created the coalition in August 2006.

The Regions Party would collect 34.8% of the vote, followed by the Tymoshenko bloc’s 27.9%, Our Ukraine’s 7.1% and the Communist Party’s 6.1%, according to an opinion poll released Wednesday.

The poll was conducted by the Kiev International Institute for Sociology earlier this month among 1996 respondents throughout Ukraine and has a margin of error at 2.5%.

Meanwhile, the bill would be highly controversial as the constitution does not allow Parliament to declare the presidential election, which may only be declared if the president is impeached.

The coalition is apparently suggesting the bill in response to rumors that Yushchenko has been considering to dismiss Parliament and to call the early election to prevent the constitutional crisis.

The rumors accelerated last week after Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party had signed an agreement with the group led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the largest opposition group, to form a political alliance against the pro-Russian government. The agreement calls for the early election, a plan that has been apparently backed by Yushchenko.

The pro-Russian Yanukovych government has been aggressively seeking to diminish presidential powers in order to change the country’s pro-Western foreign policy and to slow down accession to NATO.

Yanukovych last month forced the resignation of Foreign Minister Boris Tarasiuk, an architect of the pro-Western policy, and had also refused to accept Volodymyr Ohryzko, a pro-Western diplomat, as the new foreign minister.

Yushchenko may obtain the power to dismiss Parliament by the end of March when the Constructional Court is expected to rule on whether the Yanukovych government has been formed legally, Tymoshenko said.

The constitution allows the president to dismiss Parliament if the ruling coalition hasn’t been formed 60 days after the election date.

Our Ukraine, the Tymoshenko bloc and the Socialist Party have been trying to create the coalition for 60 days until the Socialist Party had quit the talks at the last moment to form an unexpected alliance with the Regions Party. This and some other issues may be apparently used as an excuse for the early election, analysts said. (tl/ez)




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