KIEV, Jan. 29 – President Viktor Yushchenko’s office on Tuesday responded strongly to a warning by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko that she may compete with the incumbent for the presidency next year.
In a sharply worded statement, Viktor Baloha, chief of staff at the Yushchenko office, said Tymoshenko’s warning was unfounded, opinionated and an attempt to “gain political weight.”
“Two years before the election somebody wants to play on election strings,” Baloha said. “This is not the best overture for the future election campaign. A real statesman cares about the interests of the country, while a politician is concerned only about the election.”
The comment is a response to Tymoshenko’s warning on Monday that she will run for the presidency at the end of 2009 if disagreements between Yushchenko and her government continue to persist.
Baloha’s statement shows that mutual distrust between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko has been growing rapidly, and at some point may even threatening the existence of the governing coalition.
The coalition, created by Yushchenko’s and Tymoshenko’s groups, controls a slim majority of 227 seats in the 450-seat Parliament. The withdrawal of two lawmakers from the coalition would effectively undermine the government.
Tymoshenko has long been suspected by her opponents of seeking to run for the presidency, pointing to the largely populist rhetoric she has been using while running the government.
Tymoshenko pledged to return within the next two years failed Soviet-era bank deposits, lost due to hyperinflation in 1990s, estimated by analysts to cost the government at least 132 billion hryvnias ($26.4 billion).
Tymoshenko has also refused to allow an increase in natural gas prices for households on the domestic market, a move that is expected to cost dearly for Naftogaz Ukrayiny, the national oil and gas company.
The developments come amid mounting speculations that should disagreements with Yushchenko continue, Tymoshenko’s group would join forces with the Regions Party, the largest opposition group, to try to impeach the president.
Tymoshenko has already joined forces with the Regions Party a year ago to overrun a veto from the president, which had eventually triggered a chain of events that had led to the snap election in September 2007.
Baloha said the speculations were caused by Yushchenko’s recent warning that the government has been seeking to sell power assets non-transparently to increase legislative support for its initiatives.
“Yushchenko’s insistence to prevent the attempts to reanimate political corruption face tough opposition from those whose corporate interests” are affected, Baloha said.
“It can’t be ruled out that in confronting the course of the president, the most unexpected political alliances are possible,” Baloha said. “That’s why an idea of the impeachment has been pulled out.” (tl/ez)