KIEV, March 19 – Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said Wednesday her party will soon nominate its own candidate for Kiev mayor, rejecting calls for her to back a single candidate on behalf of Ukraine’s governing coalition.
The remark puts Tymoshenko on a collision course against President Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine-People’s Self-defense group, which will probably be forced to nominate its own candidate for the election in early June.
“Our political force has the greatest level of support and it would be irresponsible to back a person that we are not completely responsible for,” Tymoshenko said at a press conference.
Oleksandr Turchynov, the first deputy prime minister and Tymoshenko’s closest ally, may be nominated as the candidate, Kommersant daily reported Wednesday citing sources. Tymoshenko refused to comment on the report.
The upcoming election, which has been pushed through by Tymoshenko, is seen by many analysts an important test-run ahead of the presidential election due late 2009.
Tymoshenko and Yushchenko are seen rivals at the next presidential election and the secret rivalry has been eroding the strength of the pro-Western government coalition currently in place.
Tymoshenko’s pledge to nominate her own candidate for the top post in Kiev, Ukraine’s biggest and the wealthiest city, is a further sign that she might be drifting towards the clash with Yushchenko.
“The democratic coalition has no chances of nominating a single candidate at the mayor election,” Vladislav Kaskiv, a member of the Our Ukraine-People’s Self-defense group, said. “The reason is simple: politicians view the city as the goldmine.”
Tymoshenko has been seeking to remove Kiev Mayor Leonid Chernovetskiy, a wealthy businessman, accusing him of controversial privatization of land plots in the city.
She seeks to reverse Chernovetskiy’s push over the past six months to give away about 1,700 hectares of land plots worth about $3 billion to dozens of controversial cooperatives whose ownership is not transparent.
Chernovetskiy denied the charges and pledged on Wednesday to run for office again, and to win.
Tymoshenko’s pledge to nominate the candidate denies speculations that she might try to strike a deal with Vitaly Klichko, a former world heavyweight boxing champion, and currently the most popular candidate. (tl/ez)