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Ukraine: President Expected To Sign New Election Law

By Mariana Dratch

Prague, 26 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma has not yet commented on a new election law passed by Parliament, but his representatives in parliament said Kuchma intends to sign it. Kuchma is currently on a state visit to Mexico.

After nine months of debate, parliament (the single-chamber Verkhovna Rada) this week determined how Ukrainians will vote for a new parliament in elections scheduled for next March. The parliament approved a law under which half of the 450 seats will be filled by majority voting in electoral districts, and half by voting on candidate lists drafted by political parties. And, parties or alliances would need to overcome a four percent threshhold to win seats in parliament.

Kuchma is currently on a state visit to Mexico. He returns later today, and, under the constitution, he has 15 days to approve the law.

The new election law failed six times before passing by just five votes.

Analysts and parliamentary deputies say Kuchma fears that voting for party lists might strengthen some well-organized opposition parties.

The Communists have the largest faction in the current parliament, which was elected in 1994 in majority voting. Commmunist Party Chairman Petro Symonenko today told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service that the new law will strengthen democracy in Ukraine.

The Chairman of the right-wing Ukrainian Republican Party, Bogdan Yarochynsky, told the Ukrainian Service that he welcomes the change in the election law.

Opposition leaders have argued that a pure majority system would allow shady businessmen with ill-gotten wealth to buy parliament seats by paying off voters in electoral districts. And, some analysts believe that the new law would benefit well-organized opposition political parties. The Communist-and-Socialist-dominated parliament has been widely criticized for slowing reforms in Ukraine.

But, Ukraine's Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko told Interfax news agency the new election law had given Ukraine the image of "a modern European democratic state with a developed legal system." And, Pustovoitenko said he hopes the next parliament will be "more active...and more ready for constructive work."