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Ukraine Presidential Election Set For January

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko will likely run in the election

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko will likely run in the election

KYIV (Reuters) -- Ukraine's parliament on June 23 set a presidential election for January 17, a race likely to be hotly contested by Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko and former premier Viktor Yanukovych.

A total of 399 deputies backed the date, at the close of the five-year term of incumbent Viktor Yushchenko who was swept to power by mass "Orange Revolution" rallies against election fraud. Only 226 votes were needed for the measure to pass.

Parliament had earlier called the election for October 25, but Yushchenko challenged that decision as illegal and Ukraine's Constitutional Court struck down the date.

The latest vote gives the sendoff for what is certain to be a lively campaign featuring strident statements and mutual accusations after more than four years of political upheaval in the former Soviet republic.

But analysts say general fatigue with politics means a repeat of the 2004 protests is unlikely and key issues like constitutional change will have to wait until the election is over.

Nearly all politicians agree the constitution must be altered to end the recurring rifts between parliament, the government and the president that have hobbled decision-making during Yushchenko's time in office.

Yanukovych was the main loser in the Orange Revolution.

He was initially declared winner of the 2004 presidential poll but the outcome was overturned in the courts as rigged and he lost a rerun of the vote to Yushchenko, whose public standing is in tatters as he reaches the end of his mandate.

Yanukovych leads polls with ratings of about 25 percent. Tymoshenko, who has been constantly at odds with the president after twice serving as his prime minister, has about 15 percent, her rating hit by the effects of the world financial crisis.

Lying third with about 12 percent is Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a former close ally of the president who has held a range of jobs ranging from foreign minister, economy minister, parliamentary speaker, and acting central bank chief.

Yushchenko, now openly derided by most rank-and-file Ukrainians, has said he will run for a second term despite poll ratings now in single figures.