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Controversial Ukrainian Election Proposal Rejected

Kyiv, 3 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainian parliamentarians voted today to eliminate a controversial proposal advanced by President Leonid Kuchma to have the country's president chosen by legislators in 2006.

By a vote of 304 out of 450, deputies voted to strike Kuchma's proposal from a list of constitutional changes currently being considered. Under Ukraine's current constitution, the president is popularly elected.

Kuchma had defended his proposal as an attempt to bring Ukraine in line with Western democracies, by strengthening the power of parliament at the expense of the presidency.

But the opposition accused Kuchma of deliberately seeking to weaken the presidency before the end of his own term in office, to ensure only minimal powers for his successor. The Council of Europe, the European Union, and the United States had also expressed concerns about Kuchma's proposal. Ukraine's next presidential election is due to take place in October.

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