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Vote Clears Path To New Ukrainian Election

Deputies were animated during today's crucial session of parliament 8 December 2004 -- Ukraine's parliament today adopted a package of electoral and constitutional changes in a compromise intended to defuse the country's two-week-old political crisis.

A total of 402 members in the 450-seat assembly, the Verkhovna Rada, backed the changes in the decisive vote. By the same vote, parliamentarians also approved changes to the constitution reducing the powers of the president and increasing those of parliament.

The parliament also voted to dismiss the Central Election Commission as part of the compromise. The opposition had accused that electoral body of incompetence in tallying and certifying the results of the 21 November vote.

Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said credit should be given to outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, who signed the measures while lawmakers stood and cheered.

"I believe we can thank the president of Ukraine, because today we made a mutually appropriate decision," Lytvyn said.

Supporters of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko had pushed for electoral changes to close loopholes for fraud in the Supreme Court-ordered repeat of the late-November presidential runoff election, expected to take place on 26 December.

But they had resisted the constitutional changes -- called for by his opponent, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych -- that would transfer some presidential powers to parliament.


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[For more RFE/RL coverage and analysis of the political crisis in Ukraine, click here.]