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Election Agreement Offers Way Out Of Ukrainian Standoff

Yushchenko, left, and Yanukovych are ready to let the voters decide their fate (file photo) (AFP) May 5, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- An agreement to hold early parliamentary elections has been reached in Ukraine, opening the way for the country to emerge from a bitter political standoff.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced the deal, which he called "the answer the nation was waiting for," after talks on May 4 with his rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

The president sparked the political crisis in early April when he dissolved parliament and called for a vote to be held this month. Later he moved the date to June 24 after thousands of protesters from both sides took to the streets.

Yanukovych On Board

Yanukovych, who initially opposed Yushchenko's call for elections, is now supporting the plan. He told thousands of supporters gathered on Kyiv's Independence Square that he had decided "there is no other way to solve this crisis except by holding democratic and fair elections:"

"The main goal of our joint decision is to hold fair and democratic elections," Yanukovych said. "What should be done for that? We will now give instructions to the working group, which will work out an algorithm of actions for members of parliament, actions that will help stabilize the situation in the country."

A working group has been created to devise recommendations for implementing a new agreement for early parliamentary elections. The working group -- which includes representatives of the president, Yanukovych's government, and the parliament -- is expected to present its recommendations on May 7 on when the vote could be held and what laws need to be passed.

Yushchenko, left, meeting with Yanukovych on May 4 (ITAR-TASS)

"There is no such norm in legal procedure that can revoke the decree [dissolving parliament]," Yushchenko said. "The decree may be suspended when several of its points are brought under the consideration of the working group [that includes representatives of the conflicting parties]. Certainly, for parliament to begin to work, for the opposition to enter the room [for a parliamentary session], for parliament to pass valid decisions, I have to consider suspending the decree for the period of the parliamentary session."

Yanukovych told supporters that "those who like elections, who initiated them, will get an answer from you about who must be in power in Ukraine today."

"Yes, they [the opposition] are ready for the split of Ukraine," Yanukovych said in televised comments. "They are ready to throw the state into the maelstrom of civil confrontation in order to destroy the economy. However, we will never let this happen."

Polls put Yanukovych's Party of Regions ahead, while parties that supported Yushchenko during the 2004 Orange Revolution remain fractured.

Welcome Agreement

The European Union welcomed the agreement, with EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana saying in a statement on May 4 that "I commend the commitment of both leaders to ensuring that these elections will be free and fair," AFP reported. He also urged participants in the working group "to agree on the steps needed to implement today's agreement."

Yanukovych and Yushchenko are longstanding rivals, having faced off against each other in the contentious 2004 presidential election that sparked the Orange Revolution.

Tension between the two Ukrainian leaders had been building since the Party of Regions won the March 2006 parliamentary elections and formed a majority coalition.

Roots Of The Crisis
The current standoff in Ukraine is a direct result of President Yushchenko's indecision last June. more
Where Was The West?
Some analysts are speculating that the West did too little to embrace Ukraine when the Orange Revolution was at its peak. more

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