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Ukrainian Rivals Agree To Hold September Elections

Ukraine's parliament speaker, Oleksandr Moroz (left), President Viktor Yushchenko, and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych answer questions during an early morning press conference today in Kyiv (AFP) May 27, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- After days of rising political tensions in Ukraine and concerns over the possible use of force, the country’s leaders have reached an agreement to settle their long-standing dispute.

Following overnight talks, President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych announced that Ukraine's tense political crisis -- which had sparked concerns over the possible use of force -- was finally over.

The pro-Western Yushchenko, standing next to his pro-Russian rival, said they had reached a deal on holding parliamentary elections on September 30.

"We can now say that the political crisis in Ukraine is over," Yushchenko said. "After very long -- and I cannot say very easy -- negotiations, we have found a compromise."

He added that lawmakers would this week consider legislation required to hold the polls.

Yanukovych, for his part, said their agreement went beyond a deal on holding elections.

"We today also put our signatures in agreement with the clause of our political declaration that we will act to exclusively work within the framework of our own prerogatives and not to interfere with the work of the judiciary power and law-enforcement bodies, and ensure their stable functioning," Yanukovych said.

The Council of Europe's secretary-general, Terry Davis, congratulated Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych on the deal.

Power struggle

The political struggle between the two leaders had intensified after Yanukovych resisted the president's April order to dissolve parliament and hold early elections. Yushchenko had justified his controversial moves by accusing Yanukovych and his allies of seeking to usurp power.

In particular, Yushchenko had accused Yanukovych of poaching his allies in parliament to expand the ruling coalition and enable the prime minister to change the constitution.

Weeks of political turmoil climaxed in recent days when Yushchenko fired Ukraine's prosecutor-general, a Yanukovych ally.

"Ukraine emerges much stronger from this crisis than it was before April." -- President Viktor Yushchenko

Concerns that the clash between the two rivals could become violent were raised on May 25, when Yushchenko said he was taking control of 40,000 Interior Ministry troops.

Yanukovych denounced that move as dangerous and unconstitutional, but the president on May 26 ordered the dispatch of the troops to Kyiv. Most, however, remained blocked outside the city.

With the crisis now behind the country, Yushchenko said today that "Ukraine emerges much stronger from this crisis than it was before April."

Deep Divisions Remain

Nonetheless, the country's deep political divisions remain as entrenched as ever.

Yushchenko swept to power after defeating Yanukovych in the aftermath of weeks of Orange Revolution street rallies in 2004. But Yanukovych made a comeback from his defeat and was named prime minister after his Regions Party took first place in the last parliamentary poll a year ago.

With elections again looming, opinion polls show parties backing the two men virtually even, each with about 40 percent support.

Ukrainian Voices

Ukrainian Voices

RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service asked people on the streets of Kyiv on April 11 whether the Constitutional Court will be able to determine the constitutionality of the president's decree dissolving parliament.

Oksana, a student from Lutsk:
"Their decision will at any rate be beneficial to one of the political forces."

Oleksandr, a high-school student:
"[The court] will be able to do it, but only if the judges agree upon it."

Alla Asilyevna, a pensioner:
"How can the Constitutional Court solve the problem if there is pressure on it from all sides?"

Ivan Yukhimovich, a pensioner:
"If [Prime Minister Viktor] Yanukovych and [President Viktor]Yushchenko find an agreement, everything will be resolved."

Yuliya, a worker:
"I doubt very much that the judges will agree on anything."

RFE/RL's coverage of Ukraine. The Ukrainian-language website of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service.

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