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Ukraine PM, Ex-PM Kick Off Election Campaign On TV

Parliament was dissolved this week
KYIV, (Reuters) -- Politicians have kicked off the campaign for Ukraine's third election in as many years in a televised confrontation filled with invective, taunts, and questions about whether the poll should be taking place at all.

President Viktor Yushchenko dissolved parliament this week and called the December 7 election after abandoning a search for a ruling coalition. He accused Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko of destroying a coalition linked to the 2004 "Orange Revolution" when they stood together at mass rallies against election fraud.

On the evening of October 10, Tymoshenko told a television talk show she believed the election would never take place. Former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, chief adversary of "orange" protests in 2004, urged her to get used to going into opposition.

"I am utterly convinced there will be no early election. It is of no use to the country and is, in fact, absolutely dangerous," Tymoshenko, calm and self-assured in a white designer dress, said in a video linkup from her office.

"If parliament is dissolved, it can sit again only in March. That means no budget, no salaries, no pensions, no development programs."

Yanukovych, speaking in the studio, said an election would end the rows that hurt the premier's second term in office "a spectacle played out in full view of Ukraine and the world.

"I am sure there is no other way. We must restore normal life in our country. You ought to get ready to go into opposition...You worked more effectively in the opposition."

Ukraine, he said, in a reference to her elaborate wardrobe, "needs neither actors nor fashion shows. It needs managers capable of not only talking, but acting."


Tymoshenko retorted that Yanukovych, who has also served twice as premier, needed the election to return to power.

"Let me offer you some advice. Try not to get so excited about the election," she said. "You will have to convert this excitement into some useful endeavour. I will, of course, help you."

The prime minister's allies have challenged the decree dissolving parliament in a Kyiv court, but the justice minister said only Ukraine's constitutional court could overturn it.

Parliament has yet to approve funds for the poll, but the president said the money could come from a government fund.

Polls show Ukrainians are weary of politics with little change expected from an election. Yanukovych and Tymoshenko have about 20 percent support. The president scores single figures.

Debate remains dominated by the three figures -- Yanukovych, backed in industrial Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, and the two "orange" antagonists, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, supported in the nationalist west and centre.

Yanukovych was initially declared the winner in the 2004 presidential poll, but the vote was overturned and Yushchenko won a re-run. Tymoshenko, his first prime minister, was dismissed seven months later, but reappointed when "orange" parties narrowly won last year's parliamentary election.

The revolution's ideals of moving Ukraine closer to the West and joining the European Union and NATO are mostly on hold.

The latest "orange" coalition collapsed when the president's Our Ukraine party quit its alliance with Tymoshenko's bloc.

Yushchenko accused her of trying to curry favour with Russia ahead of the presidential election in 2010 and forming an alliance with Yanukovich to pass legislation -- since repealed -- curbing presidential powers.