KYIV (Reuters) -- Ukraine's leader Viktor Yushchenko has dismissed the idea a January election should be delayed because of flu fears and appeared to accept there would be no more IMF funds forthcoming until after the vote.
An aide to Yushchenko wrote late on November 6 that the presidential election, which polls show Yushchenko looks very likely to lose, could be set back
to May if a state of emergency is declared because of an outbreak of the H1N1 flu.
On November 8, when asked whether he should impose a state of emergency on Ukraine, delaying any poll, Yushchenko told news channel 5 Kanal in an interview: "No -- there are no reasons for this."
Ihor Popov, a senior presidential official, accused Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's government of being taken unawares by the flu epidemic that has killed more than 100 people in the past three weeks and said a state of emergency could be declared.
Yushchenko and Tymoshenko have hurled bitter recriminations at each other over the past 18 months. Both will run in the first presidential election since the 2004 Orange Revolution swept the two former allies to power. With public support at 5 percent or lower, Yushchenko is unlikely to win reelection. Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovych -- a former prime minister who was also the Russian-backed loser in the Orange Revolution -- are both front-runners now.
Tymoshenko, former Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn objected to Popov's idea. Only Yanukovich stayed silent on the issue.
While the political elite has squabbled, Ukraine has plunged into a deep recession -- its economy was expected to shrink by up to 15 percent this year after steel exports fell and the hryvnia currency plummeted.
The ex-Soviet republic had been surviving on a $16.4 billion lifeline from the International Monetary Fund -- more than $10 billion of this bailout has been released, propping up the hryvnia and shoring up state finances.
But IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said on November 7 that the fund, which has delayed the release of a $3.8 billion tranche because of plans to raise wages, would only renew cooperation after the presidential election.
Parliament voted to raise pensions and the minimum wage by 20 percent by the end of next year -- a measure the government said would cost more than $10 billion and which it was against. Yushchenko brought the law into force by signing it last month.
On November 8, Yushchenko shirked any blame for the suspension of the IMF program saying the government had broken four out of five promises it had made to the IMF.
"I am convinced that the IMF will not give Ukraine the [fourth] tranche," he told the news channel.