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Ukraine's Tymoshenko Suggests Twin Polls As Way Out Of Crisis

Tymoshenko (right) and Yushchenko in happier times
KYIV (Reuters) -- Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has suggested a presidential election could be held early, unless President Viktor Yushchenko's party rejoins a ruling coalition to end the country's political crisis.

Ukraine has been gripped by political turmoil since the 2004 Orange Revolution swept Yushchenko to power. Tymoshenko, his ally in the mass protests, has twice served as premier, but the two have been constantly at odds.

Yushchenko's party withdrew from the latest pro-Western "orange" coalition this month after Tymoshenko formed a tactical voting alliance with the revolution's main adversary, opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich, to reduce the president's powers.

"If President Viktor Yushchenko and opposition leader Victor Yanukovich still want to push parliament into an early election, I believe it would be logical to hold both parliamentary and presidential elections," she told Western news agencies.

She said her bloc would compete in both contests, giving the strongest indication yet that she intends to run for president, as is widely expected.

Tymoshenko and Yanukovich generally top opinion polls with about 20 percent each, with Yushchenko far behind, his personal rating now in single digits.

Invective between the president and prime minister has become bitter and personal. He denounced her alliance with Yanukovich's Regions Party as running counter to national interests. She said his accusations amounted to "madness."

Should politicians come to no agreement on a coalition, the president may dissolve parliament and call a parliamentary election -- the third in as many years. No party stands to gain much from any such poll.

Nightmare Scenario

The prime minister still repeated her call to revive the outgoing team and painted a nightmare scenario if a new parliamentary election were held and a new coalition less committed to integration with Europe was voted in.

"Ukraine's policies will be unpredictable. In the best case, there would be chaos. In the worst case, there would be a 180-degree about turn," she said. "As long as we have not used up all options in forming a democratic coalition...I would not like to consider any other option. I will do all I can to prevent an early election so as not to lose the chance to implement our policy of the democratic forces."

Political tension in Ukraine and its testy relations with neighboring Russia, particularly over Yushchenko's drive to join NATO, are a source of anxiety to the West, particularly after Russia's brief war with Georgia last month.

Tymoshenko said any move to hold a presidential election ahead of time, not foreseen in Ukraine's post-Soviet constitution, could be approved by parliament.

She has called for the two "orange" parties to revive their alliance, bolstered by a third bloc led by centrist Volodymyr Lytvyn, a former parliament chairman.

Most politicians are skeptical.

Lytvyn said he believed a parliamentary election was inevitable. Yanukovich has also said he is having difficulty putting together an alternative team and has vowed to win enough seats in any new parliamentary poll to form a coalition.

RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, And Moldova Report

RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, And Moldova Report

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