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Yushchenko Sets Snap Elections After Dissolving Ukrainian Parliament


President Victor Yushchenko announcing the dissolution of parliament
KYIV (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainians will be heading to the polls for the third time in three years, after President Viktor Yushchenko dissolved parliament and called for snap elections on December 7.

The decision is just the latest move in a years-long dispute between Yushchenko and his onetime Orange Revolution ally, Yulia Tymoshenko -- a dispute that's drawing criticism from politicians and ordinary citizens alike.

Ukrainians listening to Yushchenko's nationally televised address on October 8 announcing his decision could be forgiven for experiencing a sensation of deja vu.

"In accordance with the constitution of Ukraine, I hereby declare the Verkhovna Rada's sixth convocation to be suspended and call an early parliamentary election," he said.

The president's explanation of his decision was also familiar: a failure to find common ground with his coalition partner and former ally, Yulia Tymoshenko.

'Ruined By A Single Thing'

In an apparent reference to Tymoshenko -- his partner in the 2004 Orange Revolution that ushered in Ukraine's first pro-Western government since the collapse of the Soviet Union -- Yushchenko said personal ambitions were to blame for the latest coalition collapse.

"The democratic coalition, I'm deeply convinced, was ruined by a single thing -- the human ambition of a single person, the greed for power, differences in values and the dominance of personal interests over national ones," he said.

Yushchenko's decision came after party leaders reportedly failed to strike an agreement on maintaining the so-called "Orange" parliament coalition grouping the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) and Yushchenko's Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defense bloc (NUNS).

The coalition collapsed on September 3 after Tymoshenko's bloc switched allegiances to vote with the opposition in passing a bill weakening the presidential role and strengthening the government's executive powers.

Yushchenko's move to formally dissolve parliament and set snap elections for December 7 has met with sharp criticism from political opponents.

Ivan Kyrylenko, the head of BYuT's parliamentary faction, told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service his bloc is "categorically against elections," saying the process would paralyze the country.

"Two months of the electoral process. Two months of reviewing and counting votes. A month to form a coalition. Two months to form a government. That's seven months that the country will be dealing with this 'coalition process,' " Kyrylenko said.

Protracted Struggle

December 7 will mark the third time Ukrainians have voted in parliamentary elections since the Orange Revolution. After a vote in March 2006, early elections were called in September 2007 after another protracted struggle between the president and parliament.

In addition to frequent trips to the ballot box, Ukrainians have also become accustomed to regular changes in the prime ministerial post. Tymoshenko has twice served as premier since 2005, but pro-Russian stalwart Viktor Yanukovych and Yushchenko ally Yuriy Yekhanurov have also spent time in the post.

The dizzying array of prime ministers, combined with the days and months lost to partisan infighting, have dampened the enthusiasm that many Ukrainians felt for the political process after the Orange Revolution.

Natalya, a pensioner in the capital, Kyiv, told Reuters news agency she would skip the December elections.

"I won't go to vote. How many times can you go?" she said. "It's all pointless. We have elections, but there's no improvement, no results. I would say they've destroyed our country."

Many of the political squabbles center on the continued question of Ukraine's divided alliances between East and the West.

At the time of the September coalition collapse, for example, Yushchenko had accused Tymoshenko of abandoning pro-Western allies like Georgia in favor of closer ties with Moscow.

Jockeying For Power

Meanwhile, Yushchenko himself has had little success in moving the country closer to his stated goals of NATO and EU integration.

Much of the continued fighting is seen as jockeying for power ahead of the country's presidential elections, which are just over a year away. Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, and Yanukovych are all seen as likely candidates in what would be a fiercely fought contest.

In such an environment, the frustration of some Ukrainian voters is easy to understand. Still, at least one Kyiv resident said he would vote in the parliamentary vote -- and that Tymoshenko's bloc would have his support.

"Of course, I will go to vote." he said. "We have to. And I will vote for Yulia. She's the only person, the only politician who is doing anything for the people."

RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, And Moldova Report

RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, And Moldova Report

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