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Ukraine leader dissolves Parliament, calls for early election

Battle for power at top of coalition comes to a head

By Maria Danilova
Associated Press / October 9, 2008
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KIEV - President Viktor Yushchenko dissolved Ukraine's Parliament yesterday and called an early election, dashing hopes for the revival of a pro-Western coalition and throwing this politically volatile former Soviet nation into further turmoil.

The vote will be the third parliamentary election in three years and deal a severe blow to an economy already battered by the global financial crisis. The date of the election was not announced.

The decision culminates a fierce battle between Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, his former partner in the Orange Revolution that shook this former Soviet republic loose from Russian influence and launched democracy for its 46 million people. Both are seen as likely rivals in the 2010 presidential vote.

Opinion polls show that Yushchenko's party is likely to lose parliament seats in the new vote. Tymoshenko, who has fought to revive their coalition and retain power, says the president's only motivation for dissolving the Verkhovna Rada is removing her from her job.

Speaking in a televised address to the nation aired yesterday, Yushchenko accused Tymoshenko of ignoring national interests for the sake of acquiring power.

"I am deeply convinced that the democratic coalition was ruined by one thing: the ambition of one person, the hunger for power . . . and the dominance of personal interests over national ones," Yushchenko said.

Under Ukraine's constitution, elections must be held no more than 60 days after Parliament is dissolved - making Dec. 7 a possible date for the vote.

The announcement was likely to spark protests from Tymoshenko. She has said calling an election before late November - when the legislature would have worked a full year - would be unconstitutional and has vowed to challenge such a decision. Her party members have threatened mass protests.

Tymoshenko has also suggested holding early presidential elections alongside parliamentary ones, hinting that she would run.

Yushchenko defended his move as the only way to preserve the country's democracy and national interests.

"They wanted to turn us back, and then, as now, I am defending our future," Yushchenko said. "The vote will be democratic and lawful."

Yushchenko pulled out of the nine-month-old coalition with Tymoshenko last month, after she sided with the opposition to adopt a series of laws that trim his powers. Yushchenko has also accused Tymoshenko of selling out to Russia.

Yushchenko has harshly criticized Russia for its August war in Georgia and assailed Tymoshenko for her reluctance to condemn Moscow's action. Tymoshenko says she opposed the war but calls for balanced ties with Russia.

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