Ukraine leader vows to block election changes

President Yushchenko appealed to the international community to ensure democracy in Ukraine.

Ukraine leader vows to block election changes

President Viktor Yushchenko on Friday appealed to the international community to ensure democracy in Ukraine, vowing to block an opposition proposal to change the constitution and have the president elected by parliament.

The pro-Western Yushchenko, whose popularity has slumped, met ambassadors from G7 industrialised nations as Ukraine's two biggest parties proceeded with plans to form a broad coalition to end 4 1/2 years of political upheaval.

The coalition would bring together groups led by two rivals, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former premier Viktor Yanukovich. Both are also rivals of the president.

Neither Tymoshenko nor Yanukovich has commented publicly on the talks. But both sides say a coalition deal is underpinned by an agreement to change the constitution to have the president elected by parliament rather than by a country-wide vote.

"As head of state, I guarantee that I will permit no illegal election of the president of Ukraine by parliament and will do everything in my power for Ukraine to meet all its international obligations ensuring human rights," Yushchenko was quoted by his Internet site as telling G7 ambassadors.

"But it is clear that such actions will not be enough. I therefore appeal to the international community to extend its assistance to ensure the democratic process in Ukraine."

Yushchenko swept to power in 2004 with the support of Western leaders after mass "Orange Revolution" protests against poll fraud. Infighting has cut his public standing to a minimum.

Sniping brought down one government with Tymoshenko as premier within seven months of taking office. The government she now heads is underpinned by an unsteady coalition in parliament.

No agreement yet

Officials close to Tymoshenko's bloc and Yanukovich's Regions Party have suggested they are on the brink of a deal that would hold more than 300 seats in parliament -- enough to alter the constitution.

Proponents say a deal would ensure stability and end differences between nationalist western Ukraine and the Russian-speaking east.

The parliamentary factions from both groups scheduled meetings for Friday, but no formal agreement was yet in sight.

A senior member of Yanukovich's party, in an interview published on Friday, suggested the chances of a deal were no greater than 50-50 and both sides could proceed first with the constitutional change rather than a formal alliance.

"There is no point having a coalition without constitutional changes," Borys Kolesnikov told the daily Segodnya.

"So, first we have the constitutional changes approved in a first reading and then creation of the coalition as a mechanism to carry out the constitutional change."

The two leaders have divergent styles and power bases. Tymoshenko has broad support from various regions. Yanukovich has his power base in the industrial east.

Ukraine has been battered by the financial crisis, with industrial production down more than 30 percent in the first four months of 2009 and many factories on short working hours.

Yanukovich was backed by Russia when he lost a re-run of the rigged 2004 presidential election to Yushchenko. He has since adopted a more moderate stand, while Tymoshenko has made determined efforts to improve her standing in Moscow.

With a nationwide presidential election still on the cards by January, Yanukovich leads opinion polls with more than 20 percent support, followed by Tymoshenko at about 15 percent.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 05 Haziran 2009, 12:46
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