Early Ukrainian elections 'illegal'

 

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT Viktor Yushchenko denounced as “illegal” a parliament decision yesterday to hold presidential elections on October 25th, several months ahead of schedule, as political in-fighting again threatens to paralyse efforts to drag the country out of economic crisis.

Mr Yushchenko hopes to serve his full five-year term before elections next January, and opinion polls currently place him far behind the two politicians seen as his main rivals, prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich.

Analysts believe MPs voted overwhelmingly to bring forward the presidential election to prevent Mr Yushchenko calling a snap general election – something that the head of state cannot legally do in Ukraine within six months of a presidential vote.

“This decision is illegal, unconstitutional. This decision is political,” Mr Yushchenko said yesterday, adding that presidential elections would be held “within the terms envisaged by the constitution”. Maryna Stavnychuk, an aide to Mr Yushchenko, said he would block the election in the law courts.

“Given the unconstitutional way of resolving this issue, and I have no doubts about that, the president is obliged to approach the Constitutional Court,” she said.

Protracted legal battles would further hamper attempts to haul Ukraine out of a slump which has battered its stock market and currency and slashed demand for major products such as steel and chemicals, causing the economy to shrink by 25 to 30 per cent in the first two months of 2009, according to Mr Yushchenko.

He has been locked in a power struggle with Ms Tymoshenko since they jointly led the 2004 Orange Revolution, which overturned Mr Yanukovich’s “victory”.