- Title: UKRAINE: Ukraine rivals agree on September election
- Date: 28th May 2007
- Summary: RALLY /CROWD WITH FLAGS
- Embargoed: 12th June 2007 13:00
- Location: Ukraine
- Country: Ukraine
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAZB2BOGETXF12XUNAJODV730Q
- Story Text: Ukraine's two combative leaders forge a compromise to hold a parliamentary election in September, but within hours the prime minister said the deal was against his better judgement and must meet legal conditions. Pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko announced the September 30 date for Parliamentary elections after talks lasting until dawn with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, his rival from the 2004 "Orange Revolution".
The decision was a culmination of months of confrontation between Yushchenko and Yanukovich, lionised by Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, over a division of powers had plunged the country deep into crisis.
At a news conference on Sunday (May 27) Yushchenko told reporters that, "We have reached an agreement that the basis for resolving the political crisis is to hold an early parliamentary election on September 30."
Speaking at the same news conference Yanukovich said, "We today also put our signatures in agreement with the clause of our political declaration that we will act to exclusively work within the framework of our own prerogatives and not to interfere with the work of the judiciary power and law-enforcement bodies and ensure their stable functioning."
Yanukovich said the agreement reflected a will on all sides to hold an honest and fair election, respect the law and keep from interfering in the judicial process.
The president then thanked Yanukovich and Parliament Speaker Oleksander Moroz for a successful conclusion to the talks and the three joined hands.
Weeks of turmoil boiled over on Friday (May 25) when the head of state said he was taking control of the Interior Ministry troops, a move denounced by Yanukovich as dangerous and unconstitutional.
The president ordered the dispatch of interior troops to Kiev on Saturday (May 26), though most remained blocked outside the city.
Moroz told reporters he still opposed an early election, but agreed with the date to pull the country out of crisis.
In a further easing of tensions, interior ministry troops were ordered to go home on Sunday (May 27) after the president ordered their dispatch on Saturday (May 26), a move denounced by Yanukovich as dangerous and unconstitutional.
"Today you are all leaving for home, to your families, I hope we will not have such assignments any more," said Ukraine's Interior Minister Vasyl Tcushko.
Yushchenko later on Sunday (May 27) attended a church service for the Orthodox Trinity holiday. He and his family lit candles in the church.
But within hours, Yanukovich said he had been persuaded to hold the election against his better judgment. Holding a poll, he said, was not certain until legal conditions were met.
Yanukovich told a news conference in parliament that the president sought the election to pander to the opposition, which had helped secure his election after the 2004 "Orange" rallies. He said that he had not initiated the process of an early election and that there were no economic or social grounds for one.
But he said they were law-abiding people and that if the legislative framework were put in place for the poll they would comply.
He was blunter at a later rally outside the assembly, saying "trouble-makers" stood behind the election and that the president of Ukraine had joined and supported them.
"I had promised all of you that time would come and we would certainly bring those trouble-makers back into the legal framework, and we did this today, at four in the morning," he said.
Yushchenko dissolved parliament last month and called an election to the assembly. Months of confrontation pitting him against the prime minister, lionised by Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, have plunged the country into crisis.
Attention will now turn to the fractious parliament which must approve a set of laws this week for the poll to proceed.
The president, prime minister and the speaker of parliament, who also signed the agreement, later attended Ukraine's soccer cup final between Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar of Donetsk, Yanukovich's power base.
After weeks of turmoil, tensions came to a head when the president said he was taking control of 30,000 interior ministry troops and then ordered new units sent to the capital.
None of the forces had been seen in Kiev and local media quoted an interior ministry spokeswoman as saying the men were being sent back to bases. Yanukovich initially resisted two presidential decrees ordering an election, but later agreed to it. Disputes over the date generated further wrangling: the president wanted a quick poll, while Yanukovich said none could be held before autumn.
Recent opinion polls put Yanukovich's Regions Party in the lead but data show parties backing the two rivals in a virtual dead heat, each with about 40 percent support.
Yushchenko's rivalry with Yanukovich has been intense since he defeated Yanukovich in a re-run of the presidential election in December 2004, held after the initial vote was rigged.
Ukraine has been torn since then between centuries of links with Russia and Yushchenko's drive towards NATO and European Union membership. Russia lies to the east but it also has borders with EU members Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.
Tension rose after Yanukovich became prime minister a year ago, when his Regions Party came first in a parliamentary election and Yushchenko's allies failed to form a government.
Yanukovich made a comeback from his defeat in 2004 and was named prime minister after his Regions Party took first place in the last parliamentary poll a year ago and the president's allies proved unable to form a government.
Recent opinion polls show parties backing the two rivals in a virtual dead head, each with about 40 percent support.
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