October 9, 2008 / 4:04 PM / 10 years ago

Ukraine president says Dec election is "no tragedy"

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said on Thursday the December 7 early election he had called was “no tragedy” and urged voters to look upon the third such ballot in as many years as a vital part of democracy.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko visits Saint Sofia church on the last day of his visit to Rome October 9, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Yushchenko, visiting Italy when the decree setting the date was issued, also said Ukraine had lost valuable time in rows “deciding who should be the horse and who the jockey.”

Polling day was announced after the president said he had abandoned the search for a viable coalition in parliament.

In a Wednesday evening television address, he blamed Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, his estranged ally from the 2004 “Orange Revolution,” for the break-up of a coalition that emerged from the pro-Western upheaval which swept him to power.

Speaking to reporters in Rome, Yushchenko said Ukraine would have faced “anarchy” had he failed to act.

“Leaving everything in a state of uncertainty would truly have pushed an institute like parliament into chaos,” he said.

“I would not like millions of Ukrainians to see this early election as a tragedy of some sort. We live in a democratic country and democracy is like a lady who has an answer to any question. She has neither weapons, nor cannons, nor tanks, but she always comes up with an answer.”

He told Ukrainians at a church in the Italian capital: “The reason we have been unable to achieve an agreement is that we lost too much time deciding who should be the horse and who the jockey.”


He said parliament would proceed with measures to finance the campaign, after which his decree would be published. The government under Tymoshenko, he said, would stay in place.

Parliament in Kiev put election finance on its agenda, but Tymoshenko’s bloc, hoping to challenge the decree in the courts, swarmed around the rostrum and debate was put off until Friday.

One of Tymoshenko’s members, Andriy Portnov, told media the premier was unwell and therefore had made no statements.

Voters were clearly angry at the prospect of another poll.

“I, for one, will not be voting. I mean, how many times are we expected to do this?” said Natalya, a pensioner.

Independent analyst Oleksander Dergachyov said the election would do little to remedy underlying political problems.

“The crisis will reappear in a different format, maybe less acute,” Dergachyov said. “But the problems will remain: a vague distribution of powers and unstable form of administration.”

The “orange” coalition unraveled when the president’s Our Ukraine party broke links with Tymoshenko’s bloc last month.

Yushchenko twice named Tymoshenko prime minister but has been constantly at odds with her almost since his election.

Differences focused on a variety of issues — including a debate on dividing up power and the president’s allegation that Tymoshenko had been too soft on Russia in its war with Georgia.

He was enraged by Tymoshenko’s tactical voting alliance with former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich in passing legislation — subsequently repealed — that cut presidential powers.

All three politicians are assessing their chances in a presidential election due to take place by early 2010.

Groups other than the president’s allies denounced the decree and some politicians vowed to challenge it in the courts.

Tymoshenko’s top lieutenant, Oleksander Turchymov called dissolution a “dangerous error.” Yanukovich, main adversary of “orange” protesters and now opposition leader, said it had destroyed the “final illusions” of many Ukrainians.

Polls show support of 20 percent each for Tymoshenko and Yanukovich and less than 10 percent for Yushchenko.

Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and Antonio Denti in Rome; Writing by Ron Popeski; Editing by Dominic Evans

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