May 17, 2007 / 6:09 PM / 12 years ago

Ukraine judge quits; no letup in political crisis

KIEV (Reuters) - The head of Ukraine’s Constitutional Court, asked to rule on parliament’s dissolution, quit on Thursday and politicians made little progress in setting a date for a new election to end months of political deadlock.

Protesters attend a rally to support Ukraine's Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich at the Independence Square in Kiev May 16, 2007. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko and his rival from the 2004 “Orange Revolution,” Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, have been at odds for months over a division of powers.

Yushchenko issued two decrees last month dissolving parliament and calling an election to the assembly. The prime minister, friendlier to Moscow, initially ignored the order and asked the Constitutional Court to assess the decrees.

He later agreed to the poll, but talks to set a date and work out legislative details remain deadlocked.

Court chairman Ivan Dombrovsky submitted his resignation for the second time in a month on Thursday and officials said it had been accepted. The court replaced him with another judge — one of three dismissed by the president in the past month.

Commentators have said it is uncertain the court will issue a ruling which, in any event, might have little meaning in the confrontation between the two leaders.

A “working group” of experts charged with organizing the election was due to resume deliberations on Friday.

Also due to sit on Friday was the powerful National Security Council, whose decisions are law once signed by the president.

Yushchenko last week accused his adversaries in the working group of stalling and threatened to ram an election date through the council if no deal could otherwise be struck.

His second decree set a date of June 24, but he has acknowledged this could be put back to July. Yanukovich says it is unreasonable to stage an election before the autumn.

Thousands of the prime minister’s supporters gathered in Independence Square, focus of the 2004 protests that catapulted Yushchenko to power, but their leader failed to appear.

Yushchenko beat Yanukovich in a rerun of a rigged 2004 presidential election after weeks of rallies and has promoted NATO and European Union membership and liberal economics.

Both sides in the current confrontation have tried to recreate the atmosphere of 2004, but rallies have been relatively small and lacking in enthusiasm.

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