Ukraine parliament to pave way for snap election
( AFP ) - Ukraine's parliament is to hold key votes on Tuesday that could pave the way to a snap election, ending a two-month political crisis in this ex-Soviet republic.
The votes follow a deal hammered out between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in which the two rivals agreed to hold parliamentary elections on September 30.
Yushchenko is to formally set the election date once the votes are passed at parliamentary sessions due on Tuesday and Wednesday under the agreement announced on Sunday.
But analysts have warned that the deal between the feuding president and prime minister could still fall apart because of discord between Yushchenko and Yanukovych allies in parliament.
"Victory! But for how long?," ran a headline in the Stolichnye Novosti weekly. The popular Komsomolskaya Pravda daily said: "There is still a feeling of anxiety.... Will the two sides be able actually to reach a consensus?"
The parliamentary votes include budget measures to finance the elections and changes to the make-up of the central electoral commission to allow greater representation for members of Yanukovych's ruling Regions party.
Parliament is also due to vote on bills easing Ukraine's bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) -- a key goal for pro-Western Yushchenko that has been opposed by allies of his pro-Russian rival Yanukovych.
The bitter power struggle in Ukraine began on April 2, when Yanukovych defied orders from Yushchenko to dissolve parliament and hold early elections, paralysing political life in the country.
Yanukovych allies continued to meet in the dissolved parliament and one of the conditions for the deal on early elections is that deputies must vote again on dozens of laws passed in the last two months.
There are still several points of contention between Yushchenko and Yanukovych, including over the appointment of the prosecutor-general and the composition of Ukraine's constitutional court.
The dispute over the prosecutor, who has been sacked by Yushchenko but is supported by Yanukovych, led to scuffles on Thursday between elite troops loyal to the prime minister and a presidential security service.
A previous political agreement last month between the two rivals fell through amid bitter recriminations because Yushchenko and Yanukovych could not agree on a date for the vote.
Yanukovych is expected to do well in any upcoming elections. His Regions Party took the lion's share of the vote last year and leads a majority in parliament in coalition with the Socialist and Communist parties.
In the eyes of many Ukrainians, Yushchenko has failed to live up to his promises of a bright economic future and international integration made during the Orange Revolution in 2004.
A poll by the Sofia research centre earlier this month gave the Regions party 41 percent of voting intentions. Another poll by the International Sociology Institute in Kiev gave it 35.5 percent.
Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party scored just 15.9 percent and 12.9 percent.
In the Orange Revolution, mass street protests helped bring Yushchenko to the presidency, overturning a flawed vote initially granted to his Moscow-backed rival Yanukovych.
International powers, including Ukraine's giant neighbours Russia and the European Union, have expressed concern at the crisis and urged both sides to seek a compromise.