August 2, 2006

Ukraine’s Yushchenko mulls disbanding parliament

By Yuri Kulikov

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's president was wrestling with the
choice of dissolving parliament or nominating his rival as
prime minister on Wednesday after last-ditch talks in which he
sought to win guarantees for his Western-leaning policies.

The constitution gives President Viktor Yushchenko until
midnight (2100 GMT) to disband parliament and call new
elections -- a high-risk move -- or agree to Viktor Yanukovich,
leader of the opposition Regions party, heading a coalition

He spent three hours in talks with Yanukovich and other
party leaders trying to hammer out a deal that would see his
rival become prime minister but stop him reversing the ideals
of the "Orange Revolution" that swept him to power.

A key demand is that the pro-Moscow Yanukovich would not
turn his back on taking ex-Soviet Ukraine into NATO -- a policy
brought in under the Western-leaning Yushchenko.

The talks ended with no word on what Yushchenko would do.
Presidential spokeswoman Iryna Gerashchenko said Yushchenko
would announce his decision in a television address later on
Wednesday. She gave no time for the address.

Parliament extended its sitting into the evening with
deputies preparing to keep vigil until they knew what the
Ukrainian president had decided.

"The president is consulting with lawyers. (He) is
contemplating an issue which is of historic importance for
Ukraine," Gerashchenko told reporters.

After four months of wrangling after an inconclusive
parliamentary election, Yushchenko has run out of time.

"The president ... has two ways out of this situation: the
first is a compromise and the president wants to go down that
path to the end. The second option is to dissolve parliament,"
Gerashchenko said earlier.


Ukraine has been in the grip of political uncertainty and
without a fully-fledged government since the election.

Yanukovich, personally humiliated by Yushchenko in the
Orange Revolution, is backed by a parliamentary majority
grouping his Regions party, the Socialists and the Communists.

"I do not believe that the president will go through with
signing a decree on the dissolution (of parliament),"
Yanukovich said after emerging from talks. "Early elections are
a dangerous issue which will destabilize the situation in the

The constitution does not set out explicitly whether
Yushchenko has the right to reject Yanukovich's candidacy and
what consequences there could be if he did so.

Dissolving parliament and calling elections would be a
gamble for Yushchenko. Many voters have lost faith in him after
months of dithering and infighting in his team took the shine
off the "Orange Revolution."

"The bottom line is ... that Yushchenko has proven in the
past that he does not like confrontation ... and we think his
natural instinct will be to cut a deal," Tim Ash, emerging
markets economist at Bear Stearns investment bank, said in a
research note.

An official from the Regions party said the sides were
close to agreeing a compromise on NATO. Under the draft deal,
Yanukovich would agree to keep pursuing NATO membership, but a
final decision on joining would be put to a referendum.

The Ukrainian leader has also been seeking to install his
allies in key posts in any Yanukovich-led government to prevent
him becoming a lame duck president.

(Additional reporting by Olena Horodetska)