Campaign Kicks Off for Key Election in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine has kicked off a campaign for a key parliamentary election next March, which forces supporting President Viktor Yushchenko will need to win in order for the president to continue with the pro-Western course he has avowed for the ex-Soviet nation.

Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko (L)

Ukraine's central election commission had decreed Saturday the official start of campaigning for the March 26 election, during which voters will choose a new parliament, regional councils and city chiefs.

Because of constitutional changes that enter into force on January 1, 2006, the party that wins a majority of seats or is able to form a viable coalition in the 450-seat Upper Rada legislature will name the prime minister and form the government, powers currently held by the president.

Unlike previous years, all of the parliamentary seats will be elected by proportional representation, meaning voters will be casting ballots for parties which will need to get at least three percent of the national vote in order to enter the legislature.

Source: AFP