Yushchenko Offers Plan To End Deadlock

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko, his first anniversary in power clouded by a constitutional crisis, offered to break the logjam on Monday by striking a deal to hold a trouble-free election in March.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko addresses the nation in a television speech in Kiev January 23, 2006.

Parliament's dismissal of the cabinet over a New Year deal sharply raising the price of Russian gas imports has produced deadlock. Government activity is in confusion as politicians gear up for the election to an assembly with expanded powers.

The pro-Western Yushchenko, his allies trailing in opinion polls for the contest, has ignored parliament's dismissal of his cabinet and accused rivals of engaging in "dirty" politics.

In a televised address a year after his triumphant inauguration, Yushchenko called for a "moratorium on all decisions or actions by the legislature and executive which could lead to instability in Ukraine."

"The president, government and parliament must together create conditions so that honest elections are held, a new parliament is elected, a new majority formed and a new government appointed," the president said.

Gripping a lectern, he called for quick appointment of new judges to the Constitutional Court, blocked for months by parliament. He also proposed setting up a group of experts to examine constitutional reforms in place since the New Year broadening parliament's powers at his expense.

Yushchenko has criticised the reforms, part of a deal to end confrontation in the 2004 "Orange Revolution" that led to his election, and suggested he might submit them to a referendum.

"I recognise that from January 1, a new constitution is place," Yushchenko said. "But I do not consider it ideal."

CHANGING THE SYSTEM

Yushchenko said his pledge to uproot corruption and poverty had achieved some success, with higher salaries and pensions and a free press. "The first steps in this direction have been made. The election must underpin them and dismantle the old system."

But with the first year in office buffeted by turbulence, the address was a far cry from his inauguration speech in which he proclaimed that Ukraine was unequivocally a part of Europe and would move resolutely towards European Union membership.

Nine months into his tenure, he fired his first prime minister, former Orange Revolution ally Yulia Tymoshenko, to end infighting between rival camps in his team.

With the president now pitted against parliament, all opinion surveys for the March election give the lead to the Regions Party of Viktor Yanukovich, his defeated rival in 2004.

Fighting for second place are Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Party and a group led by Tymoshenko -- who now opposes the president at every turn and voted for the government's dismissal.

Yushchenko's proposals contained few concessions and were unlikely to meet a favourable response in parliament.

Furious at the president's refusal to recognise the government's dismissal, the chamber went further last week, demanding negotiation of a new gas deal and sacking officials linked to the initial agreement.

The chamber's action prompted authorities to postpone the signing of the gas accord at the weekend as the legal status of ministers due to sign the document was uncertain.

Parliament's speaker has offered a compromise to end the deadlock, proposing changes to the chamber's resolution provided some ministers step down during the election campaign.

Source: Reuters

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