Yushchenko Faces Hostile Parliament

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko is preparing to deliver his annual address to a hostile Ukrainian parliament.

President Viktor Yushchenko

Just weeks ago, parliament voted to sack his Cabinet and is now in an even more partisan mood ahead of next month's elections.

The speech had originally been expected last month, but the bitter accusations between the president and parliament caused the speaker, Volodymyr Lytvyn, to advise Yushchenko to stay away.

The MPs returned from a mini-break this week, but for many, their eyes are focused solely on the March 26 election, which could herald a power shift in the ex-Soviet republic and will determine whether it pursues the path of integration with the West set by Yushchenko.

The vote will usher in constitutional reforms that greatly increase parliamentary powers at the expense of the presidency, allowing the parliamentary majority to name the prime minister and some members of the Cabinet.

"The president will make a very short analysis of Ukraine's current political and economic situation, but his focus will be on Ukraine's future, its prospects for 2006 and the next few years," said Yushchenko's spokeswoman, Irina Gerashchenko.

Yushchenko came to power last January after winning a court-ordered revote against a Kremlin-backed candidate. The revote was ordered after hundreds of thousands of pro-Yushchenko protesters swarmed into the capital, Kiev, to protest their stolen votes in what became known as the Orange Revolution.

At the time, Yushchenko's popularity was sky high, but disappointment over his failure to fight corruption and his acrimonious falling-out with former allies have hurt him.

Opinion polls suggest that Yushchenko's party is poised to come in a distant second to the party led by his pro-Russian rival, former Orange Revolution foe Viktor Yanukovych.

However, with no single party expected to capture a majority, the country appears to be heading for a coalition government. Yushchenko's party has been in talks with former allies in the hopes of revising their former union.

Source: Scotsman