Yushchenko Faces Grim Choice To Solve Ukraine Crisis

KIEV, Ukraine -- Viktor Yushchenko has cancelled a visit to Moscow this weekend to attend a meeting of leaders of ex-Soviet states, as time runs out for the Ukrainian president to end the country's worst political crisis since the Orange revolution of 2004.

Mr Yushchenko is facing a grim choice: to work out a compromise with the coalition backing the candidacy of his arch-rival Viktor Yanukovich or to dissolve parliament - a move that would prevent Mr Yanukovich from becoming prime minister.

The Moscow-leaning former prime minister appeared confident on Thursday at a meeting with Mr Yushchenko, despite having not received guarantees that his candidacy would be supported. "I saw a great desire on the part of the president to unite efforts," Mr Yanukovich said.

He is hoping to make an extraordinary comeback since losing the contested 2004 presidential vote to Mr Yushchenko, whose public approval ratings have sunk in recent months.

The return of Mr Yanukovich, who was backed by Moscow in the 2004 presidential vote, would raise questions about Mr Yushchenko's ability to push through his programme of western integration through membership of Nato and the European Union.

Ahead of March parliamentary elections, Mr Yanukovich's camp vowed to revive strong ties withRussia, while seeking long-term opportunities for EU membership. But it opposed Mr Yushchenko's rapid Nato integration agenda.

Mr Yanukovich's party mustered just over 30 per cent voter support, the most of all Ukrainian parties.

The political crisis arose this month when the previous coalition comprised of camps that backed Mr Yushchenko in the Orange coalition collapsed after the Socialists backed out to join Mr Yanukovich.

Constitutional changes that took effect this year require Ukraine's president to submit the candidacy of a coalition for prime minister within 15 days of receiving it. Mr Yushchenko has the option of dissolving parliament if a new government is not formed by July 25, or 60 days after the previous government tendered its resignation.

The president has warned he will not allow his reform plans to be derailed.

He could avoid a repeat of last March's elections by striking a compromise involving support for his agenda and possible top posts in the government. But this could prove challenging, given the divisions on reforms and foreign policy that exist between him and members of Mr Yanukovich's coalition.

Mr Yushchenko has also urged legislators to swear in new judges for the constitutional court, which has not functioned since last autumn.

Source: The Financial Times