Ukraine Official Says Poll May Be Delayed By H1N1

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine could delay a January presidential election until May next year if the government fails to control an outbreak of H1N1 flu, a senior official wrote on the respected news Web site Ukrainska Pravda on Friday.

Young Ukrainians burn a replica of an anti-flu mask to protest what they call the government-inspired hysteria about swine flu that distracts the public from political issues, in Kiev, Ukraine.

In an opinion piece Ihor Popov, the deputy head of President Viktor Yushchenko's secretariat, accused Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's government of being taken unawares by a flu epidemic and said a state of emergency could be called.

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko have hurled bitter recriminations at each other over the past 18 months. Both will run in the first presidential election since the 2004 "Orange Revolution" swept the two former allies to power.

"We hope that the government is able to manage the epidemic without a state of emergency," Popov wrote.

But he said measures already introduced such as a ban on public gatherings including political rallies raised questions about how fair an election would be.

"With more than two months to voting, it is completely possible to overcome the first wave of the (H1N1) flu and avoid another wave," he wrote.

"But should there be a state of emergency, the election would have to be delayed," he said, adding that May 30 would be an alternative date. The election is due to take place on Jan. 17, 2010.

Any state of emergency and election dates should be approved by parliament. But the constitution is not always absolutely clear on procedure and politicians can go to the constitutional court which can take weeks or months to review cases.

With public support at 5 percent or lower, Yushchenko is unlikely to win re-election. Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovich -- a former premier who was also the main loser in the Orange Revolution -- are both front-runners now.

Yushchenko this week called for the general prosecutor to investigate possible criminal negligence in the government's handling of the flu epidemic that has killed over 100 in recent weeks and infected over 750,000 in Ukraine.

Yushchenko said the other presidential candidates had organised mass political rallies despite knowing about the epidemic. The government introduced its measures just before he was due to hold his own rally in the capital. [ID:nL4279051]

Of the general flu cases, 32 are confirmed to be the H1N1 virus and three deaths have been registered from the virus. The World Health Organisation has said it assumes most cases of influenza in Ukraine are caused by the H1N1 strain.

Source: EIN News