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Ukraine Parliament Fails to Break Deadlock


Ukraine's parliament, the Rada, has failed to pass a controversial package of legislative reforms that would clear the way for new presidential run-off elections to be held by month's end. Ukraine's ongoing political impasse is now in its third week.

Ukrainian lawmakers held a day-long extraordinary session, but failed to make headway in ending the standoff between pro-government and opposition deputies.

A visibly frustrated speaker of parliament, Vladymir Lytvyn, chided deputies for the ongoing disagreement. He urged them to vote without fail on Wednesday for a packet of constitutional and electoral changes to move Ukraine's electoral process forward.

The measures under discussion include changes to Ukraine's electoral law to prevent future falsification, as well as the controversial transfer of powers from the president to parliament. The only thing deputies agreed on was to include the December 26 election date into the proposed reform package.

Heading into Tuesday's session, Ukrainian government and opposition officials reported that all sides were close to a deal to end the stand-off. But remarks by party leaders clearly highlight the ongoing political divide in Ukraine.

Socialist Party leader Alexander Moroz, who threw his support behind opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko early in the political crisis, said in this case he supports voting for constitutional reforms first, as supported by outgoing President Leonid Kuchma. Only then, Mr. Moroz said, should deputies discuss changes to Ukraine's electoral law.

Mr. Moroz says constitutional reform is more important, in his view, and will have more far-reaching implications for Ukraine than the immediate electoral crisis. He also says changes to the election law will be far easier to reach agreement on and can be discussed later.

Speaking for the opposition, Yulia Timoshenko, of the Timoshenko bloc, says the only thing deputies should be discussing is passing a new electoral law to ensure that there is no repeat fraud in the next round of presidential run-off elections.

Ms. Timoshenko says changes to the election law should take greater priority and that grouping the issue into a broader package of reforms is a mistake, in her view, that is only stalling the next round of elections.

It is a position shared by deputies of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc, as well as deputies of the Center parliamentary bloc.

The Center bloc says deputies should be asking themselves why President Kuchma has not yet fired the government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, as agreed to in a vote by parliament last week.

If parliament passes the legislation, it will still need to be signed into law by outgoing President Kuchma.

Thousands of opposition protesters are in their third week of round-the-clock street protests, pushing their demands for new elections. Earlier, the Central Election Commission selected December 26 as the date of the next round, but that date must still be approved by parliament before Ukraine's voters head back to the polls.

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