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Ukraine's Anti-Crisis Election Group Reconvenes

The anti-crisis group set up to work out legal mechanisms for early parliamentary elections in Ukraine has reconvened in the capital, Kyiv. VOA's Lisa McAdams in Moscow updates the proceedings, which began just after President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych agreed to hold new elections aimed at ending more than a month of political deadlock.

The crisis group has now been meeting for four days, but negotiators are reported far from completing any of the paperwork necessary to present to parliament in order to facilitate early elections.

It was initially hoped the session would be completed by now, with Ukraine's parliament, or Rada, formally considering the legislation Tuesday. But mediators are reportedly bogged down amid considerable differences over the election. Russia's Interfax news agency reports the working group failed to agree on a single position Monday.

President Yushchenko and his Orange Revolution ally, Yulia Timoshenko, want the election to be held in June, as set under the president's second decree. But Prime Minister Yanukovych's Regions Party is still pushing for an autumn election.

Independent Kiev-based political analyst Ivan Lozowy says there are concerns that both sides could use the discussions to try and secure other political goals, in addition to fixing an election date. But Lozowy says he doubts such efforts would work.

"I think we are unlikely to see real changes, including this imperative mandate as it is called, which President Yushchenko wants, forbidding [Rada] deputies from switching between parliamentary factions, because this probably will need a constitutional change and that is not easy to do," said Lozowy. "It takes two sessions of parliament to vote through constitutional change. So, I think there is a lot of doubt about whether anything outside of the election itself will be resolved."

Lozowy says President Yushchenko may have won the first round with Prime Minister Yanukovych, getting him to agree to new elections late last week. What comes next, Lozowy says, may prove trickier.

"The big, big question - and this is a much bigger problem than getting the Party of Regions to agree to new elections - is how is Yushchenko going to go about wooing voters and getting more than literally the five/six percentage points he is currently looking at, which is less than half of the disastrous showing Our Ukraine had one year ago," he said. "So,this [election] is a huge, huge whole they have dug for themselves."

The rival Region's Party of Yanukovych, on the other hand, is predicted to take first place if an election were held today, while Timoshenko's bloc is expected to place second.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's Constitutional Court has abandoned hearings on President Yushchenko's first decree dissolving parliament and calling new elections. The court never even announced whether it would consider the president's second decree, firing two constitutional court judges amid the high-profile hearings.

Lozowy says the absence of a court ruling on these matters is a loss for Ukraine.