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Ukraine Prime Minister to Run for President


Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has announced her candidacy for the country's presidency, following the collapse of coalition talks with the man who lost the previous election.

In a Sunday address to the nation, Ukrainian Prime Minister Tymoshenko said Ukraine faces not only a global economic crisis, but a domestic constitutional crisis. She says Ukraine's supreme law creates antagonistic and mutually exclusive centers of decision-making, as well as chaos, anarchy and a total absence of accountability in government.

She said gender should play no role in politics, but added that if Ukrainian male politicians lack courage, responsibility, dignity and honesty, then she has had enough of it.

Ms. Tymoshenko says in order to prove Ukrainians did not protest in vain on the country's squares and streets, she will be a candidate in the next presidential election, which she intends to win.

The protest she mentions refers to Ukraine's Orange Revolution, in which hundreds of thousands of people braved cold temperatures for several weeks in late 2004 to overturn a rigged presidential election. At the time, Ms. Tymoshenko was closely allied with Viktor Yushchenko, the winner of a court-mandated repeat election. But the two have since had a bitter falling out.

Ukraine's next presidential election is scheduled for no later than January 2010. Public-opinion polls indicate public support for the incumbent, Mr. Yushchenko, at below three percent. Ms. Tymoshenko's rating is pegged at around 15 percent.

Ironically, the highest support is enjoyed by Viktor Yanukovych, the candidate who came out on top in the rigged 2004 vote. As leader of the so-called Party of Regions, his support is strongest in Ukraine's industrial and largely Russian-speaking east.

Ms. Tymoshenko's recent coalition talks with Mr. Yanukovych collapsed. Both appeared interested in a power-sharing arrangement in which he would have taken over as president and she would have stayed as prime minister.

Mr. Yanukovych also rejected Ms. Tymoshenko's support for a constitutional change that would have given parliament the right to elect the president. In remarks televised Sunday, he said leaders should entrust their fate to the people.

Mr. Yanukovych says the president of the country should be chosen in direct national elections, particularly now, when the new Ukrainian president will need to carry out very difficult tasks, including perhaps, unpopular reforms.

The Regions Party leader agrees with Ms. Tymoshenko about the need for constitutional reforms, but warned changes so close to a presidential election would be hasty and could lack needed transparency. Mr. Yanukovych adds that coalition talks collapsed because a new government would not have time before presidential balloting to carry out an effective fight against the global economic crisis.

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