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Yushchenko mulls move to head election party list

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Nov. 9, 2005, 10:36 p.m. | Ukraine — by Roman Olearchyk

Roman Olearchyk

Kyiv Post Staff Writer

President's candidacy will be controversial, could offend Constitution d personally take part in the March 2006 parliamentary elections, after having pledged months ago that he would not top the list of his loyal People’s Union of Our Ukraine (PUOU) political bloc.

Yushchenko on Nov. 6 called for a one-week time out, promising once and for all to decide whether he will boost the bloc’s appeal by topping the list or not.

Asked whether he would top the list, Yushchenko said: “I ask that you give me time out to think about this until Nov. 12,” he said.

The Our Ukraine bloc is scheduled hold a party congress on Nov. 12. Speaking on Ukrainian television channel Tonis on Nov. 8, Our Ukraine bloc chairman Mykola Katerynchuk said the decision would be decided at the congress.

Political analysts say Yushchenko faces a difficult choice. His inclusion in the Our Ukraine list of candidates could make it more competitive with major challengers, such as former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s eponymous bloc and Regions of Ukraine, the party led by Viktor Yanukovych.

Yuschenko’s role as the number one candidate on the ticket would be purely symbolic, as he would be expected to refuse his seat in parliament following the elections and remain as president.

Use of the Yushchenko brand name is expected to give a boost to Our Ukraine, which trails Tymoshenko’s bloc and Yanukovych’s blocs in recent voter sentiment surveys. These show that Our Ukraine would get below 20 percent of the vote in the elections without Yushchenko as a candidate, while the Tymoshenko and Yanukovych blocs would get more than 20 percent.

The Kyiv division of the Our Ukraine bloc last week urged Yushchenko to top the list. Katerynchuk said that Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov would likely top the list should Yushchenko decline. The less politically popular Yekhanurov is known as a technocrat and is less likely to boost Our Ukraine’s rating.

No Ukrainian presidents to date have topped the list of a political party ahead of elections to the legislature. Should Yushchenko decide to do so, the move would be controversial at best, and possibly unconstitutional.

Yuschchenko’s inclusion in the candidate list is unconstitutional, according to former Kyiv Appeals Court Judge Yuriy Vasylenko.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Vasylenko. He cited Article 103 of the constitution, which forbids the country’s chief executive from holding another representative mandate or holding any office in any association of citizens.

Political analyst Dmytro Vydrin said Yushchenko should wait until the Constitutional Court rules on the issue. There might not be enough time, however, as the court is currently being reshuffled after several judges’ tenure expired weeks ago.

The tactic is viewed as a risky political move by political analysts.

“If Yushchenko decides to top the list of Our Ukraine, then a portion of the electorate will view this move as administrative pressure” directed at all state employees, said political analyst Viktor Nebozhenko. “This will be a clear signal to oblast administration chiefs that the correct political orientation will be the one proposed by the Our Ukraine bloc,” he added.

Like Nebozhenko and Vydrin, political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko urged Yushchenko not to risk topping the Our Ukraine list.

“This would be a big risk for him,” Fesenko said.

“First of all, this contradicts practices of European countries,” Fesenko said, adding that no presidents in European countries take part in elections of their legislative branches.“Secondly, by doing so he in essence lowers his status as the leader of the country, the person whose job it is to ensure that the March 2006 parliamentary elections are conducted fairly,” Fesenko added.
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