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Although Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's former prime minister, last year fell out with President Viktor Yushchenko, there is an expectation that their respective blocs will form the nucleus of the next government in the wake of the March 19th parliamentary election. At the time of witing, the two blocs enjoy approximately the same level of public support. Ms Tymoshenko appears intent on emerging from the election with her Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (YTB) as the senior partner.
As a result, the Our Ukraine electoral bloc, with which Mr Yushchenko is closely identified, is now unlikely even to be the largest faction in the new parliament, let alone win an outright majority. The bloc consists of six political parties that resurrected the Our Ukraine name in a coalition agreement reached in November 2005. Mr Yushchenko's original grouping won the largest share of votes in the 2002 parliamentary election. However, the Our Ukraine bloc this time around will not benefit from having Mr Yushchenko at the top of its list. Faced with criticism that a president should not head a parliamentary election list, Mr Yushchenko has ceded that spot to Mr Yekhanurov, who has now been damaged by opposition criticism over the gas deal.
Our Ukraine is competing not only against opposition groups linked to the administration of the previous president, Leonid Kuchma, but also against former allies from the "Orange Revolution", who will accuse Our Ukraine of having betrayed the ideals that brought them all to power in late 2004. Prominent among these former allies is Ms Tymoshenko, who presented an overtly populist election manifesto on December 7th. It calls for higher social spending, regular referenda on important issues, membership of the EU, and the continuation of reprivatisation. Ms Tymoshenko has called for the formation of a broad coalition in the new parliament, but one which excludes Mr Yanukovych's Regions of Ukraine party. Opinion polls indicate that support for the YTB peaked in October 2005, but that it is still at least as popular as Mr Yushchenko's Our Ukraine.
Although the liberal RO party supported Ms Tymoshenko in the political struggle with Mr Yushchenko in September 2005, it has refused to join the YTB, preferring instead to ally itself with Pora, the activist group that played a crucial role in the "Orange Revolution" and is now trying to turn itself into a political party. Pora will contest the March 2006 parliamentary elections in alliance with RO, which is a long-established party led by the finance minister, Viktor Pynzenyk. Pora split into "black" and "yellow" wings over the decision to fight the election, with the "black" faction opposed to the creation of a political party.
The most important figure representing the Kuchma-era political elite in this election is Mr Yanukovych, whose Regions of Ukraine party unites the hard opposition forces, with the exception of the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU). Regions of Ukraine, which draws most of its support from Mr Yanukovych's home region of Donetsk in heavily populated Eastern Ukraine, is currently leading in the opinion polls. Mr Yanukovych's campaign can rely on the support of financial heavyweights: the oligarch Renat Akhmetov, who is widely believed to be Ukraine's richest man, has decided to run for a seat in parliament on the Regions of Ukraine list. Mr Yanukovych's party was among the first to present an election programme, which focuses on economic issues and promises to reduce unemployment and raise salaries. Mr Yanukovych has also come out in favour of a federal system for Ukraine, as a means of balancing regional socioeconomic disparities.
SOURCE: Country Report
"Ukraine politics: The election fight begins." Economist Intelligence Unit: Country ViewsWire 19 Jan. 2006. Academic OneFile. Web. 28 Nov. 2009.
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