Sunday, October 12, 2008

KIEV | Ukraine’s feuding leaders intensified their power struggle Saturday, with Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko seeking to undo President Viktor Yushchenko‘s decision to hold early parliamentary elections.

Election officials refused to start preparations for the early vote after a court suspended Mr. Yushchenko’s decree at Mrs. Tymoshenko’s request. Mr. Yushchenko later appealed the suspension, paving the way for a protracted legal struggle.

The deepening turmoil bodes ill for the former Soviet republic, with an economy and banking system already shaken by the global financial crisis.

Although Mrs. Tymoshenko is prime minister, Mr. Yushchenko has the power to dissolve parliament and call an early election, unless a court overrules his decision.

Mr. Yushchenko earlier this week ordered parliament dissolved and set the vote for Dec. 7, after the collapse of his pro-Western coalition with Mrs. Tymoshenko, his estranged ally from the 2004 Orange Revolution.

But Mrs. Tymoshenko, who is determined to retain her job and avoid a third election in as many years, has vowed to prevent the vote.

Kiev’s District Administrative Court suspended Mr. Yushchenko’s decree while it considers an appeal by Mrs. Tymoshenko’s party, Central Election Commission spokeswoman Zoya Sharikova told the Associated Press. Mr. Yushchenko’s office appealed that suspension to a higher court, saying the order had no authority because Mr. Yushchenko had fired the judge before he made the ruling. It is not clear when the appeal will be heard.

Tymoshenko ally Volodymyr Pilipenko said that firing the judge was “an act of despair” on the part of the president.

“The court ruling has been handed down, and the election process cannot begin,” he said.

Tensions grew later in the day as Mrs. Tymoshenko and Mr. Yushchenko dispatched rival security forces to Kiev’s appeals court, where the president’s argument was being considered, Mr. Pilipenko said. He added that Mrs. Tymoshenko’s allies had planned a round-the-clock vigil at the court to prevent any illegal action from taking place.

Mrs. Tymoshenko and Mr. Yushchenko have turned into bitter rivals ahead of the 2010 presidential vote. Their shaky alliance collapsed last month after Mrs. Tymoshenko moved to trim presidential powers. Mr. Yushchenko accused Mrs. Tymoshenko of selling out to the Kremlin and betraying efforts to join NATO by failing to condemn Russia’s August war with Ukraine’s ally Georgia.

Speaking on a popular television talk show Friday, Mrs. Tymoshenko said the country cannot afford an election and that parliament would not enact the necessary legislation.

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