The Machiavelli of Kiev Ukrainian President Recalls Parliament to Address Financial Crisis

The Orange Revolution of 2004 heralded great democratic hopes for Ukraine. But a coalition cobbled together in its aftermath between two rivals is not holding up, and some fear a political putsch. Can the prime minister and president stop bickering long enough to address the financial crisis?

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko are duking it out in Kiev's courts over whether to hold snap elections in December.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko are duking it out in Kiev's courts over whether to hold snap elections in December.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced on Monday he would recall parliament to enact measures to combat the global financial crisis and push back controversial snap elections by one week, to Dec. 14.

"I am today signing a decree calling back parliament for several days," Yushchenko told Ukrainian television. He said lawmakers would vote on "amendments to the budget and several dozen measures to combat the crisis."

This represents a small step back from the precipice of his bitter struggle with popular Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Four years ago, the West and large swathes of the Ukrainian population were still pinning their hopes on Yushchenko. After joining forces with Tymoshenko during the Orange Revolution, he represented the prospect of a new, democratic beginning for the country. But the people of Ukraine lost faith in their president long ago, and Yushchenko's popularity rating has since fallen below the 10 percent mark.

As the country's economy teeters on the edge of collapse, Yushchenko has been occupied with bickering with his rival in Kiev's courts.

The president called parliamentary elections for early December -- the third in three years -- over objections from Tymoshenko and the European Union. Indeed, many international observers also share the view of Tymoshenko supporters that Yushchenko cares about little more than preserving power right now. And Yushchenko's announcement on Monday delayed, rather than cancelled the elections.

Some even believe he is willing to let the country slip into chaos in order to force the establishment of an emergency government. His political opponents even go so far as to speak of a "putsch against an elected government."

It was Yushchenko's own party that put an end to the Orange Coalition of pro-Western powers. And when Tymoshenko initially won her case against the snap election in court, the president ordered the firing of the judge responsible for the decision.

Court proceedings last week over the legitimacy of the planned elections underscored just how politically unstable the country has become. On several occasions, the hearings ended in melees between members of parliament and Yushchenko's security forces.

Political strains have threatened to overshadow the country's most concrete challenge. Ukraine is on the verge of bankruptcy. The Ukrainian stock market has lost over 70 percent of its value this year, army veterans haven't received their pensions for the first time in 25 years, people form long lines in front of savings banks and the national currency has lost 20 percent of its value over a period of days -- Ukrainians don't trust the hryvnia anymore and have begun to exchange it for US dollars.

rbn/spiegel with wire reports


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