Outgoing Ukraine president agrees to fire nation's Election Commission

Kuchma backs measures to prevent fraud in revote

December 07, 2004|By David Holley | David Holley,LOS ANGELES TIMES

KIEV, Ukraine - Outgoing Ukrainian President Leonid D. Kuchma agreed early today to sack the nation's discredited Central Election Commission and support legislation to guard against fraud in a planned Dec. 26 revote for president.

The measures are intended to pave the way for a smooth re-run of the Nov. 21 contest between opposition leader Viktor A. Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovych, which the Supreme Court declared invalid because of fraud.

But there were indications that each side might try to attach conditions to the measures in parliament.

Kuchma spoke briefly to reporters after a six-hour negotiating session attended by European Union mediators, Yushchenko and Yanukovych.

In a carefully worded statement, Kuchma said the participants had agreed on "the necessity" to adopt election law amendments "that would envisage a mechanism for conducting transparent and fair elections, making abuse and falsifications impossible."

Kuchma indicated that he was prepared to revise the makeup of the Central Election Commission in line with parliament's wishes.

Yushchenko's supporters have pressed for changes to the election law and the election commission, which they say has been biased in favor of Yanukovych, Kuchma's hand-picked successor.

In spite of apparent agreement on those matters, Kuchma indicated that the two sides might try to link those reforms to other issues. He indicated that they retained sharp differences on several key points.

Yushchenko's camp has demanded that Kuchma dismiss Yanukovych as prime minister, in line with a recent parliamentary vote of no-confidence. Yanukovych's camp, along with Kuchma, has insisted that electoral reform be linked to constitutional reforms transferring many presidential powers to the prime minister.

Also apparently unresolved is whether Yushchenko's supporters would lift their blockades of key government buildings in Kiev, the capital.

Kuchma noted that a parliamentary "reconciliation council" was trying to bridge the gap between the two sides, and added: "I wish them success in resolving those problems that we failed to resolve during the roundtable."

Yesterday, politicians from both sides had indicated that there was agreement on a package of parliamentary action.

They said parliament would likely approve a package of anti-fraud measures and constitutional changes to shift some powers from the president to the prime minister. The ouster of Yanukovych as prime minister and revamping the Central Election Commission's members would be part of the package, they said.

Some reports outlined a proposed compromise on timing for the constitutional amendments to take effect. Pro-Yanukovych legislators had wanted the shift in powers to take place almost immediately, while Yushchenko's backers wanted the changes to come into effect after parliamentary elections in 2006.

Petro Poroshenko, a prominent opposition lawmaker, said the amendments to the constitution would take effect either Sept. 1, 2005, or Jan. 1, 2006.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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