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 Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko attends a news conference while meeting with Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome October 8, 2008. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko attends a news conference while meeting with Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome October 8, 2008. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
Reuters

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Ukraine calls early election

By Ron Popeski

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Wednesday abandoned the search for a coalition to take over from the current "orange" government, dissolved parliament and called an early election to the assembly.

Yushchenko blamed Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, his estranged ally from the 2004 "Orange Revolution," for the collapse of a coalition that emerged from that pro-Western upheaval which swept him to power.

She had allowed her "thirst for power" to take precedence over national interests, he charged.

"I hereby declare the activities of ... parliament to be suspended and call an early parliamentary election," he said in a recorded television address to the nation. "The vote will take place in democratic and lawful fashion."

Yushchenko twice named Tymoshenko prime minister but has been constantly at odds with her almost since his election. He paid scant heed to her calls to patch up differences and reinstate their parties' coalition.

"I am convinced, deeply convinced that the democratic coalition was ruined by one thing alone -- human ambition. The ambition of one person," he said in his address, shown on television while he was making a visit to Italy.

He gave no date for the election, the third in as many years in the ex-Soviet state gripped by political turmoil since the mass protests of 2004. The constitution provides for an election to take place no more than 60 days after dissolution -- making December 7 a possible date.

"DEATH KNELL"

Other parties criticized the president's move.

Former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, adversary of protesters in 2004 and now opposition leader, said the election would "sound the death knell of those in power. They brought the country to ruin and are pushing it toward another election."

Andriy Portnov, one of Tymoshenko's lieutenants, denounced the dissolution as "anti-constitutional and senseless" and vowed to block enabling measures for the election to go ahead.

Yushchenko had earlier met party leaders in Kiev and given them more time to find a way to restore or replace the "orange" team and avert a new election.

His Our Ukraine party quit its alliance with Tymoshenko's bloc on September 3 -- after Tymoshenko had formed a tactical voting alliance with Yanukovich and approved legislation cutting presidential powers.

All three politicians are assessing their chances in a presidential election due to take place by early 2010.

Differences between the president and prime minister focus on a longstanding debate over how to divide up powers in Ukraine and Yushchenko's allegations that Tymoshenko has been too soft on Russia in its conflict with Georgia.

Tymoshenko had said she met all conditions set by the president for reinstating the governing team and urged him not to subject Ukraine to "chaos and the unknown."

A parliamentary race, probably in December, is unlikely to bring much change to the political landscape.

Polls give about 20 percent support to Tymoshenko and ex-premier Viktor Yanukovich, adversary of "Orange" protesters and now opposition leader. Yushchenko trails in single figures.

(Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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