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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Candidates Weigh Vote Options

The proposal by outgoing Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma for new elections to end the country's political crisis has an unclear legal basis — and little backing from either of the two candidates seeking to succeed him.

"If we really want to maintain peace and accord and we really want to build a law-governed, democratic society, of which we have been speaking so much, then let us hold new elections," Kuchma said.

Kuchma also appeared to rule out that he might attempt to stay on for a third term in office, an option that was much discussed earlier this year. "I've had enough," he said, in televised remarks late Monday, after a meeting with city and regional leaders at his residence outside Kiev.

The shift toward a new vote signaled a retreat from Kuchma's previous assertion that Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had won the presidency in the Nov. 21 runoff vote, despite widespread evidence of fraud and falsification. The move also appeared to be an attempt to buy some time for a compromise that would allow Kuchma and his allies in government to retain influence in the country, whoever replaces him.

But Mykhailo Pohrebinsky, an adviser to Kuchma, said Tuesday that the president could not sanction a second runoff between Yanukovych and opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.

"The law does not permit it," Pohrebinsky said. "The only the possible thing to do according to the law is to hold new elections in three months' time. Kuchma understood that whoever wins, the country will be divided. To avoid any split, he proposed new elections."

But Yushchenko's team, which on Tuesday called off talks with Yanukovych's supporters, rejected restarting the elections from scratch, saying a second runoff between Yushchenko and Yanukovych should be held by the end of this month. Yushchenko is expected to push for a quick resolution to the crisis, to capitalize on the momentum gained by the opposition's mass protests in Kiev.

"Kuchma's proposal means new elections in March," said a Yushchenko campaign official, Anatoly Grytsenko. "It's an illegal plot that cannot be accepted."

To wait until March would mean to "a threat not only to the political stability of the country, but also to the economy," he said.

Grytsenko also called for the resignation of the Central Elections Commission and the government, "so that Yanukovych cannot use administrative resources."

Grytsenko did not elaborate on how the opposition's proposals could legally be realized.

From the Yanukovych camp, two alternative ways forward were thrown into the ring Tuesday.

Hanna German, a spokeswoman for Yanukovych, said the prime minister would agree to a new election "on condition that neither he nor Yushchenko take part in it."

"He is ready to find a compromise to resolve this situation, but there is no feedback from the opposition," she said.

In a separate move, Yanukovych also said that if he was confirmed as president, he could appoint Yushchenko as his prime minister and change the constitution to make the country a parliamentary republic.

"Under the new constitution, he will be the first person in our government," he said, RIA-Novosti reported.

Vadim Karasyev, director of the Global Strategy Institute, a Kiev-based independent think tank, said that by law candidates who run in a first round and a runoff are not eligible to take part in a new election.

But he said that parliament could vote to allow Yanukovych and Yushchenko to run again. Such a decision would require a two-thirds majority in the 450-seat assembly, and Kuchma's approval, he said.

"Everything depends on Kuchma, and he would decide according to the political situation," Karasyev said, adding that Kuchma would be unlikely to veto such a plan with mass opposition protests going on in Kiev.

The country "needs to have a legal precedent to end the deadlock," Karasyev said.

The move to hold a new election in three months is a clear attempt by the government to look for a better candidate than Yanukovych, Karasyev said, and Yanukovych is well aware that he would not receive the backing of those in power in such an election.

"They backed Yanukovych so far not because they trusted him, but because they feared Yushchenko more," Karasyev said.