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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yushchenko Calls for Fair Elections

ReutersPro-Yushchenko deputies in the parliament in Kiev on Friday passing legislation needed to stage early elections.
KIEV -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko urged political forces on Saturday to conduct fraud-free parliamentary elections, a day after the parliament passed the final series of bills needed for the vote to take place.

Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych earlier in the week agreed to hold early elections Sept. 30, defusing a tense political standoff that had threatened to escalate into violence after the president sent troops to Kiev in defiance of the Cabinet.

"We shouldn't allow falsification," Yushchenko said in televised comments addressing his supporters in the parliament.

He added that international observers were key to ensuring that the elections would be free and fair.

Ignoring an initial two-day deadline, the parliament wrangled for days last week over the legislation for early elections. The legislation was finally adopted late Friday, but uncertainty remained about how long the current parliament would exist.

A Yanukovych ally, Oleksandr Peklushenko, said the legislature would continue to work. But the parliament would be dissolved if 151 of its 450 members resign, and Yushchenko backers say 168 deputies are ready to do that.

Among the bills passed Friday was one setting the minimum turnout level for valid elections at 50 percent, despite opposition demands not to have a stated minimum. The parliament also dismissed all members of the Central Election Commission and appointed new ones, and allocated 365 million hryvna ($72.3 million) for the early elections.

Also Friday, Yushchenko appointed Oleksandr Medvedko prosecutor general. He had fired Medvedko from the position this year, but brought him back to replace Svyatoslav Piskun, whom he fired a week ago.

Ukraine's political tensions soared after Yushchenko ordered the parliament dissolved on April 2, which he said was necessary to prevent Yanukovych's majority coalition from usurping power. Yanukovych and his supporters refused to recognize the order, calling it unconstitutional.