Associated Press, Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 14, 2004
KIEV (AP)--Allies of President Leonid Kuchma on Wednesday nominated Prime
Minister Viktor Yanukovich as their presidential candidate for this fall's
elections, a move appearing to indicate the beleaguered president won't seek
a third term.
Yanukovich spokesman Taras Avrakhov said the prime minister joined the Oct.
31 presidential race, but refused to elaborate.
The Interfax news agency reported the nomination was made at a session of
Kuchma-allied parliamentary deputies in which the president took part.
Stepan Havrysh, who heads Kuchma's loyalists in the parliament, said in a
statement that Yanukovich's electoral program would be to "complete
political reforms in Ukraine and implement constitutional changes."
That appeared to refer to hotly debated constitutional amendments that
failed to pass parliament last week. The proposal called for the president
to be chosen by parliament instead of the electorate beginning in 2006.
Kuchma's opposition denounced the draft amendments as an attack on
democracy. The opposition, which believes it has a strong chance to win this
year's presidential election, feared that the changes would undermine them
by making the next presidential term last only two years and that Kuchma
loyalists in parliament could reinstall him as president.
Yanukovich is the first candidate to be nominated. Opposition leader Viktor
Yushchenko, seen by many as Ukraine 's most popular politician, is also
expected to run.
Kuchma has come under a wide range of criticism, including allegations that
he ordered the killing of a journalist and that he sold sophisticated
military equipment to Iraq in violation of U.N. sanctions.
Also Wednesday, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development
said in Kiev that Washington will provide $13 million to improve the
electoral process in Ukraine .
"Our interest is in building democratic institutions, ensuring that election
processes are transparent, fair, open and honest," Andrew Natsios said.
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