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Last Updated: Friday, 24 March 2006, 13:09 GMT
New Ukraine power struggle looms
The BBC's Helen Fawkes in Kiev
By Helen Fawkes
BBC News, Kiev

The heart of Ukraine's capital has turned orange again. Independence Square is lined with bright orange tents.

With ribbons fluttering from their clothes, young people from President Viktor Yushchenko's liberal party hand out flags to passers-by.

Orange party huts in Kiev
Central Kiev is festooned with orange flags and banners again

Mr Yushchenko came to power thanks to the so-called "Orange Revolution".

But as this former Soviet republic prepares for a parliamentary election on 26 March the mood is markedly different.

"I feel a sort of frustration," says Petro Koshukov, an economist.

Petro was one of more than a million people estimated to have taken part in the pro-Yushchenko demonstrations.

"Things that were promised haven't been done and still need to be done."

The pace of reform has been slow, the economy has slumped and the orange team has been torn apart by a bitter power struggle.

Opposite the government building in Kiev is a noisy demonstration.

Lessons have been learnt from a year ago
Alex Kiselev
Yanukovych campaign organiser

For the last few months, people disappointed by the Orange Revolution have been banging out tunes on home-made drums.

But there have been some significant changes since the presidential vote, which it is claimed was marred by systematic fraud.

"We are having the first fair and democratic election. And this has not been an easy test for the whole of society, for the authorities and opposition, for every citizen," President Yushchenko told listeners in a national radio address.

His authority has been weakened in the past few months.

Troubled year

Ukraine agreed to a controversial gas deal with Russia.

President Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko
The Orange alliance turned sour last year
Moscow briefly turned off its supplies in a row over a price increase.

The crisis led to Mr Yushchenko's government being sacked for the second time.

Following such a politically turbulent year, his arch-rival, opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych, is on the verge of a comeback.

Last winter Mr Yanukovych was declared the winner of the presidential vote.

Allegations of widespread vote-rigging sparked the Orange Revolution and the result was later overturned.

Opinion polls now predict Mr Yanukovych's party are on course to win the most seats in parliament.

"The country has lost not just one year but much more in its work," says Viktor Yanukovych.

"This is why all our plans are linked to one thing - to stop sliding into an abyss as soon as possible," he says.

Mr Yanukovych was backed by Moscow in the last ballot. But now he has American consultants and his image has been transformed.

"During the presidential election Mr Yanukovych was demonised by the other side; he was portrayed as the bad guy.

"Certain lessons have been learnt from a year ago," says Alex Kiselev from his campaign team.

Blue and orange

Mr Yanukovych's party, which uses blue as its trademark colour, is pledging a more balanced policy towards Europe and Russia.

A Blue campaign worker
Mr Yanukovych's campaign has been gaining ground
Some voters feel let down by the West.

The Orange Revolution pulled Ukraine out of Moscow's sphere of influence and the country is working hard towards European integration.

But the EU swiftly dismissed the idea that Ukraine would be able to join quickly and it has not made it any easier for people here to get European visas.

"What humiliates Ukrainians, what makes them angry is the attitude. Ukrainians do not feel substantial changes from Europe," the president's chief of staff Oleh Rybachuk says.

Tymoshenko campaign

Outside Kiev's state-run department store the woman dubbed the heroine of the mass protests is campaigning alone.

Yulia Tymoshenko was sacked as prime minister when the orange team collapsed. Her party is expected to pick up much of the protest vote.

But it is expected that no party will get enough support to form a majority, so there will probably be a coalition.

The team from the Orange Revolution may join forces. But some analysts believe that the president's party will reach out to the opposition.

Mrs Tymoshenko claims this would be the ultimate betrayal.

"President Yushchenko could then only hope to be a mere assistant of Yanukovych.

"I hope it will never become reality," she says.

Political reforms mean that MPs, not the president, will choose the next prime minister and that position will be much more powerful.

Once again, this is a battle between blue and orange, even though there are more than 40 parties on the ballot.

Moscow's wrangle with Ukraine over the price of gas has reminded voters that whatever the attractions of looking toward Europe, Russia still maintains a powerful hold here.

Watch a BBC interview with Ukraine's opposition leader

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