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Last Updated: Friday, 28 September 2007, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Ukraine vote threatens more turmoil
By Helen Fawkes
BBC News, Kiev

Ukrainians are about to go to the polls for the fifth time in three years.

Election tents in Kiev
The snap parliamentary election was initially called for 27 May

Brightly coloured flags and campaign tents line many of the streets in the capital, Kiev, once again.

The parliamentary election, which will take place on Sunday, was called to try to solve a political crisis.

Ever since the Orange Revolution, there has been a fierce rivalry between Ukraine's two Viktors.

The pro-Western president Viktor Yushchenko dissolved parliament claiming that the Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who is seen as friendlier to Moscow, was trying to usurp power.

But if this election was decided on image alone, Yulia Tymoshenko would win.

Yulia Tymoshenko speaks at a rally
Mrs Tymoshenko has spoken of the need for a new constitution

Her face is everywhere.

"Yulia Tymoshenko and her party have been aggressive in terms of being on the airwaves and seizing the information initiative," says the Kiev-based political analyst, Ivan Lozovy.

"Tymoshenko seems at the top of her game."

Along with President Yushchenko, Mrs Tymoshenko helped lead the Orange Revolution in 2004.

The team from the mass protests split amid bitter infighting - but now it seems they are ready to reunite.

Uneasy allies

The Orange parties say they want to form a coalition after the election.

President Yushchenko has told the BBC they have learnt from their mistakes.

Viktor Yushchenko kisses Yulia Tymoshenko's hand
There are echoes of the Orange Revolution all around us
Ivan Lozovy
Political analyst

"The biggest problems of the Orange government two years ago were the ambitions and the role of the key figures, not the ideology or the values," he explains.

"They started arguing, criticising each other and trying to destroy each other."

It is almost certain that there will have to be a coalition government, as no party is expected to win a majority in parliament.

The opinion polls predict that Prime Minister Yanukovych's Party of Regions will get the most votes.

Yulia Tymoshenko's bloc is likely to come second, with the president's Our Ukraine party in third place.

Economic potential

It may seem paradoxical, but the constant turmoil has created a sense of stability for business leaders. There is less intervention from the authorities.

Ukrainian voters contemplate the aftermath of yet another election.

While politicians squabble, the country's growth rate continues to be impressive.

"We have a pretty good economic base. If we look at Kiev's streets, you find very clear signs that the middle class is growing, and that it's not only oligarchs in their Mercedes cars," says Konstyantyn Hryschenko, a former Ukrainian foreign minister and ally of the prime minister.

"But we face the problem of Ukraine not being able fulfil its economic potential."

The political crisis has meant vital reforms have not been introduced and that millions of Ukrainians remain in poverty.

Personality clashes

The main parties are offering broadly similar social platforms, all promising to raise the standard of living.

A rally for Viktor Yanukovych
Many Ukrainians want social standards and corruption addressed

However, this election campaign has become nasty and negative. It has been more about personalities than policies.

The prime minister recently called Mrs Tymoshenko a "cow on ice". She responded by saying her opponent was a thug.

When the ratings of Mr Yanukovych's party appeared to be going down, he played the Russian card. He called for a referendum on whether Ukraine should join Nato.

If that vote did go ahead, most people would likely reject membership of the regional defence alliance, much to Moscow's approval.

Viktor Yanukovych
Parties backing Mr Yanukovych won the last election in March 2006

In a strategy designed to appeal to his Russian-speaking powerbase, Mr Yanukovych's party also proposed that the referendum should ask Ukrainians if they wanted Russian to become an official state language.

"The major problem is that people don't feel like they have a real choice of who to vote for. We are seeing the same old figures," says Mr Lozovy.

"There are echoes of the Orange Revolution all around us."

'Eternal crisis'

It is no wonder many Ukrainians say they feel fed up with politics. But incredibly, turnout is expected to be around 70%.

Unlike many former Soviet states, no-one knows the exact outcome of our election - in this way, Ukraine is a European country
Hryhory Nemyrya
Adviser to Yulia Tymoshenko

All the biggest parties have claimed that there will be attempts to rig the ballot and the result of Sunday's poll could well be disputed.

It is widely expected that once again there will protests in the streets, legal challenges in the courts, and further political turmoil in Ukraine.

"On the surface it looks like it's a mess. It looks like it is an eternal, permanent crisis, but at the same time this is precisely what democracy is about," says Hryhory Nemyrya, Mrs Tymoshenko's foreign policy adviser.

"Unlike many former Soviet states, no-one knows the exact outcome of our election. In this way, Ukraine is a European country and not a post-Soviet country any more," he says.

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