All eyes are on Ukraine's Supreme Court on Thursday after the country's two presidential rivals agreed that the judges must decide how to resolve their contested election -- with the option of a new poll seeming likely.
Leaving it to the court: Yushchenko (left) and Yanukovych
The focus shifted to the 21 justices a day after outgoing
President Leonid Kuchma said foreign mediators helped the two opponents agree to let the court pass judgment on the Nov. 21 vote and then jointly figure out how to resolve independent Ukraine's worst political crisis.
Expectations were hight that a third vote since Oct. 31 will take place early next year, although it still remained unclear if the poll will be held from scratch -- opening the field to other candidates -- or just be a run-off between pro-Moscow candidate Viktor Yanukovych and his Western-leaning rival, Viktor Yushchenko.
The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana said
that a month would be needed to set a date for another election -- and that if it does go ahead, it should remain a choice between the current two candidates.
"I think in the next election it is very important that it is between the two candidates who have been fighting for the presidency," he said.
Ukraine's opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, Ukrainian Prime Minister and Pro-Moscow presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe Jan Kubis, (seen from the back), from left
"As for the date of the election, the sooner the better... for political reasons, for economic reasons," Solana said. "The longer the process takes, it will harm the economy, that
doesn't benefit anyone."
Parliament votes out government
Meanwhile the political turmoil raged on as parliament backed an opposition demand to vote out the ruling party government and replace it with a "popular government" of a new interim coalition.
More than three hours of closed-door talks ended with a decision to leave the fate of Ukraine's presidency in the hands of supreme court justices.
"The parties reached an agreement to conduct the next session of the roundtable after the verdict is reached by the Ukrainian Supreme Court," Solana said while flanked by Yushchenko and Yanukovych.
The talks -- although not entirely conclusive -- seemed to hold something for everyone.
Kuchma met an opposition demand by agreeing to amend the country's election laws to fit with the supreme court ruling amid growing expectation that justices will rule that at least a part of runoff vote was invalid.
Opposition calls off blockade
Yushchenko meanwhile agreed to call off a five-day blockade of government buildings by his supporters.
"I think the government is giving in to the pressure from the street and Western politicians, and not only Western politicians," he said. "There is progress concerning the organization of a new election. When the government shows goodwill, when it is open and sincere during the talks, we don't need the government building or the presidential building."
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma (left) and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych
Kuchma (photo, left) made no mention of an opposition-driven vote in parliament triggering the dismissal of Yanukovych's government. Instead he said all institutions were staying in place until the conflict was resolved.
The court is expected to reach a decision on Thursday or Friday.