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Ukraine president threatens to prosecute officials defying elections decree

[JURIST] Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko [official website; BBC profile] said Thursday that officials who refuse to comply with his decree [statement] ordering new elections could face criminal prosecution [press release]. Yushchenko issued the decree Monday, ordering parliament dissolved and new elections in May over what Yushchenko has called "systemic violations of the constitution by the parliamentary majority." Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych [BBC profile], Yushchenko's main political rival, has refused to comply with the decree until the country's constitutional court can rule on his court appeal [JURIST report] over the president's decree. Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada [official website] has said it will withhold the funding necessary to hold elections and has also voted to fire the current Central Elections Commission of Ukraine [official website] and reinstate the previous commission. AP has more.

Yushchenko and Yanukovych were fierce rivals in the 2004 presidential election [JURIST report], the results of which were invalidated by the country's Supreme Court [JURIST report] following fraud allegations. Yushchenko was sworn in as Ukraine's president [JURIST report] in January 2005 on the wings of the populist Orange Revolution [BBC timeline] after winning a re-vote. Yushchenko reluctantly accepted Yanukovych as prime minister last June and the two have since clashed over parliamentary attempts to expand the cabinet's power [JURIST reports] at the expense of the presidency.

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