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Verkhovna Rada voted 400 to three on 18 March to adopt a bill that makes procedural changes in Ukraine's presidential-election process, Interfax reported. The bill differs from the current law on presidential elections in several major respects. It reduces the presidential-campaign period from 180 to 120 days and lowers the signature threshold for registering a candidate from 1 million to 500,000. The bill also sets election day for the last Sunday in October; in the event that none of the candidates wins a majority in the first round, a runoff between the two top candidates is held two weeks later. JM

...AND CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURES. The Verkhovna Rada also passed a Code of Civil Procedures on 18 March that regulates the consideration of civil cases in Ukrainian courts and provides for the observance of rights and freedoms of citizens and legal entities participating in civil legal proceedings, Interfax reported. JM

OUR UKRAINE, YULIYA TYMOSHENKO BLOCK TO PROTEST CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko told journalists in Kyiv on 18 March that his block will resort to "all available means" -- including "staging appropriate protests, taking people to the street, and blocking the parliamentary rostrum" -- in order to prevent final adoption of the constitutional-reform bill that was preliminarily approved in December and amended in February (see "RFE/RK Belarus and Ukraine Report," 10 March 2004), Interfax reported. Yushchenko was commenting on a verdict by the Constitutional Court earlier the same day concluding that the bill does not contradict the constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March 2004). Our Ukraine and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc believe the bill was approved in an illegal procedure. Lawmaker Oleksandr Turchynov from the Yuliya Tymoshenko Block announced the same day that his bloc will cooperate with Our Ukraine in staging "mass protest actions" during the upcoming parliamentary debate on the bill. JM