Parliamentary election campaign starts in Ukraine

In Ukraine, campaigning has begun for the parliamentary elections set for September 30. The country will have the chance to choose a new political path, and voters hope it will end months of political instability in the country.

Extraordinary elections in Ukraine are attracting extraordinary people. Drag queen Verka Serdyuchka has announced he is going to run for parliament. Placed second in this year's Eurovision song contest, the pop singer is extremely popular at home.

His party Against All may even beat some key players like the socialists according to the latest polls. To many Serduchka's hit “Lasha tumbai” sounded like “Russia goodbye” which offended its much larger neighbour.

Indeed relations with Russia rank high in the programmes of three major parties that qualify for seats in the Rada (the parliament).

The Our Ukraine party is the most popular among the nationalists, who want economic and cultural independence from Russia. They are also pushing Ukraine to join NATO.

Such an important question as membership of NATO should be discussed with the people of Ukraine. We support President Yushchenko in joining the alliance because, considering the strategic implications, Ukraine's security is better with NATO,

Nikolay Onishchuk, a member of the Our Ukraine party

Yuliya Tymoshenko's party ranks second in the latest polls. Once wanted by Russian prosecutors on corruption charges, she is looking to minimise Ukraine's dependence on Russia.

Promising an economic breakthrough, Ms Timoshenko wants to revoke the gas deal with Russia signed after she was sacked.

“We will do everything possible to restore the gas contract between Ukraine and Russia, according to which the price of natural gas for our country should be $US 50 until 2010,” she stated.

A winner of the last year's elections, the Party of Regions, wants to offset the pro-western policies of their competitors. They promote economic and cultural ties with Russia more than any other party.

A member of the party, Ivan Popesky, says millions of their voters want to have Russian as a second official language.

As for the people themselves, foreign policy issues worry them less than poverty and unemployment. So, when the popular singer Serduchka promises to become a Ukrainian Robin Hood, some believe her more than experienced politicians.