Ukraine "Orange" Govt In Peril After Speaker Chosen

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's parliament elected veteran Socialist Oleksander Moroz as its speaker on Thursday, casting doubt over a prospective government coalition made up of backers of the 2004 "Orange Revolution".

Socialist Oleksander Moroz addresses Ukraine's parliament after winning the election as assembly speaker in Kiev July 7, 2006.

Moroz won 238 votes in the 450-seat assembly with support from the Regions Party, sympathetic to Moscow and led by Viktor Yanukovich, main loser of the revolution, and Communists.

His election shattered an agreement clinched by three "orange" parties after weeks of rancorous talks which would have reinstated fiery Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister. It could pave the way for a new coalition bringing together supporters of pro-Western president Viktor Yushchenko and the opposition.

Moroz said after his surprise election that he wanted to heal the divisions in Ukrainian society caused by the revolution and by last March's inconclusive election.

"We must reduce the tension which has been artificially created to do away with the split we now see in Ukraine," Moroz told parliament.

"I am sure we can overcome this problem. I am even more sure we can bring together those seeing themselves as victors and those who see themselves as vanquished," he said.

Parliament had been all but shut down since the election in which the Regions Party won the most seats. But it was outscored by the combined tally of three "orange" groups, the president's Our Ukraine party, Tymoshenko's bloc and the smaller Socialists.

Deputies initially suspended sittings to allow the three groups to form a new coalition. Later, the Moscow-leaning Regions Party prevented the parliament from sitting.

"ORANGE" AGREEMENT SHATTERED

The three "orange" parties had agreed to elect wealthy magnate Petro Poroshenko, an ally of the president, as speaker.

But Moroz said that would only lead to the same turmoil that plagued Tymoshenko's first eight-month term in office.

He put forward himself instead for the speaker's job.

Yanukovich, with his power base in Russian-speaking, industrial eastern Ukraine, made a remarkable comeback with his first-place finish in the March election after a humiliating loss to Yushchenko in the 2004 presidential poll.

He said Moroz was "just the person able to unite Ukraine".

One of Yanukovich's deputies, Evhen Kushnaryov, said there was no longer any prospect of an "orange" governing coalition.

Analysts said Yushchenko's position was greatly weakened and that the outcome could force him into a coalition with Yanukovich, his political foe from two years ago.

"I do not envy Viktor Yushchenko who will wake up tomorrow morning largely dependent on Oleksander Moroz," analyst Kost Bondarenko told Fifth Channel television.

Moroz, 62, threw his support behind Yushchenko in 2004, standing alongside both him and Tymoshenko during protests that led to courts overturning Yanukovich's victory in a rigged vote.

Yushchenko won a re-run and took office in January 2005. Moroz's Socialists took up cabinet posts in an "orange" government led by Tymoshenko before she was dismissed last September after lengthy infighting.

Parliament's inactivity has hobbled government initiatives.

Ukraine faces tough talks with giant neighbor Russia on gas supplies, the harvesting campaign is in full swing and the budget for next year must be prepared.

Source: Reuters

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