Orange Camp Coalition Talks Collapse

KIEV, Ukraine -- Coalition talks between two leading political forces that backed President Viktor Yushchenko during last year’s Orange Revolution appeared to have collapsed Feb. 22, after Yushchenko rejected a call by Yulia Tymosheko’s Bloc to ink a coalition agreement she drafted.

Yulia Tymosheko

Days earlier, both sides expressed their eagerness to reach an agreement on the formation of a coalition that would appoint a new government after the March 26 parliamentary election.

Tymoshenko’s camp claimed they would no longer seek a coalition, blaming Yushchenko-loyal blocs of holding secret talks with Regions of Ukraine, led by Viktor Yanukovych, who squared off with Yushchenko in 2004.

Rising tension

On Feb. 21, the political blocs representing Tymoshenko and Yushchenko publicized their own draft versions of an agreement that was purported to bring an end to months of bickering within the so-called Orange camp, which succeeded in lifting Yushchenko to the presidency in the midst of mass protests against election fraud in late 2004.

The political bloc of Tymoshenko, who turned critical of Yushchenko and parties loyal to him after her ouster as prime minister last fall, posted a draft agreement already signed by Tymoshenko on the bloc’s website Feb. 21. Yushchenko, on Feb. 22, criticized Tymoshenko for signing it herself, calling the move a PR stunt.

The Yushchenko-loyal Our Ukraine bloc followed suit, posting its own draft agreement later on Feb. 21.

In both draft agreements, the parties pledged to form a parliamentary majority that would go on to establish a government. Constitutional reforms adopted in the midst of the 2004 Orange Revolution stipulate that a majority formed within the next parliament will select the prime minister and most members of the government, with the president to select the ministers for defense and foreign affairs.

The draft accords of the Yushchenko and Tymoshenko blocs are similar in that they include a condition that yields the coalition member gaining the highest number of votes the right to submit a candidacy for the post of prime minister, and deny other coalition members the right to veto the candidacy.

Current opinion polls show nearly 30 percent voter support for Regions of Ukraine. Our Ukraine trails with almost 20 percent of the electorate. Tymoshenko has 15 percent. About 20 percent of voters remain either undecided or express their intention to vote against all candidates.

Both draft agreements also call for the re-privatization of strategic enterprises “illegally” privatized in the past, a major campaign agenda of Tymoshenko. Some analysts have criticized the former prime minister’s mass privatization reviews, pointing to diminished investor confidence in Ukraine. Lastly, both agreements advocate Ukraine joining the European Union.

The draft agreements differ in several key aspects. Tymoshenko’s draft calls for the controversial natural gas agreement reached this year with Russia to be cancelled. Our Ukraine, whose list is topped by Premier Yuriy Yekhanurov, proposes only improving the gas agreement.

Political analysts have in recent weeks played down the chances of a coalition agreement being reached before Mar. 26.

Political analyst Andriy Yermolaev told the Post on Feb. 22 that if both sides come to an agreement it would be “largely symbolic,” expressing the intentions of the political allies-turned-foes to unite.

Voter approval for Yushchenko and Tymoshenko has dropped since early last year, as supporters became disheartened by internal bickering, which culminated in last fall’s ouster of the government.

Other parties still crucial

Meanwhile the Socialist Party, a key constituent in Yushchenko’s government, is refusing to sign any pre-election coalition accord.

Party leader Oleksandr Moroz told journalists on Feb. 21 that it was naive to sign such agreements ahead of the elections, adding that it only makes sense to bargain after voting, when it becomes clear how many seats in the legislature each political force has mustered.

The Socialists crucially expect about seven percent of votes, making it unlikely that another “Orange” coalition could be formed without their participation.

The bloc headed by Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn currently has almost four percent voter support, just above the three-percent barrier set for entry into parliament. Lytvyn’s bloc is also a potential member of the “Orange” coalition. For that matter, Yanukovych’s Regions of Ukraine could cut a deal with one of the major blocs as well.

Our Ukraine deputy Volodymyr Stretovych has called on other members of the former governing coalition to join for the good of the country.

“Most citizens viewed [last fall’s] split of the ‘Orange’ team as negative,” Stretovych said, adding that a coalition would guarantee Ukraine a solid future.

The Pora-PRP bloc, a tandem of the youthful “Yellow” Pora organization, which played a big part in galvanizing support for the Orange Revolution, and the Yushchenko-loyal Reform and Order Party, called for an agreement to be finalized by Feb. 23.

Political analyst Dmytro Vydrin, a candidate for the Tymoshenko bloc, predicted that a final agreement may never be signed, as Our Ukraine has refused to include key conditions in the agreement, such as the canceling of the gas supply agreement.

Source: Kyiv Post