Ukraine President Opts For Orange Coalition

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's party backed a coalition with other "Orange Revolution" liberals on Thursday, consigning to opposition a party sympathetic to Moscow that won first place in a March 26 poll.

Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko speaks during a news conference in Kiev

A spokeswoman for Our Ukraine said its leadership had agreed to team up with the Socialist party and the bloc of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko -- the president's estranged ally who had the best score of all liberal groups.

But there was no indication who might be named prime minister. Nor was it clear whether the other parties agreed or when an accord could be formally signed.

The fiery Tymoshenko, whose bloc finished second in the poll and far ahead of the president's party, has made clear she will settle for nothing less than getting back her job as prime minister.

She has also pledged that, if returned to office, she would cancel a deal with Russia sharply raising gas prices.

"We declare our intention of creating a coalition of democratic forces after political groups are formed in (parliament)," read a statement issued after a late-night meeting of Our Ukraine's political council.

"The basis of our union will be the intention to implement the program of President Viktor Yushchenko."

Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov and Roman Bezsmertny, head of Our Ukraine's election campaign, were assigned the task of meeting Tymoshenko and the head of the Socialist Party to agree on a future coalition program.

By opting for a purely 'orange' coalition, Yushchenko spurned a deal with his old Moscow-backed adversary, Viktor Yanukovich, whom he humiliated in the December 2004 revolution but whose Regions Party finished first in the election taking around 32 percent of the vote.


Both Bezsmertny and Tymoshenko scheduled news conferences for later in the day.

In the run-up to the announcement, Tymoshenko and Socialist Leader Oleksander Moroz had accused Our Ukraine of deliberately dragging its feet in coalition talks under way now for more than a week.

Both Tymoshenko and Moroz had stood alongside Yushchenko at weeks of rallies in Kiev's snow-covered Independence Square in the "Orange Revolution" -- overturning a rigged election initially won by Yanukovich.

The Supreme Court ordered a re-run of the poll -- won by Yushchenko, who immediately appointed Tymoshenko prime minister.

But after months of infighting over privatization policy and her attempts to control markets the government split into two camps, each accusing the other of corruption.

The president dismissed Tymoshenko, prompting mass disillusion among supporters who had taken part in the protests.

Yanukovich, the president's defeated rival in the 2004 poll, made a comeback in the March election, conducted under new constitutional rules, when his Regions Party finished first.

But Tymoshenko's fiery rhetoric clearly appealed to voters and her bloc came second with 22 percent to 14 percent to Our Ukraine.

With the president's powers reduced, the 450-seat parliament is for the first time empowered to name the prime minister -- and is given about 60 days to form a working government.

The combined number of seats won by "Orange" parties clearly outscored the Regions Party, which on Thursday said it would only take part in a coalition if Yanukovich was named prime minister. It also demanded other top cabinet posts.

Source: Reuters