Ukraine's 'Orange' Parties Move Closer To Coalition

KIEV, Ukraine -- The three parties that were central to Ukraine's Orange Revolution on April 13 signed a protocol aimed at advancing the process of forming a coalition government and ending a long wrangle after last month's parliamentary elections.

Three parties after the signing of the protocol

But more talks will be needed before the Our Ukraine, Bloc Tymoshenko and Socialist parties formally agree to a coalition.

The parties comprise politicians who supported the 2004 "Orange Revolution" demonstrations that helped bring President Viktor Yushchenko to power, but who later divided amid squabbles and maneuvering.

A reunion of the former Orange Revolution allies would keep Ukraine on its pro-Western course, but could further alienate the country's east and south, which leans toward Russia.

The party that got the most votes in the March 26 elections is led by Viktor Yanukovych, who ran against Yushchenko in the fraud-plagued 2004 elections that sparked the Orange Revolution. However, that party fell short of getting a majority of seats in the Verkhovna Rada, the country's parliament.

Yushchenko had not excluded the possibility of trying to form a coalition of Our Ukraine and Yanukovych's Party of Regions.

But Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister who heads the party bearing her name, insisted that the April 13 signing of the document meant the coalition would exclude Yanukovych's party.

"The coalition consists of three and only three forces, and that's all there is to it," Tymoshenko told reporters. "This document begins all the procedures regarding the formation of the coalition ... I am happy this took place."

The most contentious question apparently remaining to be resolved in forming an "Orange" coalition is that of Tymoshenko's role. She intensely wants to return to the prime minister's post, which she held for several months after Yushchenko's election but from which she was fired last fall.

Tymoshenko claimed the protocol stipulated that the party in the prospective coalition with the most votes - hers - would choose a prime minister. But Roman Bezsmertny, a senior Our Ukraine official, said it was too early to discuss who would be premier.

Bezsmertny was also cautious about the document, saying more work was still needed.

Yanukovych's spokeswoman Anna German expressed skepticism, saying the revival of the alliance that triumphed over Yanukovych in 2004 was far from final.

Yanukovych would continue consulting with all parties in parliament and putting forward his own proposals for cooperation, she told The Associated Press.

The document confirms the parties' intention to unite in a parliamentary coalition and lays out a long list of rules and procedures for its formation.

It also calls for drafting a coalition agreement that should be approved by each party in the proposed coalition. The agreement will address the main political and economic issues facing Ukraine, which is a potential source of discord.

Yushchenko said April 12 that candidates for prime minister should be discussed only after a governing coalition is formed and agrees on these issues.

Lawmakers have one month to convene parliament, then 30 days to form a parliamentary majority and another 30 days to form a government. If they fail to form a parliamentary majority in time, Yushchenko can dissolve the legislature and call new elections.

Source: AP