Yushchenko's Advisers Criticize Moroz In New Spat Amid Coalition Talks

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko's advisers on Wednesday sharply criticized the Socialist Party leader for blocking efforts to appoint several Constitutional Court judges, a spat that comes amid crucial talks on forming a new governing coalition.

Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz

The Socialist Party supported the 2004 Orange Revolution and the party's participation is needed to resurrect the estranged Orange team that led those mass protests. But with 33 seats in the new parliament, the Socialists also could be a major - but not decisive - prize for pro-Russian opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych, who won the most votes but fell short of a majority in the March 26 race.

The Socialists have said they want to be in a coalition with their Orange Revolution allies, Yushchenko and his one-time partner Yulia Tymoshenko, but they were always odd bedfellows. The party is wary of WTO membership, doesn't support joining NATO and wants to limit presidential powers.

Resurrecting the Orange Team was already a hefty task because of the bitter falling out between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko. Now the latest spat with the Socialists could cause more problems.

The feud came after the Socialists again blocked efforts to fill the Constitutional Court's empty benches. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz accused Yushchenko of wanting the judges in place so he could appeal the new constitutional reforms that transferred many presidential powers to the parliament. It is those reforms that made the March 26 vote so critical because the parties that form the majority - rather than the president - will now be able to name the prime minister and some members of the Cabinet.

"I think this is a demonstration of distrust, even more so coming from a party that is in the coalition," said Anatoliy Matviyenko, Yushchenko's deputy chief of staff. "It's a sign of disrespect."

Ukraine's Constitutional Court has been sitting empty for several months, with lawmakers refusing to approve the president's candidates or name their own to fill the 13

empty seats. Yushchenko had initially planned to attend Tuesday's parliamentary session and watch the judicial candidates take their oaths, but the measure was blocked when Yanukovych's Party of Regions and Socialists seized the tribune.

Mykola Poludonniy, Yushchenko's legal adviser, blamed the "very negative position" of both parties for the impasse. "I hope that we all understand that this situation can't continue indefinitely," he said.

The Socialist Party currently holds seats in Yushchenko's Cabinet, including the powerful interior minister portfolio. But the party has sometimes caused headaches for Yushchenko. The Socialists refused to support some bills that Ukraine needed for membership in the World Trade Organization, forcing Yushchenko to miss his goal of membership last year. They also object to some of Yushchenko's free-market reforms.

Yanukovych's party said Wednesday that it planned to hold talks with the Socialists and the Communists - which would give it enough votes to form its own coalition. Socialist lawmaker Yosip Vinskiy, however, ruled out a union with the Party of Regions. "Not one of our members is in support of such a coalition," he said.

Coalition talks are proceeding slowly as all the parties wait for the final results, due next week.

Source: AP