Festering Divisions Plaguing Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- The politicians trying to reunite the political parties that were swept to power in Ukraine a year and a half ago have drawn up a list of the issues that divide them.

Yulia Tymoshenko wants her old job back as Prime Minister

They include the World Trade Organization, membership in NATO, privatization of state properties and the volatile issue of whether to allow sales of agricultural land.

The most divisive issue, though, is the most important of the moment: Who will be Ukraine's new and newly empowered prime minister?

Six weeks after parliamentary elections produced no outright winners, no one can say for certain. The issue has stirred a new round of recriminations among those who joined President Viktor Yushchenko in leading the popular protests that overturned a fraudulent election in 2004.

"They want a compromise with the past, the Kuchma era," said Hryhory Nemyrya, a newly elected member of Parliament, referring to the scandal- tarred presidency of Leonid Kuchma.

The leading candidate for prime minister is the head of Nemyrya's party, Yulia Tymoshenko, the erstwhile ally of the president who insists that her bloc's showing in the election - ahead of Yushchenko's party, Our Ukraine - makes her the rightful candidate among the so-called Orange coalition.

In an interview with a Polish newspaper, published Friday, Yushchenko said he did not preclude that possibility. But at least some of his supporters strongly oppose Tymoshenko, arguing that she would prove as divisive as she was when she served as his first prime minister for eight months last year - until tumultuous economic policies, political infighting and dueling accusations of corruption prompted him to dismiss her.

Even as they hold talks to reunite last year's Orange coalition to form a governing majority, Yushchenko's supporters have raised the possibility of compromise candidates.

"There are others on the bench," said Anatoly Kinakh, a leader of Our Ukraine and Yushchenko's national security adviser, declining to identify them. Kinakh resigned his security post Friday to take a seat in Parliament, presumably as part of the positioning to form a coalition government.

Some, including the acting prime minister, Yuri Yekhanurov, have suggested the possibility of a broader coalition government that could include the party led by Yushchenko's vanquished presidential rival, Viktor Yanukovich, which led all parties in the parliamentary election with 31 percent of the votes.

Source: International Herald Tribune