Tymoshenko, Moroz Plead To Meet Yushchenko

KIEV, Ukraine -- The seesaw coalition talks geared toward forming Ukraine’s next government took a new twist on May 3, as former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz called for a meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko amid waning hopes that the three former allies will reach a deal.

Oleksandr Moroz (L) and Yulia Tymoshenko

The goal of the meeting, which Tymoshenko and Moroz requested in an open letter to Yushchenko, is to settle differences between them and their former Orange Revolution allies, namely the Our Ukraine political bloc, which Yushchenko is the honorary chairman of.

The plea comes as coalition talks between Byut, Our Ukraine and the Socialists drag on into the second month since the March 26 parliamentary election. Negotiations have centered on the revival of a so-called Orange coalition, consisting of political camps that backed Yushchenko in the 2004 presidential race, namely Tymoshenko’s Byut bloc, which will have 129 seats in the 450-member parliament, the Yushchenko-loyal Our Ukraine bloc, with 81 seats, and the Socialists Party with 33.

Talks between the three political groups have in recent weeks been overshadowed by allegations that influential members of Our Ukraine are leaning in favor of a coalition with the Regions of Ukraine party, led by Viktor Yanukovych, Yushchenko’s rival in the 2004 presidential elections, during which voter fraud triggered massive street protests dubbed the Orange Revolution.

The Regions party, which has demanded the return of Yanukovych to the premier post as a condition to forming a coalition, will have 186 seats in the next parliament, scheduled to convene for its first session this month.

Constitutional reforms that took effect this year envision a shift in power from the presidency to the legislative branch, which would form a majority that would then establish a coalition government. In the past, the president appointed most top government officials, though some appointments required approval by parliament.

“The majority of voters supported our democratic parties and blocs, which allows for us to jointly ensure the democratic development of the country and to continue the program of the president,” reads an open letter signed by Tymoshenko and Moroz.

“Our political forces have clearly expressed their views to establish a democratic coalition in parliament with 243 deputies, and can quickly establish such a majority and establish a government,” the statement continues.

“We find it necessary to start an uninterrupted dialogue between the leaders of Byut, Our Ukraine, the Socialist Party of Ukraine and the president of Ukraine. We suggest meeting no later than May 5,” the letter reads, adding that attempts to organize such a meeting through official correspondence with the Presidential Secretariat have proved fruitless.

Yushchenko left for a two-day state visit to Lithuania on May 3 for a conference on the future of the Baltic and Black Sea region attended by presidents throughout the region and United States Vice President Dick Cheney. Yushchenko’s press service had not responded to the joint letter from Moroz and Tymoshenko as of late on May 3.

Meanwhile, the Socialists appealed to acting parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn to hold the first session of the new parliament on May 17.

Tymoshenko and Moroz have in recent weeks accused Our Ukraine of purposefully stalling coalition talks, insisting their would-be partners were holding coalition talks with Regions.

The most recent allegations in this light came on April 28, when Tymoshenko accused Our Ukraine’s political camp in Kyiv’s city council of setting up a de facto coalition partnership with Regions deputies to back newly-elected Kyiv mayor Leonid Chernovetsky. Tymoshenko described the Our Ukraine-Regions alliance in the city council as a testing ground to gauge voter opinion ahead of the nationwide coalition agreement.

Political analysts have described Our Ukraine’s strategy as a ploy to stretch out the talks in the hopes of wearing down Tymoshenko’s invigorated leverage after an unexpectedly strong showing during the parliamentary elections.

Analysts say that Our Ukraine’s top leadership is unwilling to accept the possibility of Tymoshenko’s return as prime minister, fearing that she could use this post to boost her popularity, positioning her as a powerful challenger to Yushchenko in the 2009 presidential elections.

Tymoshenko, meanwhile, has promised not to run for president if she is allowed to return as prime minister.

Some top Our Ukraine officials, including Borys Bespaly, have denied rumors that they are considering the formation of a coalition with Regions. Yet others, such as Vira Ulyanchenko, who serves as a presidential advisor, have openly supported the idea of forming a so-called Grand Coalition, which would include Regions.

Political analyst Vadym Karasiov said the letter sent by Moroz and Tymoshenko to Yushchenko equates to an attempt by them to force the president into taking a public stand on whether he backs a coalition with Regions or, conversely, the reformation of an Orange team.

“This letter is an attempt to revive the coalition talks, but it also serves as a signal that they could break down,” Karasiov said.

“The president is not likely to take up their offer,” Karasiov said, adding that he is more inclined to take what publicly appears to be a sideline role, while simultaneously using his influence over Our Ukraine to pull political strings in the coalition talks.

Source: Kyiv Post