Ukraine's Bickering 'Orange' Allies Vow Coalition Pact Within Weeks

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's bickering "orange revolution" allies said that they would finalize a coalition pact to form a new government within weeks, but it remained unclear whether Yulia Tymoshenko would get the powerful new premier's post in the union.

President Viktor Yushchenko

"Today's talks have moved democratic forces closer toward consensus," President Viktor Yushchenko told reporters after holding talks with winners of the March 26 parliamentary ballot.

"I have an impression that the deadline of May 24 is quite acceptable" for agreeing the main points of a coalition agreement, he said, referring to the date that the newly-elected Upper Rada legislature is expected to hold its first session.

Talks between Yushchenko's party and its estranged "orange revolution" allies have been deadlocked since the March 26 elections over the issue of who will become prime minister, with expanded powers under constitutional changes that came into force this year.

Yulia Tymoshenko, the fiery populist who split with the president after he fired her as prime minister last September and who trounced Yushchenko's party in the March ballot, has demanded that she return to head the government in any coalition.

But the Ukrainian president is widely believed to distrust his ambitious and charismatic one-time ally and analysts here say he is trying to limit her influence in any union.

Following her talks with the president on Friday, Tymoshenko said a coalition agreement would be finalized next week.

"We agreed that on (May) 10th or 11th we'll be reading a completed draft of the coalition agreement," Tymoshenko told reporters.

But the issue of her premiership continued to be a point of contention.

"It think that it is becoming more unlikely," acting premier Yury Yekhanurov, who is leading the talks on behalf of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party, said when asked whether Tymoshenko would become the new premier.

But Olexander Moroz, the leader of the Socialists, countered: "In my opinion, the further we go, the likelier this possibility gets."

The estranged "orange" allies -- the president's Our Ukraine, Tymoshenko's bloc and the Socialists -- will hold 243 seats in the 450-member Upper Rada legislature following the March ballot.

The pro-Russian opposition Regions Party and its likely allies the Communists will hold 186 and 21 seats, respectively.

Source: AFP