A Walk In The Woods With Friends

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is reminiscent of the fabled giant in Kievan Rus who stood at the fork of three roads as he tortures himself over the choice of the next prime minister.

President Viktor Yushchenko at opening session of Parliament

The giant from the signposts knew what was ahead on every road, just as the president knew what his choices were on the second day after the parliamentary elections.

If Yushchenko takes the road on the right, leading to an alliance with the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc and Socialist Party, the Orange coalition will be restored. But then he will have to let the Orange Princess come back to power, and in triumph.

Timoshenko is not especially hiding her ambitions not only to play first violin in Ukraine, but to be the director at the same time.

This road means admitting his defeat in his dispute with Timoshenko on the future development of Ukraine that began almost immediately after their triumph in the Orange Revolution.

If Yushchenko takes the left path and enters into an alliance with Viktor Yanukovich's Party of the Regions, the ruling coalition will have an absolutely majority in the parliament.

But then he will no longer be the Orange president and will be forced to sacrifice his image as a democrat, which is what brought him to power in the first place, and which will not be taken well in his already shrinking electoral base.

The West, which Yushchenko is trying to orient himself toward, is not likely to applaud such an unprincipled coalition either.

The road straight ahead of him apparently looks less dangerous and more attractive to Yushchenko. Here he will not show preference for any potential ally and will remain above the squabbling.

At the same time, he will earn points internationally as the wise father of the nation. In his calculations, it won't be all that important who the next prime minister is, if he can form that image both at home and in the West.

In reality, there are many dangers on that road. First, the road doesn't go on forever. Sooner or later, a coalition has to be formed, unless Yushchenko wants permanent elections.

Second, the middle path is always doesn't take a democratic president anywhere. His authoritarian opponents will never acknowledge him as one of their own, and his democratic allies will soon disavow their ties to him.

Yushchenko may soon find himself alienated from everybody.

Source: Kommersant