Yushchenko's Party Calls A Time-Out On Ukraine Coalition Talks

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko's party called a time-out Tuesday in coalition talks with its former Orange Revolution partners amid further disputes over who would get the top job in a new government.

Roman Zvarych

The breakdown weakened hopes for an agreement before the new parliament's first session next week.

The announcement came after seven weeks of negotiations to put together a new government appeared to be making progress, with former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the Socialists suggesting an agreement with Yushchenko's Our Ukraine could even be signed this week.

A revived Orange coalition would reunite the three parties that drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets in 2004 to protest a rigged presidential election, helping prompt a new vote that Yushchenko won.

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko later had a major falling out, and the partnership between their parties disintegrated into mutual accusations. After March 26 parliamentary elections, however, all three parties said they were committed to trying again to keep Ukraine on its reformist, pro-Western path.

But a senior Our Ukraine official Roman Zvarych on Tuesday accused Tymoshenko and Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz of issuing ultimatums over jobs in the new government. Tymoshenko, whose party won more votes than the other potential coalition partners, has demanded to be prime minister again.

The Socialist Party has supported her in exchange for her blessing for its leader, Oleksandr Moroz, to get the powerful parliamentary speaker job.

"Our Ukraine won't accept ultimatums," Zvarych said, announcing the suspension. Both Tymoshenko's bloc and the Socialists denied issuing an ultimatum, and Tymoshenko ally Oleksandr Turchynov accused Our Ukraine of "looking for reasons to drag out the negotiations."

Pressure is building on the parties to reach an agreement because parliament is scheduled to hold its first session on May 25. Lawmakers have one month after the first session to form a coalition, and another month to name the government. But Ukrainian politics has been effectively frozen for much of this year due to campaigning and then the coalition talks, leading to calls for the lawmakers to sort themselves out quickly.

The main stumbling block still appears to be the prime minister's job, with many in Yushchenko's circle extremely reluctant to see Tymoshenko return.

"All this is about the prime minister and Yulia Tymoshenko," said Inna Pidluska, an analyst with the Kyiv-based Europe Foundation. "There are many in Our Ukraine who do not want to see her be prime minister at this point."

Source: AP