Ukraine President's Party Sets Conditions For Joining Coalition

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's political landscape shifted radically on Friday when President Viktor A. Yushchenko's pro-Western party, Our Ukraine, said that under certain conditions it would join a coalition with its archrival, the pro-Russian Party of the Regions led by Viktor F. Yanukovich.

Yushchenko (L) and Yanukovich - the odd couple

Our Ukraine is insisting that a new government exclude the Communists, who were part of an earlier coalition proposal. Another contentious issue is control over who would become the next prime minister.

Ukraine has been in a state of political turmoil since parliamentary elections in March, when Yanukovich's party won the most seats, but not enough to form a government on its own.

Yanukovich, who was defeated by Yushchenko during the presidential runoff in January 2005, would like to make a political comeback as prime minister.

But Yushchenko, whose Our Ukraine was one of two parties that spearheaded the 2004 Orange Revolution, is eager to maintain a more Western-leaning government and might press for another candidate.

Yanukovich has until Tuesday to decide whether he will meet the president's demands.

The Socialist Party, which opposes economic reforms and Ukraine's joining NATO, would also join the proposed coalition.

The Socialists' participation in a new government could derail attempts by the United States to invite Ukraine to start negotiations for joining NATO at the alliance's meeting in Riga, Latvia, in November.

This "anticrisis" coalition - the third attempt at forming a coalition since the parliamentary elections - was brokered after marathon talks on Thursday and Friday.

The proposed coalition, however, would not include the other leader of the Orange Revolution, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, whose party, the Tymoshenko Bloc, came in second in the elections.

She has said she had no intention of supporting the anticrisis coalition and would join the opposition.

Tymoshenko was poised last week to become prime minister after the Orange Revolution parties won the support of the Socialist Party, led by Oleksandr O. Moroz.

But negotiations became bogged down by bitter rivalries and clashes between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, whose cooperation during the heady days of the Orange Revolution has all but evaporated.

Yushchenko repeatedly tried to block Tymoshenko from becoming prime minister, particularly since constitutional changes that took effect last January strengthened that post at the expense of the president.

There were disputes, too, over who would be president of the Parliament and who would lead the parliamentary committees.

Amid the political haggling, Moroz suddenly changed sides, saying he would join with the Party of the Regions. With support from the small Communist Party, Yanukovich said this week that he would establish the next government.

Moroz was rewarded by being elected president of the Parliament, a powerful position he had long sought.

Source: International Herald Tribune