Ukraine's Orange Coalition Falls Apart

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's Western-leaning Orange coalition fell apart in acrimony Friday less than a month after its formation, boosting the fortunes of the pro-Russian opposition in this former Soviet republic.

Leader of the pro-Russian Party of Regions, Viktor Yanukovych, talks to lawmakers in the parliament session hall, in Ukraine's capital Kiev late Thursday, July 6, 2006. Ukraine's Western-leaning Orange coalition fell apart acrimoniously Friday and the Party of Regions proposed Yanukovych for the prime minister's job and would start coalition talks with the Socialists and Communists.

The split underscored divisions in the country between the mainly Russian-speaking east and south and the Ukrainian-speaking west, and the country's strategic dilemma between close ties with Russia and integration with the West.

The crumbling of the coalition, after the Socialist Party broke ranks to get its leader elected as parliament speaker, led to a swift realignment of forces: The opposition Party of Regions - which won the most seats in the March parliamentary elections but not a majority - announced its intention to form a coalition with the Socialists and Communists.

"The doors are open for everyone," the Party of Regions' leader Viktor Yanukovych said in parliament. Later, a senior lawmaker from the Party of Regions, Taras Chornovil, said that his party proposed Yanukovych for the prime minister's job and would start coalition talks with the Socialists and Communists.

The Socialists said they were ready to join a broad coalition that also included President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party. Socialist leader and parliament speaker Oleksandr Moroz called for a "wide coalition, as today we cannot continue a policy that divides Ukraine."

Ukraine has been without a new government since the March vote, and Yushchenko warned that he could dissolve parliament - a move that would lead to new elections - if a government is not formed within a constitutionally mandated period that ends July 20.

After weeks of tense bargaining, the three parties involved in the 2004 Orange Revolution agreed last month to form a coalition under a deal that would give Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party the speaker's post and return the prime minister's job to his estranged ally Yulia Tymoshenko.

But lawmakers on Thursday unexpectedly elected Moroz as speaker, provoking accusations of betrayal from Yushchenko's and Tymoshenko's parties. The president's party declared the Orange coalition over, blaming the Socialists for joining up with the Communists and Party of Regions.

Yushchenko left it unclear whether his party would consider joining with the Party of Regions, saying that "today a broader coalition would be more realistic," but adding that "the course of the president and the course of the new majority might differ."

Mykhailo Pohrebinsky, head of the Center for Political Research and Conflict Studies, said a coalition of the Party of Regions, Socialists and Communists, possibly with elements of Our Ukraine, would be in constant conflict with Yushchenko.

Yanukovych was Yushchenko's Kremlin-backed opponent in the 2004 presidential election that sparked the mass protests dubbed the Orange Revolution. Yanukovych won the election, but it was declared invalid and Yushchenko was elected in a court-ordered repeat vote.

The majority coalition formed in June reunited the central parties in the Orange Revolution, who had fallen out with each other after Yushchenko took office amid deep personal rivalry between the president and Tymoshenko.

Yushchenko, whose party finished a humiliating third in the March elections, agreed that Tymoshenko would be nominated to return to the premiership - from which he had fired her last September. But in return his party insisted on getting the powerful speaker's job.

The latest political crisis erupted Thursday only hours after the Party of Regions ended a 10-day parliament blockade that paralyzed the legislature's work and prevented the formation of the new government.

Tymoshenko slammed her pro-Russian opponents for their attempt to get into government.

"The criminals are coming back," she said.

Source: AP