Ukraine's Pro-Yushchenko Bloc Moves Into Opposition

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s new, pro-Russian parliamentary majority stepped closer to power Tuesday after pro-western President Viktor Yushchenko’s bloc dropped its challenges, paving the way for an awkward and potentially unfriendly cohabitation, The Associated Press reported.

Yushchenko’s bloc declared itself in opposition to the 450-seat parliament’s new 239-person majority. But while lawmakers agreed to sit down to work for the first time, abandoning last week’s noisemaking and scuffles, hundreds of rival protesters — for and against the coalition — amassed outside parliament, forcing traffic to be rerouted and riot police to separate them.

“I propose to set aside emotions, ultimatums and ambitions and remember our common responsibility before the Ukrainian people,” lawmaker Anatoliy Kinakh from Yushchenko’s faction said, noting that the president’s bloc would formally take up its place in a constructive opposition “in the interest of our state and our people.”

This ex-Soviet republic has been in political turmoil since the March parliamentary election ended without a clear winner, widening the divide between Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east, which looks to Moscow, and the more nationalist, Ukrainian-speaking west, which dreams of shaking off the Kremlin’s influence.

After months of bickering between the former Orange Revolution allies, Yanukovych seized the initiative last week by persuading the president’s former ally, the Socialist Party, to suddenly switch sides.

Yushchenko had warned the new coalition, which also includes the Communists, was formed in violation of parliamentary procedures and the constitution, and the coalition moved to address these complaints by forming itself anew on Tuesday. It also re-nominated Yanukovych to be prime minister.

The new coalition has its power base in eastern Ukraine, and some analysts say it is likely to slow Ukraine’s march toward the European Union and NATO. Yanukovych was the Kremlin’s clear favorite in the 2004 fraud-marred presidential election, which prompted the Orange Revolution mass protests.

“I want people of good will, intelligent people who don’t consider Ukraine’s independence, its national identity, to be empty words, I want them to understand that a political coup is taking place today in parliament,” Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the Orange Revolution’s most fiery orators, said Tuesday in parliament.

Tymoshenko proposed that her party, which came in second in the March election behind Yanukovych’s, unite with Yushchenko’s bloc to give up their mandates, saying that would make parliament illegitimate. Other lawmakers, however, said the plan was unrealistic; it also appeared unlikely to win much support.

Tymoshenko also kept up her push for Yushchenko to dissolve parliament and call new elections. The president will gain that right as of July 25 if no government is formed by then. He can provoke that situation by refusing to sign off on Yanukovych’s nomination to be premier by that date.

Oleksandr Kyrlov, a veterinarian, hopes Yushchenko does just that. “Our lawmakers have no moral values. So now we need to last till the end and get new elections,” said the 26-year-old who was among the protesters outside the parliament Tuesday.

But Yushchenko, whose party took a beating in the March election, coming in third place, appeared reluctant to dissolve parliament. Polls have shown that a majority of Ukrainians don’t want new elections, and they also signaled that Yushchenko’s party could do even worse if a new vote were held.

Yanukovych’s party pleaded for cooperation. “People are tired of the conflict, people don’t understand why they are being called to the street when they should be working,” said Yevhen Kushnaryov, a top lawmaker from Party of Regions.

Source: MosNews