Ukraine Re-Forms Orange Coalition, Ends Deadlock

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's pro-Western governing coalition, rooted in the 2004 "Orange Revolution," was reinstated on Tuesday after months of deadlock, with Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko likely to remain in her job.

Newly elected Parliament Chairman, Volodymyr Lytvyn with Yulia Tymoshenko yesterday.

The new, expanded governing team, announced in parliament, will have to grapple with the effects of the world financial crisis which has hit the ex-Soviet state's steel and chemical industries and battered its banks and currencies.

The announcement all but ruled out for now the notion of a snap election which has hung over Ukraine for months.

It also appeared to end serious wrangling between Tymoshenko and President Viktor Yushchenko, allies during the 2004 mass rallies against election fraud but since turned rivals.

Groups led by the two antagonists will be joined in the new coalition by a faction led by the assembly's new chairman, Volodymyr Lytvyn.

"This coalition has recently looked far from likely and it will have to withstand the test of events," said independent analyst Oleksander Dergachyov.

"It cannot be viable unless there are changes in the relationship between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko."

Lytvyn announced the restoration of the coalition minutes after being elected to his post with backing from 244 members of the 450-seat assembly. The coalition can theoretically command up to 258 seats, though in practice it will be somewhat smaller.

Lytvyn, who earned a reputation as a skilled negotiator while parliamentary chairman from 2002 to 2006, said he saw few reasons to choose a new premier.

"We have a government, we have a prime minister," Lytvyn told journalists after announcing the coalition.

"Clearly, there will be proposals from the coalition on the make-up of the government. I see no legal grounds for substantial changes in the government and, first and foremost, the prime minister."

Ukraine has secured a $16.4 billion loan from the IMF. Its banking system is shaky, its currency plunging and its economy dependent on increasingly expensive energy from Russia, with which relations have deteriorated sharply since Yushchenko was swept to power by the 2004 protests.

Tim Ash, head of CEEMEA research at Royal Bank of Scotland, said a new government may not be enough to tackle the crisis.

"I would argue that you need a government to legislate - so that's positive," he said. "But the focus is on the central bank which is not driven by the government. It's driven more by Yushchenko."

The expanded coalition surprised many as Tymoshenko's bloc had been in talks with the Regions Party of ex-prime minister Viktor Yanukovich - the main target of the 2004 protests.

Yushchenko had denounced any notion of a coalition involving the politician he defeated in the contested presidential election which sparked the "Orange Revolution".

"This coalition was possible only because it is a lesser evil for the president than one between Tymoshenko and the Regions Party," said Volodymyr Fesenko of the Penta think tank.

Analysts said Tymoshenko almost certainly would have secured guarantees that she would remain in the job.

Parliament had been all but deadlocked since September when the president's Our Ukraine party walked out of its alliance with the premier's bloc after months of rows.

The president initially tried to resolve the conflict by dissolving the chamber and calling a snap election, but parliament and the government refused to finance the poll and in the face of the world financial crisis, he shelved the idea.

Following is a chronology of political events since the revolution.


Jan 23, 2005 - Yushchenko is sworn in as president following street protests in November and December against a fraudulent election won by then Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich. Tymoshenko is named the new prime minister within days.

Sept 8 - Yushchenko dismisses Tymoshenko's government after infighting. Yuri Yekhanurov, a presidential ally, replaces her.

Jan 10, 2006 - Parliament votes to remove the government over a gas deal with Russia that sharply raises imports prices.

March 26 - Yanukovich's Regions Party emerges as the largest party in a parliamentary election with 186 of 450 seats, but is outnumbered by the combined "Orange" score of 243. The Orange groups, however, fail to form a coalition after months of talks.


July 18 - A coalition made up of the president's opponents proposes Yanukovich as prime minister. He is approved a month later after promising not to reverse pro-Western policies.

Jan 12, 2007 - Yanukovich supporters pass law to reduce Yushchenko's control of the government, a blow to his authority.

March 13 - Yushchenko supporters storm out of parliament to back its demand that Ukraine stick to pro-Western policies.

April 2 - Yushchenko signs a decree dissolving the chamber, leading to months of turmoil over his call for a new election. Yanukovich eventually agrees to a new poll in September.

Sept 30 - "Orange" parties win a majority of 227 seats - one more than needed to win most votes in the 450-seat chamber.


Dec 18 - Parliament approves Tymoshenko as prime minister with 226 votes, the minimum number required to take office.

July 11, 2008 - Tymoshenko survives a no-confidence vote called in protest of her government's handling of high inflation and other economic ills.

Aug 18 - Yushchenko's deputy chief of staff accuses Tymoshenko of betraying national interests by not backing Georgia in its conflict with Russia.

Sept 3 - Our Ukraine, Yushchenko's allies, walk out of the "Orange" coalition after denouncing a joint vote by Tymoshenko's bloc and Yanukovich's party to reduce presidential powers. The president threatens to call an election.

Nov 12 - Yushchenko abandons plans to hold an early parliamentary election in 2008 and says officials should focus on coping with the effects of the global financial crisis.

Nov 26 - Tymoshenko issues a final warning to the president to end a row, threatening to team up with rival groups.

Dec 9 - The governing coalition is reinstated by newly elected Assembly chairman, Volodymyr Lytvyn.