Yanukovich Does Not Rule Out Tigipko As Ukraine PM

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President-elect Viktor Yanukovich said he would begin talks on forming a new coalition in parliament this week and may invite businessman-turned- politician Sergey Tigipko to serve as prime minister.

Sergey Tigipko

In a weekend interview with the BBC's Ukrainian service, Yanukovich said agreeing on who should replace Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko -- his rival in the presidential election earlier this month -- would be key to a new coalition.

Yanukovich, a burly ex-mechanic and veteran politician, won the election by a narrow margin and was officially declared President-elect on Sunday.

But his victory has not been recognised by Tymoshenko, who has accused him of rigging the vote and is likely to appeal the result.

Although she is unlikely to succeed, the move will prolong uncertainty in Ukraine, which has been hit by an economic crisis and is making do without a $16.4 billion IMF programme, suspended last year.

"I do not rule out the candidature of Tigipko. Tigipko is on the list which, in my opinion, will be discussed next week in parliament," Yanukovich said.

"I understand very well that the coalition will be created around the candidature of the next prime minister, so I will encourage the process of unifying parliament and the negotiating process will show how much parliament is willing to unite around one or another candidate," he said.

Tigipko returned to politics in the past year and secured for himself a strong negotiating position after he came a strong third in the first round of voting.

But other candidates have been touted too, among them former finance minister Mykola Azarov, who is a loyal ally of Yanukovich, and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a young former finance minister and one-time Speaker of parliament.

Yanukovich's supporters in parliament face a daunting task in creating a new coalition -- they must persuade other parties to join them as well as some supporters of current President Viktor Yushchenko, traditional rivals of Yanukovich.

Source: Kyiv Post