PRAGUE, March 27, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainian pollsters announced the results of three separate nationwide exit polls immediately after voting for the March 26 parliamentary elections came to a close.
All three polls had the elections being won by the Party of Regions led by former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych -- President Viktor Yushchenko's main rival in the 2004 presidential elections.
The exit polls predict that Yanukovych's party will win from 27-31 percent of the vote when official results are announced on March 28, which could translate into as many as 183 mandates in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada. The Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc will finish second with 22-24 percent of the vote, while the pro-Yushchenko Our Ukraine will follow with about 15 percent, according to the polls.Just Like Old Times?
These predicted results suggest that the three forces that made up the core of the 2004 Orange Revolution -- the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, Our Ukraine, and the Socialist Party -- could together account for more than 226 parliamentary seats -- enough to allow them to form a new cabinet. Such a cabinet could depend on the support of between 229 and 257 deputies in parliament.
President Yushchenko has signaled that he is primarily inclined to seek another coalition with Yuliya Tymoshenko, whom he fired as prime minister in September 2005. "Tomorrow we will start consultations with the political forces that formed the previous administration and the same forces that won the Orange Revolution," he said after casting his ballot in Kyiv on March 26. "We will begin talks tomorrow morning, and this may give us an opportunity to develop a political strategy in the negotiations process -- and the early message is that we are looking to lay the foundation for the negotiations process."
After the polls closed, Tymoshenko went a step further, asserting that her bloc has essentially agreed on a renewed coalition accord with Our Ukraine and the Socialist Party and is ready to sign it as soon as March 27. "I can say that at this moment, our party, the Socialist Party, and the Our Ukraine party have fully agreed on the text of a coalition agreement," she said.
Tymoshenko said that under the agreement the political force finishing first among the three potential coalition partners would have the right to propose a candidate to form the next government. This, in effect, means that Tymoshenko will make a bid to regain the premiership she lost in September 2005.Hurdles To 'Orange' Coalition Remain
A renewed Orange alliance would have to overcome the internal strife that proved to be its downfall when it led the government from January-August 2005.
The biggest obstacle would be finding a way for Tymoshenko and Our Ukraine officials to work together after she accused some prominent members of the pro-presidential party of corrupt practices last year. If Tymoshenko becomes prime minister, such Orange Revolution combatants as Petro Poroshenko, Oleksandr Tretyakov, and David Zhvaniya -- all of whom were singled out by Tymoshenko -- would likely be reluctant to cooperate fully with her either as cabinet members or as Our Ukraine representatives in a joint parliamentary coalition.
A second hurdle would be finding common ground with the Socialist Party, whose participation is seen as essential if an Orange coalition is to be restored. The Socialist Party is ideologically and programmatically incompatible with Our Ukraine and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc. This became evident in 2005, when Socialist lawmakers repeatedly voted against World Trade Organization-oriented legislation proposed by the government in which their party had several ministers.
In addition, the Socialist Party's staunch opposition to Ukraine joining NATO and the privatization of land have undermined Yushchenko's efforts to implement the reforms he promised during and after the Orange Revolution.Our Ukraine-Party Of Regions Coalition?
If the Orange coalition cannot be pieced back together, the possibility of Our Ukraine joining forces with the election-winning Party of Regions is still open. In theory, such a coalition could form a government enjoying solid parliamentary support.
Immediately after the March 26 vote, Yanukovych indicated that such a development might be possible. "The Party of Regions has gained a decisive victory, and we are ready to assume a huge responsibility on behalf of the Ukrainian people -- for political, economic, and social stability in the country," he said. "We are ready to take responsibility to form a government, and we call on everybody who holds Ukraine's fate dear to join us."
But if the official results confirm the exit polls' predictions, it would appear that a Tymoshenko-Yushchenko reunion would make a happier political marriage than one between the former rivals in the bitterly disputed presidential race in 2004
This is because Tymoshenko campaigned on a ticket of returning to Orange Revolution ideals, and the support she received in this election would indicate that those who stood behind Yushchenko and Tymoshenko during that political movement want to see the two revolutionary heroes working together once again.
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