PRAGUE, April 6, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The Our Ukraine People's Union (NSNU), the leading party in the Our Ukraine election bloc, yesterday said it had offered its former Orange Revolution allies the chance to form a coalition.
NSNU said it had decided to team up with the bloc led by former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko and Oleksandr Moroz's Socialist Party and that it had drafted a protocol of intent to that effect.
But both Tymoshenko and Moroz today rejected the offer. Addressing reporters at a joint press briefing with the Socialist Party leader, Tymoshenko accused the pro-presidential party of dragging its feet for political purposes.
"I know for sure that these guys would rather eat their own hands than sign a memorandum under which our political force would have the right to form a government," Tymoshenko said.
The NSNU, Tymoshenko's bloc, and the Socialists collectively garnered more than 42 percent of the vote in the March 26 legislative election. Together they would control 243 seats in the 450-member parliament, or Verkhovna Rada.
If completed, the new alliance would be similar to the one that was set up in the wake of Viktor Yushchenko's election in December 2004.
Addressing reporters ahead of Tymoshenkos and Moroz's press briefing, Yushchenko said he hoped the upcoming coalition would not meet the fate of its predecessor.
"Such a coalition existed eight months ago," Yushchenko said. "It fell apart. Lessons have been [learned]. The problems that made the previous coalition fall apart have been resolved. How lasting is this [new] coalition going to be? I'm sure everything depends on trust, on the sincerity of declared values, and on individual actions."
Once Bitten, Twice Shy
Ukraine's first post-revolution coalition collapsed when Yushchenko last September dismissed Tymoshenko's cabinet amid infighting over privatization and accusations of corruption among high-ranking government officials.
Tymoshenko's bloc finished second in the March 26 election with nearly 23 percent of the vote. The pro-Yushchenko Our Ukraine bloc finished third with just 14 percent.
Ukrainian media reports suggest a vast majority of NSNU leaders oppose the idea of having Tymoshenko run the government again.
The former prime minister has pledged that, should she return to office, she would amend some of Yushchenko's policies. She has notably threatened to review a controversial gas deal with Russia that the Ukrainian president insists is good for the country.
But Yushchenko has made it clear that he wants the future coalition to fulfill his program.
The Ukrainian president has mandated Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov and NSNU Political Council Chairman Roman Bezsmertnyy to agree on a future coalition program with his potential allies.
Bezsmertnyy today said no negotiations on ministry portfolios would be held until an agreement is reached on how the governing alliance should work.
"The coalition should be united around the president's program and coalition members cannot present ultimatums, including regarding candidates for specific posts in the government and in parliament," Bezsmertnyy said.
In his first comments since the March 26 election, Yushchenko on April 1 accused Ukraine's political leaders of being more interested in vying for cabinet posts than working for the good of the country.
In addition, the president today warned his prospective coalition partners that they should pay more attention to those voters who backed his rival in the bitterly contested 2004 presidential election --Viktor Yanukovych.
Yanukovych's Party of Regions, which is deeply rooted in Ukraine's Russian-speaking eastern areas and in southern Crimea, finished first in the March 26 polls with nearly one-third of the votes.
In Yushchenko's words, steps need be taken to overcome the traditional divide between Ukraine's regions.
He said: "The [new] coalition must find enough courage in itself to give the proper answers so that calls [for federalism] are not heard again."