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Ukraine: 'Orange' Coalition Deal Breaks Political Deadlock

Tymoshenko speaking to journalists after coalition talks with Yushchenko in March (epa) PRAGUE, June 22, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The country breathed a sigh of relief today when Yuliya Tymoshenko announced to Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, that the long negotiations on the composition of a coalition government were over.

"I have the great honor to announce the news for which all the country has been waiting, unfortunately, for three months. I want to announce that, as of now, a coalition of democratic forces comprising Our Ukraine, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, and the Socialist Party has been created," Tymoshenko said.

Listen to the announcement in Ukrainian (27 seconds):
Real Audio Windows Media

Inconclusive Elections

The need for a coalition arose from the failure of any party to win an outright majority in the March parliamentary elections. President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine came a distant third, while the largest single bloc was the Party of Regions of the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych, who led the opposition to the Orange Revolution.

The newly forged coalition will hold 243 of the 450 seats in the Verkhovna Rada. The Party of Regions and the Communist Party have 207 seats between them.

The former Orange Revolution allies have struggled to overcome deep personal antagonism between Tymoshenko and close members of Yushchenko's team, a hostility that dates back to Yushchenko's decision to fire Tymoshenko as prime minister in September 2005, a mere eight months into her term.

Yushchenko has in the past accused Tymoshenko of excessive ambition but has had to swallow his pride and accept her reinstatement as prime minister. Tymoshenko's bloc came second in the election and is now the biggest player in the coalition.

Tymoshenko Triumphant

As she savored her triumph today, she turned her attention to Yanukovych and the Party of Regions, which had hoped to exploit the divisions within the Orange coalition.

"You wanted to replace the slogan of the Orange Revolution, 'Bandits will sit in jail,' with 'Bandits will sit in ministerial chairs,'" Tymoshenko said of Yanukovych. "Nothing will come of it, esteemed friends!"

Petro Poroshenko (epa file photo)

One of the biggest obstacles to a final deal in the last few days has been Yushchenko's insistence that his ally, the confectionery and media magnate Petro Poroshenko, take the post of speaker. Poroshenko is one of Tymoshenko's most vocal critics.

It's not clear yet whether she has accepted his appointment. Government posts have already been distributed among the three coalition members, but it has not been announced who specifically will fill each post.

Whatever the case, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko now have to prove that they are capable of working together. Two years after the Orange Revolution, many of their former supporters feel betrayed. The economy is in a downward spiral, reform is bogged down in parliament, and the hopes of pro-Western development engendered in December 2004 have largely evaporated.

MORE: For coverage of breaking events in Ukrainian from RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.

The Key Players

The Key Players

BEHIND THE IMAGES: Click on the links below to read RFE/RL's profiles of some of the key players in Ukraine's March 26 legislative elections:

Click on the image for background and archived articles about Ukraine's March 26 elections.

Click on the image to see RFE/RL's coverage of the Ukrainian elections in Ukrainian.

Click on the image to view a photo gallery of some of the key players in the Ukrainian elections.

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