KYIV (Reuters) -- Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has accused Ukraine's president of destroying the gains of the 2004 "Orange Revolution" in a stunning attack that virtually sinks any chances of them rebuilding their coalition.
Politicians began talks to revive the "orange" partnership in parliament that was dissolved on September 16 or find another combination able to command a majority. Failure to reach agreement would force Ukraine into its third parliamentary election in as many years.
The coalition unraveled when President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party abandoned its alliance with Tymoshenko's bloc.
Tymoshenko used her firebrand oratory to shore up Yushchenko in the 2004 pro-Western street protests against electoral fraud.
But today she turned the force of her rhetoric on him with a blistering attack that all but did away with any hope of a quick reconciliation.
"Since 2004, this president has managed to destroy everything: people's faith in the ideals of the revolution and faith in the president himself -- only 5 percent still support him," she told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
"Unfortunately, this president will leave a legacy of shattered remnants of the 'orange' promises and democratic coalitions, of his own team and even of his friends and his own political standing."
The premier said she was unafraid of an election, pointing to her bloc's lead in many opinion polls. But holding a poll in the current world financial crisis, she said, was ill advised.
"In such conditions, it is irresponsible to plunge the country into an early election, though should that situation occur, we have no reservations," Tymoshenko said.
Our Ukraine quit the coalition after denouncing Tymoshenko's voting alliance in parliament with opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych, the main adversary of "orange" forces in 2004.
The president also accused her of going soft on Russia's intervention in Georgia and hurting a bid to join NATO. Tymoshenko says the president has spoiled relations with Moscow.
Named prime minister within days of the president taking office, Tymoshenko was dismissed seven months later amid mutual accusations of corruption. She became premier a second time late last year, but the two have since sniped continually.
On September 16, the president again said that Tymoshenko's alliance with Yanukovych hurt the national interest.
Should it prove impossible to piece together the "orange" coalition, several alternative combinations have been mooted, among them a formal deal between the Regions Party and Tymoshenko's bloc -- the two largest groups in the chamber.
That could pose a risk for Tymoshenko as some supporters in nationalist western and central Ukraine might find an alliance with Yanukovych -- closer to Russia -- distasteful.
Polls show Tymoshenko's bloc and the Regions Party vying for the lead in a parliamentary election, with Our Ukraine far behind. Yushchenko's personal rating has sunk to single figures.
Earlier today, the chairman of parliament, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said he was stepping down. Yatsenyuk had long said he would quit if the coalition collapsed and analysts said the move was symbolic to enable coalition talks to proceed.
"Yatsenyuk is a sort of bargaining chip and he has done this to avoid making it look too obvious," said independent analyst Oleksander Dergachyov.
Yatsenyuk, 34, is a rising star of Ukrainian politics and a longstanding ally of the president, elected to parliament on the Our Ukraine ticket. He had previously been foreign minister and first deputy head of the central bank.