Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 115

Talks to establish a government coalition between President Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine, the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, and the Socialists have apparently fallen through. Our Ukraine has acquiesced to Tymoshenko’s demand to give her back the post of prime minister, which she lost in September 2005. This had been the main stumbling block for months before and after the March 26 general election. But Our Ukraine has not been ready to consider a new demand — which it branded an “ultimatum.” Now the Socialists are insisting that the post of parliamentary speaker go to their leader, Oleksandr Moroz. The talks among the three parties have stalled, and the prospect of a coalition between Our Ukraine and the Party of Regions (PRU) of Yushchenko’s former presidential election rival, Viktor Yanukovych, is looming again.

On June 7, when the new parliament failed to start to work for a second time because of the absence of a government coalition, the Socialists came up with a strong claim for the post of parliamentary speaker. As the constitutional amendments shifting the balance of power towards parliament and the cabinet and away from the president come into effect, the speaker’s post becomes even more attractive. Moroz’s ambition had been no secret for Our Ukraine, and Tymoshenko backed his claim for this position early in the talks.

Our Ukraine apparently did not object to Moroz as speaker as long as their main priority in the talks was securing the post of prime minister for an Our Ukraine member. But the situation radically changed during the past two weeks as Our Ukraine, albeit grudgingly, conceded to Tymoshenko’s demands. Now Our Ukraine and its leader, Yushchenko, believe that the speaker has to be from their party, as it scored more votes in the election than the Socialists. “A coalition should be set up bearing in mind the election results,” Yushchenko said in his Saturday radio address to the nation. “This means that the Tymoshenko Bloc, which scored more than 22%, can choose the post of prime minister or parliament speaker. Our Ukraine, which scored 14%, is entitled to be the second to claim the posts.”

The logic of the Socialists, however, is fundamentally different. They take the presidential election of 2004, not this year’s parliamentary poll, as the starting point, arguing that they deserve a reward for their contribution to Yushchenko’s hard-won victory. The Socialists say Our Ukraine already filled its quota of top positions, taking the post of president; Tymoshenko has secured what she wanted — the post of prime minister; so the third most important post in the state hierarchy should belong to the Socialists who are the third most popular party in the Orange Revolution coalition. “Our Ukraine can realize its potential through the post of president,” Moroz told TV viewers on June 7.

Yushchenko said in the radio address that the main reason for “the delay with the formation of a majority in parliament” has been “banal bargaining for portfolios,” rather than ideological differences. The Socialists, however, said in a statement on June 8 that Our Ukraine, in return for the post of speaker, had asked the Socialists to drop several of their ideological positions such as opposition to NATO accession and to land privatization.

Tymoshenko has sided with Moroz, accusing Our Ukraine of deliberately disrupting the talks in order to set up an alliance with the PRU. Speaking on June 10, she said that “the collapse of the talks” was “pre-planned” and that “money is paid for the creation of a certain unnatural coalition.” She also accused Our Ukraine of holding secret talks with the PRU. On June 11, Moroz alleged that Yushchenko had authorized secret talks with the PRU.

With Tymoshenko’s support secured, the Socialists are hinting that they would prefer early elections to a coalition with Our Ukraine in which the post of speaker would not be theirs. The amended constitution gives Yushchenko the right to disband parliament and call new elections if no majority is formed in parliament by June 24. A majority in parliament — 226 seats — would be impossible for Our Ukraine and Tymoshenko to set up without the Socialists unless Our Ukraine opted for an alliance with the PRU. Yushchenko, however, made it clear in his radio address that “there will be no repeat election.” Such an election would only strengthen the PRU, which must be at the peak of its popularity in the wake of the Russian language campaign in the east and south and the anti-NATO protests (see EDM, June 7).

On June 12, Our Ukraine issued a statement saying that further coalition talks make no sense, blaming “the collapse of the coalition talks” on Moroz’s ambitions. The most recent round of the trilateral talks on June 13 did not change anything, and at a press conference by the end of that day Our Ukraine leaders declared that they would not mind building a coalition with the PRU. This may have been the last nail into the coffin of the Orange coalition.

(UT1, June 7; Interfax-Ukraine, June 8; Channel 5, June 9, 12; Ukrayinska pravda, NTN TV, Radio Era, June 10; UNIAN, June 11; Inter TV, June 13)