Yulia Tymoshenko’s desire to return to the prime minister’s chair has become the main obstacle to restoring the Orange Revolution coalition in order to form a majority in Ukraine’s newly elected parliament. President Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine bloc has rejected Tymoshenko’s demand that the distribution of key posts should precede the drafting of an action plan for the coalition. Tymoshenko, in return, has accused Yushchenko’s team of foul play. The junior partners in a would-be tripartite coalition, the Socialist Party (SPU) of Oleksandr Moroz, have apparently sided with Tymoshenko, who offered to them the post of speaker of parliament.
On April 13, Tymoshenko, Our Ukraine, and the SPU signed a protocol on the procedure to form a coalition of democratic forces. This was the first document signed by the three parties after weeks of difficult talks, and most local observers viewed it as a sure sign that the Orange Coalition will be revived. Tymoshenko considered the protocol her personal victory, as its Clause 6 said that the coalition would be based on the draft coalition memorandum, which was prepared ahead of the March 26 election but never signed. The draft memorandum reportedly provided for assigning the post of prime minister to the party that scored most votes among the participants in the accord. Tymoshenko’s bloc mustered more votes than Our Ukraine and the SPU combined, so she thought it legitimate to claim the post.
Yushchenko’s People’s Union/Our Ukraine party, however, on April 14 rejected Clause 6, approving the rest of the protocol. The rejection of Tymoshenko’s main condition was formalized by Our Ukraine on April 19. Yushchenko approved the exclusion of Clause 6, telling journalists on April 15, “It is unadvisable to divide portfolios before we approve the general political principles.” The SPU, however, approved the protocol without reservations, and criticized Our Ukraine’s move, saying it jeopardized the coalition talks.
Tymoshenko went further than that. At a press conference on April 18, she said that Yushchenko’s teammates, Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, former secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Petro Poroshenko, and leader of the Our Ukraine parliamentary faction Mykola Martynenko had persuaded Yushchenko to form a parliamentary coalition with the opposition Party of Regions of Viktor Yanukovych (PRU), which won the election, rather than with Tymoshenko. She also claimed that Poroshenko and Martynenko conspired to arrest her chief aide, Oleksandr Turchynov, who was Security Service chief in her cabinet in 2005. Tymoshenko also offered a carrot to the SPU, saying that SPU leader Oleksandr Moroz should be offered the post of parliamentary speaker in line with coalition accords.
Our Ukraine issued a statement on the same day rejecting all of Tymoshenko’s accusations and saying that she had torpedoed the coalition “by reducing the talks to securing the post of prime minister for herself and the post of parliamentary speaker for Moroz.” The SPU, however, issued a statement backing Tymoshenko’s point on the distribution of posts.
The SPU and Tymoshenko want to hurry up with distributing portfolios, afraid that Our Ukraine may opt for a coalition with the PRU. Their fears are not totally ungrounded. Yekhanurov has said on many occasions that he does not reject a “grand coalition” including the PRU as a fourth partner. In such an alliance, the role of the SPU as the smallest party would be naturally diminished, and it would be next to impossible for Tymoshenko to become prime minister. She has already made it clear that she would not join such a coalition.
Yekhanurov is not the only member of Yushchenko’s team who has considered an alliance with the PRU. Yushchenko’s long-time aide Vira Ulyanchenko told 1+1 TV that the PRU might be included in the coalition, and that the PRU would share the goal of joining the European Union with Our Ukraine, as this corresponds to the big business interests that are behind the PRU. Yushchenko’s economic adviser Oleksandr Paskhaver told a briefing on April 19 that the PRU’s “right-wing” economic program is closer to Our Ukraine’s ideology than Tymoshenko’s platform, which he described as leftist. As for the SPU, it is a leftist party; what’s more, it rejects NATO membership, which is one of the main points on Our Ukraine’s foreign agenda.
Officially, Our Ukraine keeps saying that the democratic ideals of the Orange Revolution, which then defeated the PRU, leave no alternative to a union with Tymoshenko and the SPU. Our Ukraine, however, insists that the coalition’s principles and goals should come first, and that the distribution of posts, including that of prime minister, is of secondary importance. “The availability of clearly stated and agreed programmatic goals and rules for a coalition should make it easy to solve personnel matters,” Our Ukraine ideologists Ihor Zhdanov and Vitaly Bondzyk said in a recent article for Ukrayinska pravda. Our Ukraine makes it clear that it would hold Tymoshenko, for whom the post of prime minister is of primary importance, liable for a possible failure to re-establish the Orange Coalition.
(Razom.org.ua, April 13; 1+1 TV, April 13, 17; 5 Kanal, April 15,18; Interfax-Ukraine, April 18, 19; Ukrayinska pravda, Silski Visti, April 20; Radio Era, April 23)