Tymoshenko Poised to Become Ukrainian PM

If the vote is confirmed, the pro-West parties behind 2004's Orange Revolution will try again to cooperate in a coalition government

The reform parties behind Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" appeared set to win national elections as results continued to be tallied on Monday morning. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's party improved its previous election result, increasing its seats in parliament from one-quarter to 33.38 percent, Ukraine's Central Election Commission reported on Monday.

With 29.99 percent, the Party of Regions of pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych fared second best. Meanwhile, the pro-Western Our Ukraine party of President Viktor Yushchenko scored 16.5 percent and the Yanukovych-aligned Communist Party 5 percent.

According to the Central Election Commission, about 60 percent of Ukraine's eligible voters turned out to cast ballots in Sunday's poll.

Exit polls on Sunday evening forecast Yanukovych's party leading, but in the end the pro-Western forces in Tymoshenko's party and Our Ukraine scored enough votes to form a government coalition. Exit polls in Ukraine are often unreliable because voter trends in the country's different regions can vary starkly.

On Sunday night, Tymoshenko said she planned to meet with Yushchenko on Monday to start talks to create a government. "In one or two days we will announce the coalition," she said, adding that it was just a question of time before "we hold our first government press conference."

Political Bottleneck

Tymoshenko and Yushchenko led the "Orange Revolution" at the end of 2004, but soon after relations between the two soured because of political differences. In 2005, Yushchenko fired Tymoshenko as his prime minister after only seven months in office. Soon afterwards, pro-Russian Yanukovych made a strong comeback in March 2006, landing in the office of prime minister.

Yushchenko called Sunday's snap election to end a political bottleneck caused by differences between his pro-Western party and its pro-Russian government coalition partner Yanukovych.

In April, Yanukovych fought bitterly against Yushchenko's efforts to dissolve parliament and call for new elections. He only agreed to the poll after months of negotiations -- saying that he expected his party to win and that he wouldn't accept any other result.

Meanwhile, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko -- who have what could best be described as a love-hate relationship -- want to give things another try in a new coalition government. But there will be points of contention from the beginning. After Yushchenko fired Tymoshenko in 2005, he was forced for the sake of political survival to bring Yanukovych's party into his government. Yanukovych then took advantage of his allies in parliament and weaknesses in the constitution, hastily drafted after the Orange Revolution, to undermine the role of the president to the greatest extent possible.

Tymoshenko has called for the drafting of a new constitution and she has said she would leave it up to the people to decide whether it should be presidential or parliamentary in nature. Yushchenko, for his part, has opposed the move.

It's also unclear if the two can find common ground on the issue of Ukraine's business magnates and oligarchs. Whereas Yushchenko is in a pact not to interfere with the oligarchs, Tymoshenko has made battling them one of her main campaign platforms. "We will never be associated with the oligarchs," she has said. Tymoshenko says she wants to rescue Ukraine from its corrupt magnates, oligarchs and their cronies in parliament.

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko could lock antlers, too, if she pushes through with her call to renationalize former state-owned businesses that were privatized under dubious circumstances and wound up in the hands of the oligarchs. Tymoshenko says she would like to reprivatize those companies under fairer terms and at a much higher price. There are indications, however, that Tymoshenko, officially fired by Yushchenko because she was incapable of being a team player, may compromise on the issue.

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