March 23, 2006

Ukraine poll may roll back Orange Revolution ideals

By Ron Popeski

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine holds a crucial election this
weekend that could decide whether a resurgence of those backing
renewed links with Russia could threaten the pro-Western ideals
of President Viktor Yushchenko's "Orange Revolution."

With the party of Yushchenko's old nemesis, Viktor
Yanukovich, well ahead in surveys for Sunday's parliamentary
vote, the "Orange" liberals in charge since the heady street
protests of late 2004 seem likely to lose much ground.

Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party lies second in surveys for
the outcome of the election to decide the make-up of an
assembly endowed with new powers and able to choose the prime

Lying third is Yushchenko's estranged ally Yulia
Tymoshenko, sacked as prime minister last year, and now running

The only real certainty is that a coalition will be needed
-- with a marriage of convenience between Yushchenko's party
and Yanukovich's Regions Party a strong possibility.

With 45 parties running in all, long talks on various
permutations seem inevitable. People are talking months rather
than weeks before a new government is formed.

Yushchenko, his dream of integrating quickly with the West
battered by months of government infighting, held out hope that
the election would patch together the liberal camp.

"I believe the ideal option would be a renewed 'Orange'
team," the president told Kommersant Ukraine daily.

"Amazing things could happen if we are talking about
implementing aims and ideals. The breath of fresh air people
have had means no going back to living like two years ago."

Yushchenko's election turfed out a Moscow-backed
establishment and ushered in what liberals hoped would be a
drive to membership of the European Union and NATO.

Within months, his government split into factions accusing
each other of corruption. Tymoshenko's dismissal left voters
wondering out loud why they had stood for days on end in the
snow in Kiev's Independence square.

Slow export markets and fright over Tymoshenko's calls for
of a mass review of privatizations sent the economy into a
slowdown, compounded by a deal raising the price of Russian


Yanukovich, humiliated by his 2004 loss in the re-run
election, is now riding high as the pivotal figure in talks.

He told Reuters one option was getting back his job as
prime minister, this time with more powers, to rebuild ties
with Russia and correct "errors made by those now in power."

The president has asked supporters to wait and see what
coalition deal might be struck but has not ruled out an
"Orange-Blue" power-sharing combination with Yanukovich.

For some, a deal with the man linked to the "criminal
authorities" removed by the revolution is too much to stomach.

"I ask the president: Has he any intention of forming a
coalition with the Regions Party? I consider the absence of a
reply silent endorsement of this union," Tymoshenko, a key
figure who roused crowds in Independence Square, said this

Yushchenko's retort to his former ally was unequivocal --
and exposed the reduced chances of healing the "Orange Team."

"We must learn the lessons of why the orange coalition
collapsed," he told a television talk show. "It was the failure
to recognize the position of one's partners, it was insincere
behavior, it was behind-the-scenes intrigue."