Ukraine’s orange allies upbeat, tough talks loom

Orange Revolution supporters claimed victory over allies of Ukraine’s prime minister in a snap parliamentary election, but the two camps face tough talks on Monday to forge a viable coalition.

President Viktor Yushchenko dissolved Parliament in April, accusing his rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, of a grab for power by buying the allegiance of parliamentary deputies to boost his majority and change the constitution.

Difficult talks on a government coalition still appear inevitable after the election.

Yanukovich says his Regions Party’s first place finish gives it the right to preside over the formation of a new government.

His orange adversaries, led by former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, reject any such alliance and say they have enough seats to build a coalition on their own.

Ukraine is reeling after months of the latest stand-off pitting Yushchenko, swept to power in the 2004 orange protests, against Yanukovich, his beaten rival in that upheaval.

Two exit polls gave a slight edge to the combined tally of orange groups — about 45% to 40%. They put Yanukovich’s party in the lead. Tymoshenko’s orange bloc at strong second, followed by its ally, the pro-presidential Our Ukraine party.

With 29% of the vote counted early on Monday, Tymoshenko’s bloc was ahead with 33,05%, followed by the Regions party at 30,38%, according to the website of the Central Election Commission. Our Ukraine had 15,79%.

”I believe no one can diminish or deny the victory Ukraine has scored,” a beaming Tymoshenko, sporting her trademark braid, told reporters. ”Everything will work out. In a matter of weeks we will hold our first government news conference.”

Defiance

The prime minister was defiant.

”This significant support from the Ukrainian people … gives carte blanche to the Regions Party to form a new, successful government,” a stern Yanukovich, who took no questions, told journalists.

”As winners of this election — and I am certain we have won with a strong result — we have the right to form a coalition.”

The centrist bloc of former parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn staged a surprise by clearing the 3% barrier to win seats in the chamber.

Lytvyn, who was chief of staff to former president Leonid Kuchma, has not said which of the two camps he will back.

”Lytvyn’s bloc can equally swing in either direction, because he originally built his campaign on criticism of both the opposition and the ruling coalition,” said analyst Oleksander Lytvynenko.

”But Lytvyn’s first steps will be made in the direction of [orange] democratic forces.”

Adding to the uncertainty, votes from 15 groups that scored less than 3% must be redistributed among the winners.

Differences in orientation towards the West and Russia, key issues in 2004 in this former Soviet state of 47-million, were all but absent from this campaign. – Reuters

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