- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2006

KIEV — Ukraine’s fiery heroine of the 2004 Orange Revolution, Yulia Tymoshenko, called on her estranged former ally, President Viktor Yushchenko, to rejoin her in a coalition to keep the pro-Moscow candidate out of power, even though he got the most votes.

Mrs. Tymoshenko, who was fired from her post as prime minister by Mr. Yushchenko and wants the job back, insisted that a united front was the only way to protect the pro-Western and democratic ideals that formed the basis of the Orange Revolution.

But Mr. Yushchenko — smarting from his third-place finish in Sunday’s parliamentary elections — said he is keeping his options open and will hold talks with Viktor Yanukovych, whose ballot-stuffing bid to win the presidency in 2004 triggered the protests.

Mr. Yushchenko’s office said he will meet today with the heads of parties that made it to parliament in the vote, including Mr. Yanukovych.

The terse statement said the president will hold a “series of political consultations” with leaders of his Our Ukraine party, Mr. Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions, Mrs. Tymoshenko’s bloc and the Socialists.

The statement also cast doubt on hopes to reunite the fractured Orange Revolution forces.

Mr. Yushchenko has said he would favor an Orange coalition, but he seemed reluctant to accept the idea of Mrs. Tymoshenko returning to the No. 2 job. In firing her in September, he accused her of carrying on a behind-the-scenes struggle for power that caused the allies to implode amid accusations and recriminations.

“I have not seen the president for a long time, and we have a lot to discuss,” Mrs. Tymoshenko said, adding that she thinks they can reach agreement.

With a little more than half of the ballots counted, the Central Election Commission said the Party of the Regions received 27.4 percent of the vote, Mrs. Tymoshenko’s bloc got 23.4 percent, and Mr. Yushchenko’s party got about 16 percent.

Mr. Yushchenko’s job was not at stake, but the newly elected parliament will have vast new powers under reforms that give it the right to name — and dismiss — the prime minister and much of the Cabinet. With no party getting a majority of the votes, the next step will be to form a coalition of at least 226 of the parliament’s 450 seats to form the government.

The White House commended Ukraine’s elections even though they were a setback for Mr. Yushchenko’s Western-leaning administration.

“All indications are that this appears to be a free and fair election,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. “I think that stands in stark contrast to what we saw in Belarus.”

The re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus on March 19, in a vote called unfair by the West, has triggered a wave of protests from opposition supporters.

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