- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2007

KIEV, UkraineUkrainian President Viktor Yushchenko put ill feelings aside yesterday, embracing opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko and saying the only logical outcome of Sunday’s snap parliamentary elections was a victory by the country’s democratic forces.

“We have only one option and that is forming a democratic coalition. Period. And I mean period,” Mr. Yushchenko said after hugging Mrs. Tymoshenko, who has had a tumultuous relationship with the country’s leader since he fired her from her position as prime minister in 2005.

Sunday’s poll is intended to end a political stalemate that has plagued the country since Viktor Yanukovych, who lost the 2004 presidential race to Mr. Yushchenko, replaced Mrs. Tymoshenko.

Of the 20 parties running, early polls indicate that Mr. Yanukovych’s pro-Russian Regions Party will win about 30 percent of the vote. The Communists, the Region’s political ally, are expected to get at least 3 percent of the popular vote, the number necessary to win a place in the 450-seat legislature.

But some analysts predict that Mr. Yushchenko’s revamped Our Ukraine-Self Defense (OU-SD) and theYulia Tymoshenko Electoral Bloc could win enough votes for a slight parliamentary majority.

That would allow them to form a new government and move forward with ambitious reforms promised during Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution.

“What we started together in the square was only the beginning,” Mrs. Tymoshenko told the president, referring to Kiev’s Independence Square, the site of mass demonstrations in 2004 to protest election fraud.

“It is certain the democratic forces will win. I support your thinking 300 percent,” she said. In a reversal from past months, Mr. Yushchenko indicated this week that Mrs. Tymoshenko would again be appointed prime minister if the so-called Orange forces win Sunday’s election.

Mr. Yushchenko, who took office in early 2005, fired Mrs. Tymoshenko eight months into his presidency because of political infighting.

Since then, he has lost support among his voters, many of whom have been disillusioned with his policies, while Mrs. Tymoshenko’s star has risen as opposition leader.

U.S. ambassador William Taylor told Western observers during a briefing yesterday that the West hopes for free and fair elections on Sunday.

“Ukraine has shown itself to be the leader in democratic practices in this region,” he said. If the elections are free and fair, it would “show that a largely Slavic post-Soviet country can make it.”

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