Tuesday, February 14, 2006

KIEV — Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, facing a likely humiliation in parliamentary elections at the hands of the man he ousted in the 2004 Orange Revolution, is looking for salvation from the woman he spurned: former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Disillusionment among his supporters and disarray within his government have left Mr. Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine bloc trailing badly in polls for the March elections behind the Party of the Regions led by Viktor Yanukovych, the man whose suspect election in November 2004 was reversed after weeks of street protests.

Third place — and potentially the balance of power — is expected to go to Mrs. Tymoshenko, Mr. Yushchenko’s photogenic ally throughout the revolution and his first prime minister. She and her entire Cabinet were fired last summer in the face of burgeoning complaints of continuing corruption.

The prospect that Mr. Yanukovych, a protege of the discredited former President Leonid Kuchma, could become prime minister has sent Our Ukraine scurrying into talks with Mrs. Tymoshenko to try to patch up the alliance.

Mrs. Tymoshenko, reportedly bitter over her firing, is keeping her intentions private.

It has been a short, hard fall from the heady days of the Orange Revolution, when Mr. Yushchenko and Mrs. Tymoshenko stood hand in hand before tens of thousands of idealistic young supporters in Kiev’s Independence Square.

The protesters set up tent camps in defiance of police and the city’s bitter winter, eventually prompting the courts to overturn the suspect election of Mr. Yanukovych and order a new election, which was won handily by Mr. Yushchenko on Dec. 26, 2004.

“There’s a lot of disappointment in the government,” said Vasyl Mospan, 23, one of those who spent three weeks in the cold that year. He says he is proud he participated in the uprising, but has concerns about his country’s political leadership.

“People wanted greater changes, and that’s what they were told they would get. So far, though, that hasn’t happened,” he said.

Other former protesters complain that Mr. Yushchenko has not carried through on his most vocal promises: to end corruption, to prosecute former officials involved in suspected fraud and to bring about economic growth.

The sense of disillusionment is fed further by infighting among the forces that shaped the revolution.

“There have been a lot of mistakes, even in relation to Yulia,” said a government worker who agreed to discuss the matter on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Yushchenko fired Mrs. Tymoshenko’s government less than eight months after he appointed her as prime minister, saying he no longer could tolerate backbiting by political allies.

Although anticipated by many analysts, the firing created open warfare between the president and Mrs. Tymoshenko. The two publicly appeared amicable during the campaign, although they share a private enmity, insiders say.

The political bickering has picked up steam in recent weeks.

The government worker complained that the Cabinet has become a revolving door of ministers. “What we have is chaos, and with the upcoming elections, it’s only getting worse.”

As a concession to his political opponents, Mr. Yushchenko agreed last year to constitutional changes that transferred some of the presidential powers to the parliament. As soon as the changes took effect, the parliament fired the Cabinet that had been named to replace Mrs. Tymoshenko’s.

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