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䳿 New York Times ()

03/28/2006 | Englishman
Ukraine in Political Gridlock as Coalition Effort Lags



By STEVEN LEE MYERS
Published: March 27, 2006
KIEV, Ukraine, March 27 Ukraine descended into political gridlock today as the parties that led in parliamentary elections jockeyed for advantage in appointing a newly empowered prime minister and government under President Viktor A. Yushchenko.

With no clear winner and one clear loser in an election that international observers today declared the country's freest since its independence from the Soviet Union nearly 15 years ago, there appeared to be little chance that a compromise would be found soon.

Mr. Yushchenko, who led the protests in 2004 against a fraudulent presidential election, appeared to have been stunned by an election that saw his party trail in a distant third place, with only 16 percent of the vote, with 55 percent of the ballots counted late today.

In brief remarks, he praised the vote as a victory for Ukraine's infant democracy, but neither he nor his aides discussed in detail the negotiations now under way behind closed doors over forming a government whose composition could be decisive in carrying out the domestic and foreign policy that Mr. Yushchenko promised when he became president.

Yulia V. Tymoshenko, the former partner and prime minister whose eponymous bloc outpolled Mr. Yushchenko's, said today that she remained confident that an alliance could still be formed among what she called the democratic forces who rode the popular uprising of 2004 to power before splintering last year over policy disputes, ego clashes and mutual accusations of corruption.

"The coalition had and continues to have a chance to be formed," said Ms. Tymoshenko, whose party received 23 percent of the votes, according to the preliminary results.

The Party of Regions, led by Mr. Yushchenko's rival, Viktor F. Yanukovich, received the largest percent of votes, with nearly 28. The results underscored the fractured nature of Ukraine's ethnic, social and geographic divisions, as well as the remarkable erosion of popular support for Mr. Yushchenko, who has suffered from economic decline and infighting.

In a sign of the bitterness between him and Ms. Tymoshenko, one of her advisers, Hyrhory M. Nemyrya, said that she had called the president after exit polls predicted her second-place finish, but that he had not returned the call. Instead, Mr. Yushchenko's office announced in a terse statement that he would meet with the leaders of all the leading parties on Tuesday, leaving open the possibility of a coalition that could include Mr. Yanukovich and exclude his erstwhile ally.

At the headquarters of Mr. Yushchenko's party, Our Ukraine, a spokesman said at midday that there would be no more announcements or briefings and that the building would close early. Ms. Tymoshenko pointedly warned against any parliamentary coalition that would include Mr. Yanukovich, whose government was accused of rigging the presidential election that Mr. Yushchenko ultimately won after a repeat second round. She said that would be a return "to square one."

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/27/international/europe/27cnd-ukraine.html


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