Ukraine leader, ex-rival strike deal

Yushchenko turns to Orange Revolution foe to get choice for prime minister approved

September 23, 2005|By Alex Rodriguez

KIEV, UKRAINE -- Struggling to find a way out of his country's deepening political crisis, President Viktor A. Yushchenko persuaded parliament to back his choice for prime minister yesterday, but only after striking a deal with the politician thousands of Ukrainians rallied against during last year's Orange Revolution.

Parliament's approval of Yuriy Yekhanurov came just two days after lawmakers had rejected his nomination. He replaces Yushchenko's Orange Revolution ally, Yulia Tymoshenko, whom Yushchenko fired Sept. 8 amid allegations of corruption.

To secure the votes he needed, Yushchenko reached an accord with his rival in the hotly disputed presidential election last year, Viktor F. Yanukovych, prime minister under former President Leonid D. Kuchma. Yanukovych, now an opposition leader, committed his party's 50 votes in exchange for a variety of concessions from Yushchenko, including the drafting of a law granting amnesty to people accused of vote-rigging.

Vote-rigging allegations against Yanukovych's campaign drew legions of protesters into Kiev's Independence Square last winter. Yanukovych declared victory over Yushchenko in the presidential contest, but the huge outpouring of public anger against Yanukovych led to a court-ordered rerun of the election, which Yushchenko won.

Yekhanurov needed 226 votes in parliament and received 289. In remarks broadcast nationally, Yushchenko hailed parliament's approval of Yekhanurov as a significant step in Ukraine's democratic transformation.

"Over the last few weeks we have undergone a unique lesson, a lesson of self-cleansing," Yushchenko said. "But the most interesting thing is that as a result, we have been left with one thing -- there is no alternative to the democratic process."

Yekhanurov, a one-time Yushchenko aide, is regarded as a technocrat and a safe choice with no political ambitions of his own. He said he would announce his team next week.

Still far from clear is what tack Tymoshenko will take. She leads a 40-member bloc in parliament, but more important, the charismatic Ukrainian was widely regarded as the inspirational force behind last year's Independence Square demonstrations. In the role of archrival, she could pose a formidable roadblock to Yushchenko's plans.

Yesterday, Mykola Tomenko, a Tymoshenko ally and former deputy prime minister, criticized Yushchenko's new alliance with Yanukovych as a betrayal of the ideals that drove the Orange Revolution. "Today a phase of history associated with Independence Square has ended," Tomenko said. "A new one begins, one that resembles the values and approach of the Kuchma regime."

Other concessions Yushchenko agreed to included assurances that opposition parliament members would keep certain key committee posts and that opposition candidates would be allowed free access to the news media ahead of parliamentary elections in March.

While Yekhanurov's appointment -- and the concessions reached yesterday -- might quiet the political firestorm for now, analysts believe the crisis will not be resolved until the conflict between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko plays itself out.

"Today's vote doesn't sweep away the political crisis," said Kiev-based political analyst Kost Bondarenko. "The conflict between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko is far from settled. Neither side has laid down their trump cards yet."

Alex Rodriguez writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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