MOSCOW -- After months of tough negotiations, pro-Western parties that led Ukraine's Orange Revolution reached agreement yesterday on restoring a coalition that would return former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to power.
"We won democracy for Ukraine by approving this decision today," Tymoshenko told parliament as she and other coalition leaders announced the agreement.
The country's new parliament faces a Saturday deadline to approve the deal, which could fall apart because of tensions within the coalition. But representatives of Tymoshenko's bloc and two other leading groups initialed the 103-page agreement yesterday afternoon. It was due to go today to the 450-seat parliament. The three blocs, which emerged from the 2004 Orange Revolution, hold 243 seats.
A majority of the parliament, elected in March, must support a coalition and a prime minister for a new government to take office.
Tymoshenko was a key leader in the 2004 street protests of electoral fraud that forced a repeat presidential runoff election that brought to power her ally, current President Viktor A. Yushchenko. Tymoshenko served as his prime minister until the two had a falling out in September.
Tymoshenko's supporters see her as a leader who would fight Ukraine's endemic corruption. A restored Orange coalition with her as prime minister would push the country toward closer ties with Europe and the United States, including possible membership in the European Union and NATO. Such a coalition also would help ensure the continued development of democracy in the former Soviet state, backers say.
In the March 26 parliamentary election, the Party of Regions - led by Yushchenko's opponent in the 2004 runoff election, Viktor F. Yanukovych - finished with the most seats but not enough to form a parliamentary majority.
Vitaly Chepinoga, a spokesman for Tymoshenko, said in a telephone interview from Kiev that the coalition agreement provides that her bloc can choose the prime minister, while Yushchenko's Our Ukraine, another party to the agreement, can pick the speaker of parliament. The Socialists, the third bloc to sign the deal, would name the first deputy prime minister.
Throughout the negotiations, Tymoshenko's bloc has made it clear that she was its choice for prime minister.
"Yulia Tymoshenko will become Ukraine's prime minister," Chepinoga said.
But not all observers and players agreed that the deal was certain to be carried out.
"Such a coalition will not gather the signatures of 226 deputies," Yanukovych told journalists at parliament yesterday, according to the Ukrainian News Agency.
Uncertainty was fanned by Our Ukraine's surprise decision yesterday to nominate Petro Poroshenko, a wealthy businessman and former head of the National Security and Defense Council, for the parliamentary speaker's position. A bitter clash last September between Tymoshenko and the businessman, in which they and their allies traded charges of corruption and incompetence, led to the breakup of the coalition and Tymoshenko's ouster from the prime minister's post.
Vadym Karasyov, director of the Institute of Global Strategies, a Kiev think tank, said in a telephone interview that Poroshenko's nomination could lead to the deal falling apart.
"It is clear that even if Tymoshenko agrees to this, it will be much more difficult for her to become a strong prime minister with Poroshenko leading the parliament," he said.
Karasyov said the parties that grew out of the Orange Revolution, named after the color adopted by their movement, had suffered a serious blow to their popularity by taking so long to work out a coalition agreement. He added, however, that it has a chance to be effective.
"Tymoshenko is a strong politician, and she will be a strong prime minister," he said. "This job is not new to her. The Orange alliance will help Ukraine to move further on the road of democratic reconstruction, on the road to Europe, to European principles and values."
David Holley writes for the Los Angeles Times.