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Pro-Western parties close to form govt
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, May 24 – Pro-Western parties on Wednesday were close to signing an agreement to create the ruling coalition as lawmakers had been preparing to hold Parliament’s first session following the March 26 election.

The parties, including Our Ukraine, the Socialist Party and a group led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, will control 243 seats in 450-seat Parliament that will hold the session on Thursday.

Top party negotiators met Wednesday to agree their positions that will probably lead to the coalition agreement signed “within days,” a person familiar with the situation said.

Although the agreement is not likely to name the future prime minister, a certain clause that had been agreed in principle would almost certainly lead to Tymoshenko taking the job, the person said.

Tymoshenko, Our Ukraine leader Roman Bezsmertniy and Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz have scheduled a joint press conference on Thursday morning to outline the progress in the talks.

President Viktor Yushchenko, who plans to address lawmakers on Thursday, met Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov on Wednesday to check on the progress in the talks.

Yushchenko also spoke with Tymoshenko by phone earlier on Wednesday and had apparently agreed to hold a meeting Thursday with the leaders that will create the coalition, according to Tymoshenko.

“The president is an ardent supporter of the coalition of the democratic forces,” Tymoshenko said at the press conference after the phone conversation.

The developments signal the end to the complicated two-month talks between the parties following the election that had produced mixed results that require the coalition to form the government.

Although the three parties started the talks shortly after the election, some analysts had been suggesting Our Ukraine, Yushchenko’s party, might join forces with the Regions Party, an opposition group, to form the government.

Such an alliance would probably produce a stable government, analysts said. But it would almost certainly erode support for Yushchenko in western and central regions, the major driving force behind the Orange Revolution, a popular uprising in November 2004 that had catapulted him to the presidency. This could cost Yushchenko the presidency in 2009, analysts said.

The progress in the talks has been made amid major public support for the coalition of the three parties that had backed the Orange Revolution.

Almost 40% of respondents supported the coalition between Our Ukraine, the Tymoshenko bloc and the Socialist Party, according to an opinion poll by the Razumkov Center, an independent think tank, released Wednesday.

The alliance between Our Ukraine and the Regions Party is favored by 17.4%, while the broad coalition, which would include all four parties, is backed by 13.2%, according to the poll.

The same poll also showed that popular support for Yushchenko had been lower compared with Tymoshenko and former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, the leader of the Regions Party.

Yanukovych enjoyed support from 27.6% of respondents, mainly in Russian-speaking eastern regions, while Tymoshenko was backed by 26.5%, mainly in Ukrainian-speaking western and central regions.

Yushchenko was backed by 20.6% of respondents, mainly in western regions, according to the poll.

The poll was conducted between May 11 and May 19 among 2,000 respondents with margin of error at 2.3%, according to the center. (tl/ez)

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