Leaders have four days to strike deal; Socialist Party may split
KIEV, June 15 ‚Äď Our Ukraine, a pro-Western group, and the Regions Party, a moderately pro-Russian group, joined forces Thursday in a vote to postpone Parliamentary sessions to give their leaders time to strike a grand coalition agreement.
The vote came a day after leaders of Our Ukraine and the Regions Party had met for extensive consultations to explore whether the two groups can form a viable coalition.
‚ÄúWe came to an understanding that we have to put mutual claims aside while in the meantime to focus on what has been uniting us,‚ÄĚ Yevhen Kushnariov, a leader of the Regions Party, said.
The development is a dramatic turnaround in attempts to form the ruling coalition in Ukraine after talks between three pro-Western groups had collapsed last week following an ultimatum from the Socialist Party.
The Socialists, with their ultimatum, and a group led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko have been putting a mounting pressure on Our Ukraine seeking to reduce Yushchenko‚Äôs powers in the new government.
The Regions Party controls 186 seats, while Our Ukraine controls 81 seats, which gives both a comfortable majority of 267 seats in the 450-seat legislature.
But the grand coalition can potentially muster even more votes. Signs emerged Thursday the Socialist Party had been likely to split with half of the group, at least 15 lawmakers, to join the coalition with the Regions Party.
Parliament is expected to resume sessions on Tuesday giving Our Ukraine and the Regions four days to try to strike the coalition deal to solve their differences on key policy issues.
Our Ukraine has been pushing for a quick accession to NATO, while the Regions have been more cautious on the issue.
On the other hand, the Regions have been pushing for the country to join a trade bloc with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, while this time Our Ukraine has been more cautious.
Two other major issued backed by the Regions, giving the Russian language an official status in Ukraine and calls for giving more political powers to the regions, had been flatly rejected by Our Ukraine.
Our Ukraine leaders, Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov and Roman Bezsmertniy, at late Wednesday meeting with Regions Party leaders, Raisa Bohatyriova and Mykola Azarov, have apparently made some progress on the issues.
‚ÄúIf we keep making the same progress, by the end of the day on Monday we will sign the coalition agreement,‚ÄĚ Kushnariov said. (tl/ez)