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Old allies join forces in Ukraine

Old allies join forces in Ukraine
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Could the allies of Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution be about to return to power? Last Thursday, President Viktor Yushchenko and his former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko met and agreed to set aside their past differences and form a new liberal coalition.

“We have only one option, and that is forming a democratic coalition. That’s all. There will be no other coalitions,” Yuschenko told the press, while Tymoshenko added: “I believe that everything we have done over these years must be brought to a conclusion; the result, our unity and giving satisfaction to all those people who are expecting this.”

They are lauded as the “heroes” of the Orange Revolution. In 2004, Yulia Timoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko forged an alliance to create a more democratic Ukraine with its face turned to the West.

The peaceful pro-democracy protests paid off. The presidential election was annulled amid claims of mass vote-rigging.

Viktor Yushchenko was elected President in a re-run vote on December 26. Brought in on a mandate of breaking with the past, he bore the expectations of change on his shoulders.

Just days later, Yulia Timoshenko became prime minister. Having backed Yushchenko for the presidency, she was given control of parliament, now the seat of power as a result of reforms engendered by the Orange Revolution.

But seven months later, the president and the prime minister fell out. In-fighting and differences of opinion over economic policy ended in Yushchenko sacking Timoshenko.

That decision plunged Ukraine into fresh political turmoil and triggered a further election in March 2006. Yushchenko ended up grudgingly sharing power with his arch-rival, the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovich.

It was a marriage of inconvenience and a further poll was inevitable. Negotiations for a further election ballot ended in a date being fixed for the end of September.

Analysts say Timoshenko is now playing a waiting game in the run-up to Ukraine’s next presidential election in 2009. This, more than anything, they say, could influence her fragile relationship with Yushchenko.