Ukraine’s Tymoshenko calls for coalition to remain firm against president-elect

By Yuras Karmanau, AP
Monday, February 22, 2010

Ukraine premier calls for coalition to remain firm

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, facing the imminent presidential inauguration of her rival, on Monday called on her narrow majority coalition in parliament to hold firm against him.

Tymoshenko lost to Viktor Yanukovych in the presidential election Feb. 7. She contends that Yanukovych’s victory by about 3.5 percentage points was fraudulent, but last week she dropped a court challenge to the official results, claiming that the court was controlled by Yanukovych supporters.

International observers assessed the election as largely in line with democratic standards, a view that weakens Tymoshenko’s claims, but she is pressing on with the contention.

In a televised address to the nation, she called Yanukovych “a president who came to power with the help of deception … Yanukovych is not our president.”

Yanukovych will be inaugurated Thursday. His party submitted a motion to parliament Monday calling for the resignation of Tymoshenko and her government.

Although Yanukovych’s party has the largest single share of seats in parliament, it does not have the majority necessary to force out Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko’s party is part of an uneasy coalition with a razor-thin majority and many observers believe some members will leave the coalition, particularly those affiliated with lame-duck President Viktor Yushchenko.

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko were the main figures of the Orange Revolution, the huge street demonstrations that broke out after a fraud-plagued election won by Yanukovych in 2004. The demonstrations paved the way for a court-ordered rerun of the election, which Yushchenko won.

But feuding between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko plagued the so-called “orange coalition” and led to near paralysis of the government, even as Ukraine was hit hard by the global economic crisis and by costly natural gas price disputes with Russia.

Tymoshenko called on the shaky orange coalition to hold the line against Yanukovych.

“There is only one way out — the unity in the Verkhovna Rada democratic and state powers,” she said.

Yanukovych is seen as being more friendly to Russia than Yushchenko, who drove to bring Ukraine into closer integration with Western Europe and NATO. Tymoshenko accused Yanukovych of “anti-Ukrainian and anti-European policies.”

If the “orange coalition” in parliament stays in place, it could not prevent Yanukovych from becoming president, but could block his initiatives, continuing the quarreling and standoffs that afflicted the country of 47 million in recent years.

Associated Press Writer Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.

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