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UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ENDORSES YANUKOVYCH AS PRIME MINISTER. After negotiations that lasted late into the night of August 2-3, President Viktor Yushchenko nominated Viktor Yanukovych -- his former rival in the bitterly contested December 2004 presidential elections -- to serve as prime minister, international media reported. In doing so he opted against dissolving parliament and calling new parliamentary elections. "I understand the complexities of this decision both in eastern and in western Ukraine," "Ukrayinska pravda" quoted Yushchenko as saying on August 3. "I appeal to the nation to understand that we have a chance to unite both banks of the Dnipro River." RK
OUR UKRAINE BRIEFED ON YANUKOVYCH NOMINATION. Roman Bezsmertnyy, one of the leaders of the pro-Yushchenko Our Ukraine faction in parliament, briefed the members of the faction on August 3 about the negotiations that took place the night of August 2-3, UNIAN reported. Asked whether the faction had discussed whether to vote for Yanukovych as prime minister, a spokesperson for Our Ukraine said that it has not yet made a decision on this matter. The spokesperson also said that the faction did not discuss the possibility of entering into a new majority coalition that would include the Socialist Party and the Party of Regions. RK
In the early hours of August 3, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko at last put an end to the country's four-month political stalemate with a painful political concession. In a live televised address, Yushchenko named Viktor Yanukovych, the head of the pro-Russia Party of Regions and Yushchenko's main rival in the 2004 Orange Revolution, as the country's new prime minister.
Yushchenko kept the nation in suspense until the last moment. August 2 was the constitutional deadline for Yushchenko to endorse or reject the nomination of Yanukovych as the new prime minister. A rejection would likely have meant the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada and a call for new elections.
Yushchenko, following a meeting with political leaders on the day of the deadline, appeared to hint the impasse had left him no other options. "The leading five Ukrainian political forces did not reach an understanding on the key Ukrainian constitutional priorities, the key priorities for national development," he said. "This is the most worrying. The road map, the [declaration of national unity], which was envisaged as an answer to this challenge, unfortunately, was not signed."
This left Ukraine anticipating the president would use his scheduled television address to announce his rejection of Yanukovych and the dissolution of parliament.
Yanukovych and Oleksandr Moroz, the Socialist Party leader and parliamentary speaker, came to the president for last-ditch anticrisis talks, which continued deep into the night.
Early on August 3, two hours past the expiration of his deadline, Yushchenko announced that he had ultimately decided to endorse Yanukovych for prime minister.
"Following from what I have said, I have made the decision to put forward Viktor Yanukovych for the post of Ukraine's prime minister," Yushchenko said. "By this I want to once again stress that I understand the whole complexity in the east and the west of Ukraine, regarding this nomination for the post of prime minister. I call on the country to understand that today we have a unique chance to realize all that we talked about, and to bring the country together for a political understanding."
Yushchenko went on to say that he, Yanukovych, and Moroz -- together with caretaker Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov and Roman Bezsmertnyy from Yushchenko's Our Ukraine -- initialed a so-called declaration of national unity. He gave no details about the terms of the declaration, saying only that it preserved the essential domestic and foreign policies mapped out by his presidential election program.
Ukrainian media reported earlier this week that Our Ukraine and the Party of Regions differed on four points in talks on the declaration: the state language, relations with NATO, relations with Russia, and the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Although the text of the initialed declaration has not yet been made known, two things are already clear. First, the Communist Party of Ukraine, which proposed Yanukovych as a candidate for prime minister jointly with the Party of Regions and the Socialist Party in July, refused to sign the declaration. This means the Communists will drop out of the "anticrisis" coalition formed last month after the "Orange" coalition of Our Ukraine, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, and the Socialist Party notoriously failed to agree on a new cabinet.
Second, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, which in the past repeatedly declared it would never strike a coalition deal with Yanukovych's Party of Regions, will also go into opposition.
Bezsmertnyy and Yanukovych are reported today to have initialed an agreement bringing Our Ukraine into a coalition with the Party of Regions. The second "anticrisis" member, the Socialists, is likely to stay in the fold as well.
Does the endorsement of Yanukovych for prime minister by Yushchenko mean that the 2004 Orange Revolution has suffered a total disintegration? Is Ukraine about to reverse its political course? Both concerns appear to be exaggerated.
Speaking to a crowd of supporters in Kyiv on August 2, Yanukovych was forced to admit that the Orange Revolution has radically changed the country and that there can be no return to the past. "We have already come to understand that 2004, all things considered, has opened all of our eyes as to who we are, who stands by us, and what our country is," he said. "I think that this has brought us benefits and, of course, purification."
It is true that Yanukovych objects to Ukraine's membership in NATO, which is a goal fervently pursued by Yushchenko. However, Yanukovych's objection reflects the feeling of a majority of Ukrainians about the North Atlantic alliance, rather than his own deep-seated political convictions.
In 2003, during Yanukovych's previous premiership under then President Leonid Kuchma, Kyiv sought expanded cooperation with NATO, and declared NATO membership as a strategic goal. So there may be room for compromise on this tricky issue between Yanukovych and Yushchenko in 2006.
Yanukovych has also repeatedly declared that he is in favor of Ukraine joining both the World Trade Organization and the European Union, two other goals pursued by Yushchenko. Therefore, his premiership under President Yushchenko may eventually prove to be no less "pro-Western" than those of his two predecessors, Yuliya Tymoshenko and Yuriy Yekhanurov.
However, a big setback for Ukraine's new government is the general disillusionment with political elites in the country, which was provoked by the infamous breakup of the Orange Revolution allies in 2005, the virtual lack of reforms in the country, and what is widely seen as Yushchenko's lack of political will and inability to live up to his election promises.
If the new government manages to adopt a prompt reform plan and put it into practice, Yushchenko may get a chance "to bring the country together," as he declared while nominating Yanukovych. If not, Ukraine will most likely become even more bitterly divided and exasperated.