More than a year after being declared a virtual pariah in the world of politics, Viktor Yanukovych looks set to secure the most powerful post in Ukraine. This, after he and his political arch-rival, President Viktor Yushchenko, reached a compromise after months of difficult negotiations.
Ukraine's parliament (Rada) is expected to vote on Mr. Yanukovych's nomination Friday, after spending much of Thursday concluding other legislative business, including trying to establish the composition of the rest of the next government.
Earlier, the leaders of Mr. Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party announced that they have agreed to join a new coalition, grouping Yanukovych's Regions Party alongside the Socialists and Communists. That means the four parties will collectively hold 321 seats in the new 450-seat parliament.
The way to a new coalition was made clear after the other main political parties signed the president's national unity document, committing Ukraine to carry out his course of pro-Western, economic reform.
President Yushchenko was the last to sign the agreement he worked so hard to secure. He said it represents values even more dear than those of the individual parties, such as securing unity between Ukraine's pro-Russian east and the more democratic-leaning west.
Only one leader refused to sign the document, former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, who was once President Yushchenko's strongest ally.
She told reporters the pact is nothing more than a smokescreen to hand all the political spoils to the pro-Russian parties.
Timoshenko also says the pact marks a return to corrupt style that marked Ukraine's politics in the early years of its independence following the fall of the Soviet Union.
An emotional Timoshenko vowed that her party would work in sole opposition to fight for the democratic ideals espoused by the Orange Revolution that brought Mr. Yushchenko to power early last year.
The protests in late 2004 were sparked by a massively fraudulent election, in which Yanukovych's initial win was overturned, and Mr. Yushchenko won the presidency by order of Ukraine's Supreme Court.
Back on Independence Square, the main rallying point for backers of the Orange Revolution, disheartened opposition supporters tore down a makeshift tent camp that had sprung up in the last few weeks.
Terrible, was the only word one supporter uttered, when asked how he felt about Yanukovych returning to the post of prime minister.