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Ukrainian Coalition Collapses Amid Political Infighting

Political infighting has led to the collapse of Ukraine's governing coalition, raising the prospect of difficult negotiations to form a new government or a third parliamentary election in as many years. VOA correspondent Peter Fedynsky has been following the Ukrainian political drama from Moscow.

Ukraine's governing coalition collapsed less than 10 months after it was formed with a bare minimum of votes in the country's 450-seat parliament, the Supreme Rada. President Viktor Yushchenko's political party left the coalition earlier this month, and Speaker Arseny Yatsenyuk made the collapse official on Tuesday.

Yatsenyuk made the official announcement regarding the termination of the Coalition of Democratic Forces in the Supreme Rada of Ukraine, which was created by the presidential party, Our Ukraine, and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc on November 29, 2007.

Ms. Tymoshenko, the Ukrainian prime minister and President Viktor Yushchenko both have presidential ambitions and have long been at odds over domestic policy. She is a populist that generally favors government regulation while he prefers the free market. Their latest row was sparked by a bitter dispute over the Georgian conflict. Mr. Yushchenko openly sided with Georgia and some of his supporters accused Ms. Tymoshenko of treason for failure to condemn Russia. Last week, she joined forces with opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych to engineer a move to transfer some presidential powers to the prime minister.

In 2004, Ms. Tymoshenko and Mr. Yushchenko were allies in the Orange Revolution in which hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets to protest an election that was rigged in favor of Viktor Yanukovych. He continues to harbor presidential ambitions and addressed the Rada Tuesday following the government's collapse.

Yanukovych refers to the Democratic Coalition as a wagon that has stopped and concluded its journey. He says this is the end of the road and everyone can come down.

Viktor Yanukovych's Regions Party and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc have the numbers to create a new coalition, but the prime minister has long ruled out any alliance with the Regions Party.

Independence political observer Alexander Lytvynenko of the Razumkov Center in Kyiv told VOA that Ukraine's political struggles reflect ambitious personalities and highly differentiated social, cultural and regional differences of the Ukrainian people.

Lytvynenko says those differences have historic underpinnings, prompting some to favor closer ties with the West, others with Russia, and others still to favor strict neutrality. He notes, however, that pro-Russian sympathies in eastern or southern Ukraine should not be confused with separatism.

Lytvynenko says only insignificant percentages of people throughout Ukraine favor separatism in favor of another country, even in Crimea or the Luhansk Region on Ukraine's eastern border with Russia. He says what the regions want instead is greater freedom on economic issues, including the right to determine local budgets.

Lytvynenko doubts whether the current parliament will be able to form a new coalition within a required 30 days, which makes new elections likely. The analyst notes that lawmakers who seek re-election must honor the wishes of their constituents, adding that Ukrainians have yet to develop a common political world view. This means Ukraine's democracy could continue to experience difficulties.