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March 27, 2006
Yushchenko Fades

Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko suffered a humiliating defeat in polling yesterday, as his Our Ukraine party polled a meager 15% of the vote just a year after being heralded as a hero in the former Soviet republic. His former Orange Revolution partner, Yulia Tymoshenko, drew 23% after she publicly split with Yushchenko over policy disputes. Tymoshenko will try to lead the next parliament, relegating the president to a secondary position in what could still be an Orange government:

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko signaled a return to office to form a coalition government after a poll triumph, urging pro-Western liberals to end squabbles and keep out a pro-Russian party.

Tymoshenko said on Sunday a coalition deal was "practically ready," but the poll outcome put her and other 2004 "Orange Revolution" leaders under pressure to deliver on reforms after prizing Ukraine from centuries of Russian domination.

Voter disillusionment over "Orange" team splits and an economic slowdown hit the liberals and clearly helped Viktor Yanukovich's pro-Russian Regions Party win the largest share of the ballot in the parliamentary elections on Sunday.

But exit polls showed the liberals, who have set the former Soviet republic on a course to join the European mainstream, can still control parliament. Further talks between the liberals on a coalition were scheduled for 11 a.m. (0800 GMT) on Monday.

The split in the ranks of the former partners allowed the hand-picked successor to the corrupt regime of Leonid Kuchma to make a comeback of sorts. Viktor Yanukovych pulled the highest plurality for his Party of Regions, estimated at around 31% based on exit polling. However, he will find it difficult to form a government unless Yushchenko allies with him -- a possibility that Yushchenko refused to rule out, a development that may have helped Tymoshenko outpoll Yushchenko so well yesterday.

If the numbers hold up, a Tymoshenko-Yushchenko reunion appears to be the most likely result. However, the firebrand Tymoshenko may have a hard time working with her former partner after he publicly acknowledged that he would work with the same group of people who poisoned him just as soon as working with Yulia again.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 27, 2006 6:27 AM

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