December 3, 2007 / 7:56 PM / 12 years ago

Ukraine minister gets "orange" OK for speaker job

KIEV (Reuters) - Allies of President Viktor Yushchenko endorsed Ukraine’s foreign minister on Monday for the post of parliamentary speaker, ahead of a vote in parliament that could help an “orange” government into office.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Moscow, April 16, 2007. Allies of President Viktor Yushchenko endorsed Ukraine's foreign minister on Monday for the post of parliamentary speaker, ahead of a vote in parliament that could help an "orange" government into office. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin

Parliament is expected to vote on Tuesday on whether to appoint Arseniy Yatsenyuk as speaker.

Analysts say that if he wins the powerful speaker’s job, it will aid ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s chances of becoming premier in a new coalition government.

Tymoshenko’s bloc and Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party, both associated with the “Orange Revolution” that swept Yushchenko to power, formed a parliamentary coalition last week following a September election. The two groups hold 227 parliamentary seats, just one more than is needed to win most votes.

A government headed by Tymoshenko is expected to emerge soon, although the coalition’s wafer-thin majority has prompted analysts to question how viable it will be.

There have also been suggestions that some of the president’s supporters, and perhaps Yushchenko himself, are unhappy at the prospect of Tymoshenko returning to office.

Party leaders said Our Ukraine had voted unanimously on Monday to back Yatsenyuk, a 33-year-old technocrat seen as a compromise candidate acceptable to most groups in the chamber. Tymoshenko has already said she has no objection to his becoming speaker.

But a top party official said it took two votes to win over some reluctant Our Ukraine members.

If Yatsenyuk’s bid fails, alternative candidates for speaker might be less favorable to the formation of an “orange” cabinet — like Ivan Plyushch, a presidential ally who refused at the last minute to join the two-party coalition last week.

The president’s arch rival, caretaker prime minister Viktor Yanukovich, favors a “broad coalition” of his own supporters and members of Our Ukraine to breach differences between nationalist western Ukraine and the Russian-speaking east.

Tymoshenko rejects any notion of such a coalition, and though reserved in her comments since the coalition was created, said on Monday she was ready to go into opposition if no “orange” government could be formed.

“There can be either a democratic coalition or none at all, a power vacuum,” news agencies quoted her as telling activists.

But she added: “I do not want anyone to view it as a tragedy if, because of a few traitors, we find ourselves in opposition.”

After coming to power on the back of mass protests against electoral fraud in 2004, Yushchenko pledged to move Ukraine closer to the West and join the European Union and NATO.

But splits developed in “orange” ranks and the president sacked Tymoshenko as prime minister months later. The two leaders were reconciled during the September campaign.

Writing by Ron Popeski; Editing by Catherine Evans

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