Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's bloc is going into opposition in the Ukrainian parliament, a top party leader declared Tuesday, suggesting that the party had rebuffed overtures to join a new coalition headed by the president's rival Viktor Yanukovych.
"The faction of Our Ukraine, from today, is in the minority, so it is in opposition," lawmaker Anatoliy Kinakh announced in parliament, also declaring that the party accepted the legitimacy of the new, pro-Moscow coalition.
Outside parliament, hundreds of rival protesters supporting and opposed to the new coalition gathered, blocking off the street and shouting "shame" at each other as two lines of riot police separated them. The mood was tense.
This ex-Soviet republic has been in political turmoil since the March parliamentary election ended without a clear winner, widening the divide between Ukraine's Russian-speaking east, which looks to Moscow, and the more nationalist Ukrainian-speaking west, which is leaning towards the West.
After months of bickering between the former "Orange Revolution" allies on how to form a coalition, Yanukovych seized the initiative last week by persuading the president's former ally, the Socialist party, to switch sides and unite with his party of eastern Ukrainian industrialists and with the Communists.
Yushchenko complained that the new coalition was illegitimate because it was formed without giving the former "Orange Revolution" allies 10 days to try to find a new partner to replace the Socialists, and threatened to use his power to dissolve parliament and call new elections.
Those 10 days ran out Monday night, and Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Moroz, whose decision to bolt from Yushchenko's camp with the Socialists led to the creation of the new coalition, agreed to announce the creation of the coalition again Tuesday to remove those concerns.
The move by Yushchenko's party to accept that and declare itself in opposition suggests the president is unlikely to dissolve parliament and call new elections. But tension persisted, with "Orange Revolution" heroine Yulia Tymoshenko calling the new political coalition "a coup."
Tymoshenko proposed Tuesday that her party and Yushchenko's bloc give up their mandates as lawmakers, which would force parliament to be declared illegitimate.
"I want people of good will, intelligent people who don't consider Ukraine's independence, its national identity, to be empty words. I want them to understand that a political coup is taking place today in parliament," she said in a fiery address.
Outside the building, columns of protesters carrying campaign flags in support of Tymoshenko who has demanded Yushchenko dissolve parliament and call new elections shut down a main road.
Yanukovych's supporters stood opposite them, with helmet-clad police in between. Rows of regular, uniformed police also stood along the gates surrounding parliament.
(China Daily July 19, 2006)