Efforts to revive the romantic spirit of Ukraine's "orange" revolution and reform a pro-Western government have descended into acrimony, leaving the country uncertain of its future.

Almost one month after Ukrainians cast their vote in a parliamentary election; there is still no agreement on who will form a new coalition government despite weeks of talks.

To the general disbelief of orange supporters, the two figureheads of the revolution, President Viktor Yushchenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, are struggling to form a government and have instead become embroiled in tit-for-tat recriminations.

A preliminary agreement to form a coalition government of orange forces uniting the politicians, who participated in the pro-Western velvet revolution of 2004, was agreed on 13 April. It was seen as the only way of keeping the pro-Russian Party of the Regions, the party that lost the revolution but spectacularly won last month's elections, out of power.

After weeks of talks, it was therefore agreed that Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Party (which came a humiliating third in the election) would join forces with Timoshenko’s bloc, which came second. The smaller Socialist Party was also included in the pact, which was billed as the return of the "orange" dream team.

But yesterday that pact did not look like it was worth the paper it was written on. No sooner had it been signed than it begun to unravel, with Yushchenko's supporters saying they were opposed to any suggestion that the fiery and charismatic Timoshenko would become Ukraine's new prime minister. It was a job she did until September of last year, when Yushchenko abruptly sacked her for allegedly spending too much time polishing her own image, for apparently being too radical on the economy, and for picking too many fights with some of his closest advisers.

But it is a job she has made clear she wants back and her getting it appears to be the price of her party's involvement in the new government. She told Ukrainian television that it was not a question of personal ambition but the good of the country. "It's not about the post of prime minister, it's not about the portfolio, or about where you sit or about the beautiful office of the prime minister," she said.

"I would like to take this post ... to show people that not all politicians are the same and that they can get results, quick and good quality results."

Yushchenko appears to have grave doubts about her suitability and has rejected her call for him to take part in the coalition talks personally. Instead, his office issued a statement: "The President is concerned that potential participants in the coalition are delaying work ... and instead waste time and energy on mutual accusations and settling scores in the media," his press service said. "The head of state urges politicians to cease engaging in blackmail and ultimatums."

In case Timoshenko did not get the hint, Yuri Yekhanurov, the caretaker prime minister and ally of Yushchenko, spelt it out yesterday. "The time of kings and princesses is long gone in Ukraine," he said a clear reference to Timoshenko’s nickname, the Orange Princess. Ms Timoshenko insists that a small circle of ill-wishers close to Yushchenko is trying to block her appointment and that he will "do the right thing" by Ukraine if he gets the chance.

She has also accused Yushchenko's party of holding parallel coalition talks with the pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych, an allegation that has been flatly denied.
By Andrew Osborn, the Independent

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