Ukraine's Socialists back faltering Orange Revolution coalition agreement

The small Socialist Party on Saturday approved a faltering agreement meant to bring back the 2004 Orange Revolution allies into a government coalition that would cement Ukraine's pro-West course, a top party member said.

"We approved the protocol without any restrictions," said Mykola Rudkovsky. The coalition has been in doubt since President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party rejected a key provision on Friday that would hand his former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko the right to get back her old job.

Our Ukraine refrained from endorsing a protocol that the coalition party with the most votes in the March 26 parliamentary elections gets to name the prime minister.

Tymoshenko said her bloc overwhelmingly endorsed the coalition document and urged Our Ukraine to do the same or see the coalition shattered.

Her party came in second in the elections behind a pro-Russian opposition party and she intensely wants to return to the prime minister's post, which she held for several months. However Yushchenko is reluctant to see her return to the job he fired her from last year following a bitter falling-out.

On Saturday, Yushchenko supported his party's position, noting that coalition members must first agree on their programs and goals, and then divide jobs.

"Negotiations are going in a normal way," said Yushchenko, as quoted by Interfax news agency.

The president has not ruled out reaching across the political divide to his Orange Revolution rival Viktor Yanukovych, whose Party of the Regions won over 32 percent of the parliamentary vote, more than any other but short of the majority needed to form a government.

The Kremlin-backed politician lost the presidency to Yushchenko after the Orange Revolution the massive street protests that helped overturn Yanukovych's fraud-marred victory and force a new vote won by Yushchenko.

But he is now in a strong position, with overwhelming support in the Russian-speaking south and east.

Lawmakers have one month to convene parliament, then 30 days to form a parliamentary majority and another 30 days to form a government. If they fail to form a parliamentary majority in time, Yushchenko can dissolve the legislature and call new elections, reports AP.

O.Ch.