Ukraine: It’s off! It’s on! It’s off again!

A new coalition was formed in Kiev on Tuesday. However, exactly one hour later one of the party factions denied that the coalition had been formed.

The Yulia Timoshenko Bloc, the pro-presidential party Our Ukraine and the bloc of newly elected parliamentary speaker Vladimir Litvin formed a coalition that would have ended months of politicial infighting.

However, the deputy chairman of the parliamentary faction of the Our Ukraine party, Boris Tarasyuk, then said that his party had not entered into the coalition.

“The party is planning to examine and discuss the coalition agreement tomorrow,” said Tarasyuk

The retraction was just a part of a strange chain of events which included a vote for Litvin that was subsequently retracted by a deputy of the Our Ukraine party.

Litvin made the announcement regarding the unification of the Our Ukraine party, the Bloc of Yulia Timoshenko and the Bloc Vladimir Litvin.

“I didn't take part in the decision regarding the election of Litvin to speaker. I am convinced that all personnel questions should be decided after the official signing of the coalition agreement,” said deputy Nikolay Kulchinsky of the Our Ukraine party.

Litvin, who was re-elected as speaker of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) on Tuesday, said that a formal coalition agreement will be signed in the next few days, and that both Yulia Timoshenko and President Yushchenko have handed him statements saying they intend to cooperate.

There had been speculation that the Timoshenko Bloc would team up with the Party of Regions and would be able to form a coalition that could block any action by the pro-presidential party.

However, the largest faction in the Verkhovna Rada, the Party of Regions, will stay in opposition, according to party member Vasily Kiselyov.

“We stay in opposition and thus disclaim any responsibility for current developments in the country. I have no doubt that this coalition will exist until the presidential election of early 2010. So we will be in opposition until the presidential election,” Kiselyov said.

That decision came just hours after the Ukrainian president had said that he would not form a coalition with Timoshenko.

“President Yushchenko absolutely will not accept the idea of forming a coalition with the Bloc of Yulia Timoshenko,” said Oles Doniy, a deputy in the parliament.

“He (Yushchenko) offered to build a coalition – only not with Yulia Timoshenko.” said Doniy

The announcement came after what Litvin described as difficult talks.

Besides the reunification of Timoshenko and Yushchenko, the re-election of Litvin also carries a feeling of déjà vu, as he served as speaker of the house from 2002-2006. He was elected speaker in 2002 as head of the party For United Ukraine.

From 1994 to1999 Litvin was a presidential assistant under the president at that time, Leonid Kuchma. He then headed the presidential administration from 1999 to 2002.

In 2000, he was accused of having directly taken part in the abduction and subsequent murder of opposition journalist Georgiy Gongadze. The incident became known as “the cassette scandal” due to the fact that Kuchma's former bodyguard had recordings of Kuchma saying the journalist needed “to be dealt with”.

Perhaps his most important action was while he was serving as speaker during the election in 2004, which were contested by Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovich of the Party of the Regions. Litvin helped organise emergency meetings in which the election of Yanukovich was declared void, eventually leading to the election of Yushchenko.

In March 2006, his party received only 2.44 per cent of the popular vote and won no seats in the house, as a result of which. Litvin was planning to leave political life. However, he was elected to the parliament again in September 2007 as the leader of the Litvin Bloc which now holds 20 seats in the Verkhovna Rada.

In Tuesday’s election he received 244 votes, including support from all the major parties, comfortably passing the 226 needed for confirmation of his re-election.

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