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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No. 2 Tymoshenko Prods Old Allies

ReutersMembers of a local elections committee taking a break during vote-counting at a polling station in Kiev on Monday.
KIEV -- Former Ukranian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko called on her estranged Orange Revolution allies to rejoin her in a coalition Monday, insisting it was the only option to protect the pro-Western and democratic ideals that formed the basis of the 2004 mass protests.

Tymoshenko said President Viktor Yushchenko -- smarting from a third-place finish in Sunday's parliamentary elections -- had agreed to meet with her on Tuesday, when full preliminary results were expected to confirm that Viktor Yanukovych's pro-Russian Party of the Regions was the top vote-winner.

"I have not seen the president for a long time, and we have a lot to discuss," Tymoshenko said, adding that she believed they could reach an agreement that would pave the way for the two to reunite in some form.

Yushchenko has said he would favor an Orange coalition, but he seemed reluctant to accept the idea of Tymoshenko returning to the No. 2 job. He fired her in September, accusing her of waging a behind-the-scenes battle for power that caused the much-vaunted Orange Team to implode in a volley of allegations and recriminations.

With just more than 50 percent of the ballots counted Monday evening, the Central Elections Commission put the Party of the Regions ahead with 27.4 percent. Tymoshenko's bloc came in second, with 23.4 percent, and Yushchenko was a distant third, with about 16 percent.

Yanukovych was dominating in the Russian-speaking east and south, and Tymoshenko led in the Ukrainian-speaking west and center. Yushchenko was ahead in only two of Ukraine's 25 regions.

Trailing the trio were the Socialist Party (7 percent), the Communist Party (3.5 percent) and the Lytvyn Popular bloc (2.6 percent). Three percent was needed to make it into the parliament.

Yushchenko's job was not at stake, but the newly elected parliament will enjoy vast new powers under reforms that give it the right to name -- and dismiss -- the prime minister and much of the Cabinet. With no party getting enough votes to dictate its will, the next step will be forming a majority of at least 226 of the parliament's 450 seats to form the government.

Both Tymoshenko and Yanukovych want the prime minister's job. Neither, however, seems to be a very inviting option for Yushchenko. Tymoshenko told Ukraine's Channel Five on Monday that Yushchenko's party appeared "to be in a state of shock."

Analysts have suggested that Yushchenko might find it more palatable to strike a deal with Yanukovych, whose ballot-stuffing attempt to win the presidency in 2004 triggered the Orange Revolution. But they warn such a union could erode Yushchenko's support base -- handing more power and votes to the ascendent Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko challenged Yushchenko to act immediately. "We don't have another path," Tymoshenko, who wore her white campaign sweater adorned with a red heart emblem, said in televised remarks. "It's our only option."

Yushchenko put Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov in charge of coalition talks -- a clear signal that the president was not ready to accept Tymoshenko's conditions, since Yekhanurov wants to keep his job.

Yanukovych's strong showing will give him the dominant parliamentary faction, but he needs Yushchenko to partner with him if he hopes to return to power. "The Party of the Regions has won a convincing victory," Yanukovych said after three exit polls put his party in a comfortable first place. "We are ready to undertake responsibility for forming the Cabinet, and we are calling on everyone to join us."

Oleksandr Stoyan, a Yanukovych ally, said the Party of the Regions would insist on naming him the prime minister and predicted that Yushchenko would eventually accept such a deal.

International observers called the vote "free and fair," and said it showed Ukraine had strengthened the democratic course adopted after the Orange Revolution.

"Ukraine has wonderfully passed this exam," Yushchenko said, adding that "in elections there is always one winner -- it's the people."

Yushchenko -- who retains the right to set the nation's foreign policy and appoint the foreign and defense ministers -- said other conclusions would have to wait until the results were in.

 Former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko on Monday conceded defeat in his bid to become Kiev's next mayor, as early results showed him trailing the front-runner.

"I tried to be the leader ... that was my aim," Klitschko said on Ukraine's Channel Five. "But it is important to know how to win and how to lose."

The 34-year-old retired boxer, who was making his first-ever bid for public office, turned up at a news conference to publicly offer his congratulations to front-runner Leonid Chernovetskiy.

Early results showed Chernovetskiy, a lawmaker, winning with more than 30 percent of the vote, ahead of two-term Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko and Klitschko, who both hovered around 22 percent.