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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Parliament Convenes in Kiev

ReutersTymoshenko applauding as she stands with faction members dressed in white at parliament's first session Thursday.
KIEV -- Leaders from Ukraine's reformist, pro-Western parties pledged Thursday to bring an end to their messy coalition talks and be ready to present a governing agreement to the parliament and the nation within 15 days.

The promise came as the 450-seat parliament held its inaugural session, setting into motion a 30-day deadline to form a coalition and a 60-day deadline to name the new government. If talks fail, President Viktor Yushchenko can call new elections.

The new lawmakers took their seats in the ornate chamber that once served as home to Soviet Ukraine's parliament, as the poem "Love Ukraine" was recited. Their election on March 26 was praised as the most free and fair ever in Ukraine.

The pro-Moscow Party of the Regions won the most votes and took 185 seats in the new parliament. Ousted Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the most popular figures during the 2004 mass protests, won 129 parliamentary seats for her bloc, while Yushchenko's bloc took 80. The Socialists, who back Yushchenko, and the Communists have 33 and 21, respectively. Two lawmakers have not yet been registered.

"The election was recognized as worth imitating across the whole region," Yushchenko told the lawmakers. "I did what I promised as president."

He said he had come to the hall Thursday "to show my respect for the conscious choice of our people."

Tymoshenko's lawmakers arrived wearing identical white sweaters emblazoned with her red heart campaign logo, which the former prime minister said symbolized her party's hopes that the new parliament would embrace "clean and transparent politics."

Leaders from the estranged Orange Revolution allies held a joint news conference to announce the formation of a working group charged with reaching an agreement on the coalition by June 7. The agreement will include the coalition's main policy agenda, and only then will the three blocs start discussing who gets what job, officials said.

"Of course, differences exist but we will find a way to solve them," Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said.

Tymoshenko, who wants to return as prime minister, added, "We need time and we will find understanding."

Tymoshenko's bitter falling-out with Yushchenko last year soured relations, and the president said he was reluctant to try such a partnership again. Tymoshenko has lately stopped talking about the prime minister's job in what appears to be a negotiating strategy rather than a change in position. Her staff continue to repeat that she is the best candidate for the job.

An opinion poll by Kiev's Razumkov Center found that nearly 40 percent of those polled would like to see a coalition between Yushchenko's bloc, Tymoshenko's and the Socialists. Some 17 percent said they wanted to see a union between Yushchenko's Our Ukraine and the Party of the Regions, led by Viktor Yanukovych, the man whom Yushchenko accused of trying to steal the presidency in 2004.

Some 13 percent said they wanted all the parties except the Communists to unite. The poll, which surveyed 2,000 people, had a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points. On Thursday, lawmakers formally accepted the current government's resignation. But Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov and the rest of the Cabinet -- many members of which also won parliamentary seats -- were asked to stay on in an acting capacity until a new Cabinet was formed. Previously, the president appointed the prime minister and the Cabinet.