The near final results of the snap election showed that Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Party and the block led by Yulia Tymoshenko, his ally from the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution, had won a thin majority in the ex-Soviet republic's 450-seat Rada, or parliament.

Power-sharing rejected

With 99.68 per cent of ballots counted, their Orange coalition had won 45 per cent of the vote.

The Regions Party, headed by Viktor Yanukovych, the Moscow-backed premiere, had 34.3 per cent.
  
But instead of forming a government headed by Tymoshenko to replace Yanukovych, President Yushchenko called for cross-party consensus, an offer Yanukovych's Regions Party has accepted.
  
"Yanukovych supports the position of the president of Ukraine," Interfax quoted his press service as saying.

But Tymoshenko, who was a figurehead of the Orange Revolution, has rejected the idea of sharing power with Yanukovych.
  
"If the coalition is formed between Our Ukraine and the Party of Regions, our political force will stay in opposition," her group said in a statement.

Political turmoil

With Tymoshenko refusing to work with Yanukovych, both forces were left needing a deal with Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Party to form a government.

 Tymoshenko is popular among
Ukrainian nationalists [AFP]
Analysts were divided over whether Yushchenko's offer was genuine or whether he was attempting to heal wounds inflicted on the country of 47 million people in three years of political turmoil.
  
"It was an empty formality," said Nico Lange, at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. "Coalition talks take a long time in Ukraine."

Yushchenko did not mention who he wanted as premier, but aides, including a senior official in the presidential administration, made it clear on Tuesday that Yushchenko intended to replace Yanukovych with Tymoshenko.
  
Tymoshenko is popular among Ukrainian nationalists and those supporting efforts to wrest Ukraine from Russia's centuries-old dominance.

Ties with Moscow

However, expectations that she would become prime minister have
raised fears of difficult relations with Moscow - an issue highlighted by threats of a new gas dispute this week between Russian giant Gazprom and Ukraine.

Without co-operation from the Regions Party, which was set to be the biggest single force in parliament, an Orange coalition would also be well short of the needed 300 votes needed to make constitutional changes.

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko shot to worldwide fame when they led the 2004 Orange Revolution to overturn a rigged presidential election victory by Yanukovych.

Yushchenko won the re-run and launched a pro-Western administration - a humiliation for Russian foreign policy and President Vladimir Putin's administration.

However, Yanukovych could, in theory, assemble a rival coalition with 43.5 per cent of the vote, just 1.5 percentage points behind a possible Western-leaning alliance.

Amid accusations of fraud, there was the possibility of a court challenge by the small Socialist Party, which appeared to have narrowly failed to cross the three per cent threshold for entry to parliament, robbing Yanukovych of a crucial extra parliamentary ally.