Kiev Coalition Endangered By Blockade

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's largest opposition party strengthened its blockade of parliament Thursday, putting a planned vote on returning Yulia Tymoshenko to the prime minister's job under threat.

Opposition deputies from Regions Party stand near the speaker rostrum with the slogan 'We will defend Ukraine's laws and constitution' after they prevented parliament from voting to confirm Yulia Tymoshenko as Prime Minister in Kiev

Dozens of lawmakers from the pro-Russian Party of the Regions took over the speaker's seat and the seats meant for government members in a bid to prevent the parliamentary session from convening for a second day.

The session, scheduled to start at 10 a.m., did not open.

The blockade comes as Ukraine's new governing coalition -- formed last week by the three parties that led the 2004 Orange Revolution -- planned to call a vote on naming Tymoshenko to the premier's post. They also wanted to vote on giving President Viktor Yushchenko's ally, Petro Poroshenko, the speaker's job.

"Believe me, as a person who took part in a lot of blocking, they cannot sit there forever," Poroshenko said, referring to the times when the coalition members -- then in opposition to former President Leonid Kuchma -- used blockades of parliament as a way to register their displeasure.

Mykola Katerynchuk, from the president's Our Ukraine party, said the party was prepared to wait. Under Ukraine's constitution, lawmakers have four weeks to get the Cabinet in place. On Thursday, lawmakers milled around the session hall and parliament's corridors, waiting to see what would happen.

The Party of the Regions, led by Viktor Yanukovych -- Yushchenko's 2004 election rival -- won the most votes in the March parliamentary election but was shut out of power after failing to persuade any party to unite with it.

The party said Thursday that it objected to the coalition's proposal to combine the votes for the prime minister and the parliamentary speaker into a single ballot, in violation of parliamentary rules. If the votes are held separately, there is a good chance that Poroshenko -- whose big-business background has made him a controversial figure -- would not get enough support to be named parliamentary speaker, which could destroy the coalition agreement.

The Socialists, a member of the coalition, on Thursday asked the president's party to replace Poroshenko with a more palatable candidate. "We must observe the president's slogan to divide business and power," said Socialist Party member Valentyna Semenyuk.

The speaker's vote is typically conducted in secret, which could allow many lawmakers -- even coalition members -- to vote against Poroshenko.

The Party of the Regions is also demanding that it be given chairmanships of key parliamentary committees and more influence in Ukraine's eastern and southern regions, where it dominates.

Yaroslav Sukhiy, a Party of the Regions lawmaker, noted that when his party was in government, the opposition was given the chairmanship of 14 of parliament's 24 committees. The coalition insists it has not made a firm proposal yet, but is considering giving the Party of the Regions only deputy chairmanships.

Ukraine's political life has been paralyzed since the March election ended without a decisive victory, throwing the country into difficult coalition talks. Those talks ended only last week after the estranged Orange Revolution parties agreed to try again to work together.

Last September, Yushchenko sacked Tymoshenko and accepted Poroshenko's resignation as security chief after the two turned on each other with accusations of corruption and incompetence.

Source: AP

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