Ukraine's Parliament Backs Tymoshenko For PM

KIEV, Ukraine -- Yulia Tymoshenko was on Tuesday endorsed as Ukraine's prime minister after winning a wafer thin majority in a parliamentary vote. The charismatic Ms Tymoshenko will head a pro-western coalition of her political bloc and allies of Ukraine's president, Viktor Yushchenko.

Ukraine's new Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko waves after voting in parliament in Kiev Decamber 18, 2007. Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday restored Tymoshenko as prime minister, sealing a political comeback for a leading figure from the former Soviet country's 2004 "Orange Revolution".

Ms Tymoshenko will replace Viktor Yanukovich, the Moscow-friendly premier whose year-long tussle over authority with Mr Yushchenko culminated in the president dissolving parliament last spring.

Ms Tymoshenko regained the premiership after a strong showing in snap elections in September. A previous stint as prime minister in 2005 was cut short by Mr Yushchenko.

Her coalition is expected to rejuvenate the president's hopes of Ukraine joining Nato and the European Union. But Ms Tymoshenko is also expected to shake up relations with Moscow, which has in recent years imposed stiff rises in the price of natural gas exports to Ukraine, a large consumer and key transit artery for Russian supplies to Europe.

Ms Tymoshenko has pledged to remove murky intermediaries from the multi-billion-dollar natural gas trade between Kiev Moscow and Central Asian producers.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Ms Tymoshenko pledged to adopt "deep reforms" and fight corruption. She warned influential business interests that have opposed her that if a vote on her candidacy should fail, "sooner or later the entire mob will have to account before Ukraine for what they have done thus far and what they will do in the future."

"I think today's vote will be a good test of how corrupt our politics is or isn't today," she said.

After a first vote on her candidacy failed last week due to an alleged tampering with an electronic computerised voting system, Ms Tymoshenko's on Tuesday won by a one-vote majority in a show-of-hands.

She will lead a razor-thin coalition majority in which trust from pro-presidential lawmakers is weak due to fears that she will use the premier post as a springboard to challenge Mr Yushchenko in a 2010 presidential campaign.

Ms Tymoshenko's candidacy mustered 226 votes, the minimal requirement for a majority in the 450-seat legislature. Backed by 156 seats in Ms Tymoshenko's Byut bloc and 72 within the pro-presidential Our Ukraine grouping, the coalition marks the first majority held by Mr Yushchenko since he was propelled to the presidency in the 2004 Orange Revolution.

Voting in parliament to form Ms Tymoshenko's new cabinet is expected later on Tuesday but sources said it could be put off until later this week.

Ms Tymoshenko's government will seek to maintain the impressive economic growth that Ukraine has seen in recent years, but will also strive to raise average living standards and fend off high inflationary pressures, which were sparked largely by sharp price rises on fuel imports.

In recent days, Russia's Gazprom has warned of a repeat of the 2006 natural gas supply standoff that triggered supply shortages to Europe could materialise if Ms Tymoshenko pushed to renegotiate an agreement signed late this year by the outgoing government.

In the agreement, Ukraine accepted a third stiff price increase on natural gas supplies in as many years. A repeat standoff poses serious risks for Europe; The majority of Russian supplies to EU countries are pumped through Ukraine's vast pipeline system.

Andriy Kozhemyakin, an ally of Ms Tymoshenko, said her government would not rush to review the agreement this year, opting instead for pragmatic talks that would start next year.

Some analysts question how long Ms Tymoshenko's fragile governing coalition will last, saying it could be cut short if she is seen as using the premiership as a springboard to challenge Mr Yushchenko in a presidential campaign that kicks off in 2009.

"There are growing signs of mistrust between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, which first appeared back in 2005, and have yet to be repaired," reads a recent report by Renaissance Capital. "Unless she conducts a balanced policy, she may not survive in the position for long."

Ms Tymoshenko established herself as a major political figure rallying street side protestors during the Orange Revolution in support of Mr Yushchenko's presidential bid.

The chances of a future clash with Mr Yushchenko are high. Ms Tymoshenko has not clearly ruled out a run for the presidency. Fearing their shadowy privatisation dealings would be reversed, influential oligarchs are said to be pulling strings against her.

Source: MSN Money


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