Ukraine’s parliament ousts Tymoshenko government in a no-confidence vote

By Simon Shuster, AP
Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tymoshenko’s government ousted in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine — Parliament ousted Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in a no-confidence motion on Wednesday that could end a political deadlock that has forced Ukraine to cope with a severe economic crisis without a budget.

Parliament now has 30 days to form a new governing coalition, and it is expected to coalesce around newly elected President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. It would then be able to put forward a new prime minister.

In her last minutes as premier, Tymoshenko, who lost last month’s presidential election, vowed to lead the opposition to Russia-friendly Yanukovych and continue the pro-Western stance she knows well from helping lead the Orange Revolution protests that had brought her to power.

But Yanukovych appears to have sufficient support in parliament to end the political gridlock and that has plagued Ukraine’s 47 million people for years.

After the no-confidence resolution passed with 243 votes in the 450-seat chamber, Yanukovych met with the heads of Ukraine’s parliamentary factions. “I would like to quickly agree on the creation of a majority coalition,” he told them.

Since 2005, Tymoshenko’s feuds with former President Viktor Yushchenko and with Yanukonyvch have stalled decision making as the global financial crisis struck Ukraine harder than many other European countries.

In 2009, the nation’s economy shrank by 15 percent. The government failed to pass a budget for 2010, leading the International Monetary Fund to cite the lack of political consensus as a reason for freezing part of a $16.4 billion bailout loan.

If no new coalition is formed, Yanukovych will be able to disband parliament and call early elections. But Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn’s party — which had been part of Tymoshenko’s coalition but voted overwhelmingly against her Wednesday — signaled Yanukovych’s party has enough support to avoid snap elections.

“They will be able to gather the minimum 226 votes,” said Mykola Tomenko, the deputy head of Lytvyn’s bloc. “At least a temporary coalition will come together, enough to form a government.”

Analysts said that with Tymoshenko sidelined, a new coalition and a cooperative prime minister will ease the way for badly needed reforms.

“A new coalition, if formed, won’t be totally heterogeneous. But it should calm the passions down, and such vital issues as the state budget, as well as economic and political stabilization, should be resolved faster,” said Yuri Yakimenko, a political analyst at the Razumkov Center, a Kiev think tank.

Addressing the chamber ahead of Wednesday’s vote, Tymoshenko said she would embrace her new role as an opposition leader, and her speech showed a level of fervor that was absent during the tumultuous weeks following her election defeat.

She said her new goal will be to hold Yanukovych and his team to account for every decision they make. “We will protect Ukraine from this new calamity that has befallen her,” she said.

Tymoshenko’s governing Orange coalition dissolved Tuesday after it was unable to prove the minimum 226-seat majority in parliament. The coalition, formed in December 2008, was loosely centered on the political ideals of the Orange Revolution, a series of massive street protests in 2004 led by Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.

Those protests against vote fraud resulted in the Supreme Court overturning Yanukovych’s election victory in 2004. Yushchenko, a reformer who wanted closer integration with the West, won a revote. Tymoshenko became his prime minister.

But relations between the two deteriorated significantly and led to near-paralysis of the government as the country staggered through the global economic downturn.

In Wednesday’s ballot, seven of Tymoshenko’s own party members voted to remove her, but she will still command the second largest faction in parliament.

Before the vote, the leaders of Yanukovych’s party lambasted Tymoshenko for failing to fend off the effects of the global financial crisis,

“For the period of her haphazard policymaking, the state has suffered the deepest social and economic crisis that Ukraine has known for 20 years. We did not see any anti-crisis program from Tymoshenko,” said Mykola Azarov, the deputy head of Yanukovych’s party that has named him as a candidate for the prime minister’s post.

Shuster reported from Moscow.

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