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Ukraine: Prime Minister Suffers Setback In Parliament Vote

  • Askold Krushelnycky

Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko is under political pressure after a majority vote in parliament today found his 16-month government record unsatisfactory. RFE/RL correspondent Askold Krushelnycky says today's result bodes ill for Yushchenko when he faces a confidence vote next week, which could mean he leaves the prime minister's job.

Kyiv, 19 April 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko suffered a setback today after 290 members of the 450-strong parliament voted that his administration's record so far was unsatisfactory.

An alliance of the Communist Party -- the single largest party in parliament -- and a cluster of parties believed to owe allegiance to powerful businessmen, are determined to topple Yushchenko from his post.

The Communists are ideologically opposed to Yushchenko's market reform policies and his pro-Western stance. Some of the other groups are displeased with Yushchenko's attempts to fight corruption in the business sector.

Ordinary Ukrainians consider Yushchenko the country's most popular and trustworthy politician. But that did not stop the overwhelming vote against him today.

Yushchenko said after the vote that he felt his government had proved effective and should remain, but he acknowledged that it would probably not remain in its present form.

He said: "I'm certain that today we didn't suffer a defeat, although this farce [the vote] is a fairly serious challenge and the emotions expressed were pretty negative. But I stress that I don't think that the democratic forces in Ukraine have lost."

The next stage of the campaign to dislodge Yushchenko is a vote of confidence due to take place by the end of next week.

Ukrainian journalist and independent political commentator Serhiy Rudenko believes today's vote bodes ill for Yushchenko in next week's vote of confidence.

"This vote that his record is unsatisfactory does not yet mean that Yushchenko must resign, but it makes it more likely than in the days preceding this."

Rudenko also believes that those who voted against Yushchenko included members of parties nominally loyal to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. This suggests the Ukrainian president wants Yushchenko to lose next week's vote.

In Ukraine, the prime minister is a presidential appointee and not elected by parliament. If Yushchenko loses the confidence vote, Kuchma has the constitutional right to appoint him acting prime minister.

Yushchenko has already said that he will not accept the job of acting prime minister if the vote goes against him next week and will resign.

Rudenko says he believes Yushchenko may now resign ahead of the confidence vote.

"I think in today's circumstances, the logical move would be for the prime minister to resign. In these circumstances it's very clear that he will not be able to work with this parliament. And if he can't work with this parliament he will effectively be isolated and all his legislative and economic proposals will be blocked by parliament."

Yushchenko has not commented on the possibility that he will resign ahead of the vote. After today's proceedings in parliament he entered hospital for treatment for a recurring back problem and is expected to be out of the public's view for several days.

Yushchenko is regarded as a potential candidate for the presidency precisely because of his political differences with Kuchma. Analysts say that if Yushchenko succeeds in keeping his job thanks to Kuchma, it would leave him politically weakened and would tarnish his image among ordinary Ukrainians.