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Yanukovych Party Pushes For Ukraine Coalition

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych

KYIV (Reuters) -- The party of President Viktor Yanukovych pushed for a change in the law today to ease the creation of a new ruling coalition, essential if Ukraine is to dig itself out of economic crisis and avoid elections.

The initiative was condemned as a "constitutional coup d'etat" by the bloc of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, ousted in a no-confidence vote on March 3 and who lost a bitterly fought presidential run-off to Yanukovich on February 7.

It appeared aimed at poaching the support of part of the loose Our Ukraine alliance formerly grouped around ex-President Viktor Yushchenko.

Lawmakers of Yanukovych's Regions Party said a coalition and government could be announced next week, after Yanukovuch's first official trip to Moscow as president on March 5.

They said former finance minister and close Yanukovych ally Mykola Azarov was the most likely candidate for the post of prime minister.

The proposed amendment would give deputies the right to join a ruling coalition on an individual basis, rather than necessarily as part of a faction as under the current law.

"The chaos in the country must be stopped, government resumed. There will be a new coalition and there will be a new cabinet of ministers," said Yanukovych lawmaker Mykhailo Chechetov.

It was unclear whether parliament would vote on the amendment today and hand Yanukovych a filip ahead of his talks with the Kremlin.

Handed The Reins

Parliament dismissed Tymoshenko's government almost a month since Yanukovych's election victory tilted the former Soviet republic back toward Russia.

Tymoshenko, co-architect with Yushchenko of the Orange Revolution of 2004 that brought pro-Western politicians to power, handed the reins of government today to her first deputy, Oleksander Turchynov.

The Regions Party has 30 days to form a new coalition in parliament or face the possibility of a parliamentary election.

The country of 46 million people -- split between a Russian-leaning south and east and a Western-friendly west and center -- badly needs strong government to tackle a debilitating economic crisis and restart talks with the International Monetary Fund on a $16.4 billion bailout package.

Yanukovych's Regions Party is the largest bloc in parliament with 171 seats, and can count on the support of the Communist faction and the Lytvyn bloc. But such a coalition would still fall short of a 226-seat majority in the 450-seat parliament.

They need the support of at least part of the Our Ukraine bloc, which is divided on the issue. Fifteen of its 71 deputies voted with the Regions Party to dismiss Tymoshenko. Under the current law, to join the coalition a majority of the bloc needs to vote in favor.

Parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn -- leader of the Lytvyn bloc -- said that though there might be certain "doubts" over the legality of the amendment, he would declare a coalition valid based on the signatures of 226 deputies.

"Everyone reads the constitution in their own way," he told "Kommersant" newspaper. "The main thing for me -- are there 226 deputies who will take responsibility for decisions in parliament?"