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Ukraine Passes Law Easing Coalition Building

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych
KYIV (Reuters) -- Ukraine's parliament has passed a law easing rules on forming a ruling coalition as allies of newly elected President Viktor Yanukovych push for a new government to tackle a debilitating economic crisis.

The amendment, passed with 235 votes in the 450-seat assembly today, allows individual deputies to join a coalition group, rather than insist a faction joins en bloc.

Yanukovych won a presidential election over a month ago, beating bitter rival ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whose government was subsequently ousted by parliament.

Tymoshenko, co-author of the 2004 Orange Revolution that then denied Yanukovych the president's post, has refused to acknowledge his victory as legitimate.

The new law will allow Yanukovych's Party of Regions to poach members of former President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party.

A majority of the 72 Our Ukraine deputies do not want to join with Yanukovych's supporters, but the dozen or so that do would give a coalition spearheaded by the Party of Regions a majority in parliament.

Any coalition will have to be endorsed by parliament. It can then name a new government, which analysts say is likely to be headed by former Finance Minister and Yanukovych ally Mykola Azarov. That too will have to be approved by the assembly.