September 22, 2005

Ukraine assembly backs new PM

By Ron Popeski

KIEV (Reuters) - Parliament on Thursday approved Yuri
Yekhanurov as Ukraine's new prime minister, pulling the country
back from the brink of crisis after less than a year of liberal

The middle-of-the road Yekhanurov replaced Yulia
Tymoshenko, who stood alongside President Viktor Yushchenko in
last year's "Orange Revolution" protests, but was sacked as
prime minister in September after months of infighting split
the government.

Yekhanurov, a pragmatist and Yushchenko loyalist, was the
president's candidate to take over as prime minister.

Tymoshenko's dismissal and allegations from both sides
about the rampant corruption Yushchenko had vowed to stop had
pitched the ex-Soviet state into turmoil and generated mass
disillusion ahead of a parliamentary election next March.

Yekhanurov was backed by 289 of 450 members, well above the
required 226. On Tuesday, he fell three votes short.

The president secured endorsement for his candidate on the
second attempt after clinching a deal with the man he defeated
last year to take power, ex-prime minister Viktor Yanukovich.

"We must bury the hatchet, bury it a long way from here
and, if possible, forget the spot where it lies," Yushchenko
said in a brief address before the vote, over in less than 15

He was jubilant afterwards.

"At this decisive moment, when it seemed to many that
disappointment had taken hold, the nation showed what millions
showed last year on the square," he said, referring to weeks of
mass rallies in Kiev's Independence Square in his favor.

He said he had faced "a choice between my colleagues and
Ukraine. I am happy to have chosen Ukraine."

The new premier, a pragmatist seen as a pre-election
stopgap, must patch over rows that have made investors turn
tail, notably over privatization, and reverse a slowdown that
has reduced economic growth to its lowest rate in five years.


Yekhanurov, born in Russia's polar Yakutia region, has a
track record of loyalty, having served as Yushchenko's deputy
prime minister when he headed the government in 2000-2001.

He has challenged the policies of the fiery Tymoshenko,
pledging no more reviews of often controversial selloffs
conducted under previous post-Soviet administrations.

"Some of the uncertainty is over -- we will have a prime
minister at least until January and very likely until the
election in March," said Sergei Voloboyev, an emerging markets
economist at CSFB in London.

"But the country is in deep pre-election mode. It's very
hard to expect significant progress on reform issues in the
near term."

Tymoshenko had urged Yushchenko on Wednesday to revive the
alliance that helped catapult the president to power last year,
but made it clear she wanted her job back as premier.

Yekhanurov, 57, said after the vote that he would name his
cabinet line-up next week, promising "a powerful signal for
big, medium and small business and also for our partners

Experts would get key positions alongside politicians.

In his remarks to the chamber, Yushchenko addressed the
festering issue of alleged corruption in top government bodies.

To applause, he reduced the size of his secretariat,
abolished the post of top aide to the president and reduced the
functions of the National Security and Defense Council, which
had strongly opposed Tymoshenko before she was dismissed.

(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kiev and Douglas
Busvine in Moscow)