August 4, 2006

Ukraine’s parliament opens

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's parliament began a session on
Friday where deputies were expected to vote in Viktor
Yanukovich as prime minister and agree on the line-up of his
coalition cabinet.

Yanukovich, the man defeated by President Viktor Yushchenko
in the "Orange Revolution" two years ago, is expected easily to
gather the required majority in the 450-seat parliament.

"I think today we will vote to appoint the prime minister
and will also appoint the cabinet line-up," said Rinat
Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest man and a Yanukovich ally.

Deputies will also decide whether to give the go-ahead for
military training exercises with NATO and try to appoint new
judges for the Constitutional Court.

Yushchenko was expected to arrive in parliament to oversee
the vote for Yanukovich. He reluctantly proposed his rival to
head the government after running out of constitutional

Sources in parliament said approving Yanukovich was the
second item on the agenda, after a vote to elect judges to the
Constitutional Court.

A spokesman for Yanukovich said the vote on his candidacy
would be at about 12 noon (0900 GMT).

Yanukovich was nominated by Yushchenko after he agreed to
sign a political declaration safeguarding the president's
Western-leaning policies.

Yanukovich, 56, is backed by his Regions Party and the
Socialists and Communists who between them have around 240
votes. Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party with 86 seats has also
joined them in a "grand coalition."

Dozens of parliamentarians from the Our Ukraine faction
have said they would not support Yanukovich, their opponents
during mass street protests against electoral fraud in 2004.
Others defended the new coalition as an attempt to heal

The Constitutional Court was inactive for nearly a year and
resumption of its work was a key condition set out by the
president for the new ruling coalition.

Parliament will also consider a law on allowing military
training exercises with NATO. Ukraine is not a member but has
said it wants to join the alliance.

The exercises have been held regularly in Ukraine since
1997 but this year plans for war games triggered small but
noisy protests in Ukraine's Russian-speaking Crimea. The
government suspended the exercises.

Parliament will break for its summer vacation once it
finishes its agenda for Friday. If it does not have time it has
the option of sitting on Saturday.