Ukraine opposition blocks parliament from voting on Azarov

Wed Dec 12, 2012 2:50pm EST
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By Richard Balmforth

KIEV (Reuters) - Protests from a re-energized Ukrainian opposition at a boisterous opening session of a new parliament on Wednesday pushed back the key vote to endorse Mykola Azarov for a new term as prime minister.

The vote, now expected to take place on Thursday, will be the first test of support that President Viktor Yanukovich, who re-nominated Azarov, commands in the new chamber.

Yanukovich's pro-business Party of the Regions and their allies enjoyed a strong majority in the last parliament, which allowed them to push through changes to the electoral law and a law on use of the Russian language that sparked street protests.

But though it is still the biggest single party, it lost seats in the October 28 election.

Most analysts said they believed horse-trading would ensure enough support from independents and others to secure the required 226 or more seats. But the new opposition line-up, whose leaders have ruled out any coalition with the Regions Party, quickly showed their teeth.

Deputies from the three main opposition parties encircled the speaker's rostrum, effectively blocking activation of the electronic system which would allow deputies to vote on Azarov's nomination and the appointment of parliamentary officials.

After a prolonged stand-off, both sides left the chamber for the night, agreeing to resume the session on Thursday, according to the Regions Party. Separately, the government put off a meeting scheduled for Thursday morning.

Deputies from the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) bloc, whose leader is jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, appeared in the chamber wearing black sweaters bearing her portrait and stickers calling for political prisoners to be freed.   Continued...

Parliament members scuffle over regulations in forming factions during the first session of the newly-elected Ukrainian parliament in Kiev December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Anatolii Stepanov