- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2006

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s pro-Russian parliamentary majority nominated President Viktor Yushchenko’s Orange Revolution foe as prime minister yesterday after a chaotic session in which the president’s frustrated allies brawled and refused to take their seats.

The nomination of Viktor Yanukovych, the man whose fraud-marred run for the 2004 presidency sparked the Orange Revolution mass protests, was a humiliating setback for Mr. Yushchenko, who defeated Mr. Yanukovych in a court-ordered election rerun.

Mr. Yushchenko has 15 days to consider the nomination and return it to parliament, but he has no right of veto. The move sets the stage for an awkward power sharing that could see Ukraine slip back under the influence of Moscow and handicap Mr. Yushchenko’s efforts to steer Ukraine into the World Trade Organization, NATO and the European Union.

Mr. Yanukovych’s power base is in pro-Russia eastern Ukraine, and he was the Kremlin’s clear favorite in the 2004 vote.

Mr. Yushchenko’s pro-Western and reformist allies increased pressure on him to use his constitutional powers to dissolve parliament and call new elections. They refused to cooperate with the new coalition, which brings together Mr. Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, Communists and Socialists.

Mr. Yushchenko’s allies sounded sirens and shoved their opponents, forcing Speaker Oleksandr Moroz to repeatedly call short recesses. Fights broke out throughout the parliamentary building.

“I don’t see another way out except the decision to dissolve parliament,” said Petro Poroshenko, one of the president’s closest allies. “It is up to the president. The party is ready to support him.”

Such a move would continue the political paralysis that has seized this ex-Soviet republic since the March 26 election ended without a decisive winner, prompting political parties to cast about for ways to form a majority coalition.

Yesterday, Mr. Moroz formally announced the creation of the pro-Russian parliamentary coalition, which came together after his Socialists bolted from a coalition that included the parties of Mr. Yushchenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

The announcement of the new coalition drew shouts of “Judas” from Mr. Moroz’s former allies. It was preceded and followed by scuffles, in which one lawmaker from Mr. Yushchenko’s party appeared to suffer a broken nose.

The new alliance controls at least 233 seats in the 450-member parliament, a slim majority that could prove dangerous in run-ins with the president.

In the 2004 election, Mr. Yanukovych officially had the most votes, but Mr. Yushchenko accused him of fraud, and hundreds of thousands of Yushchenko supporters swarmed the capital. The Supreme Court annulled Mr. Yanukovych’s victory and called new elections, which Mr. Yushchenko won.

Disappointment in the new president set in quickly amid infighting and accusations of corruption and incompetence within his entourage.

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