Ukrainian parliament thinks over candidacy of acting PM

Acting Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov faced an uphill battle Tuesday to collect the votes he needs in parliament, which is to take up his candidacy to head the Ukrainian government.

Yekhanurov needs 226 votes in the 450-member parliament. As of early Tuesday, he still had only 199 promised. Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytyvn scheduled the roll-call vote as the second item on the agenda.

President Viktor Yushchenko, who picked Yekhanurov to replace his dismissed Orange Revolution ally, Yulia Tymoshenko, met with a series of faction leaders late Monday in a last-ditch bid to win their support.

Tymoshenko, who has moved into opposition since her government was sacked on Sept. 8 and whose party is a key driver of the campaign to defeat Yekhanurov, held competing rounds of talks.

Failure to approve Yekhanurov's candidacy would prolong the political crisis gripping this ex-Soviet republic and represent a major defeat for the president's efforts to show that he has the political situation under control. Mutual allegations of corruption and infighting led Yushchenko to sack the government; a sign reading "Get Corruption out of the Government" hung below the speaker's seat.

Oleh Rybachuk, Yushchenko's new chief of staff, accused lawmakers of "looking for reasons not to vote." He insisted, however, that "life in Ukraine will not end" no matter what happens and said both he and Yushchenko "spent last night at peace."

Before the vote, Yekhanurov is expected to address parliament for 30 minutes and answer questions. If Yekhanurov's candidacy is rejected, negotiations will continue, officials said.

The Russian-born Yekhanurov is generally considered a neutral candidate, but many believe he will lead only a temporary government that will be in place until the March parliamentary elections.

Many opposition parties have said they will refuse to vote for him on principle. Viktor Yanukovych's Party of the Regions, the second biggest faction in parliament with 52 lawmakers, rejected Yushchenko's appeals and declared again that it would abstain. Yushchenko met with Yanukovych on Monday for the first time since last year's bitter presidential election; Yanukovych also held talks with Tymoshenko.

The Communists, which have 56 lawmakers, also said they won't support Yekhanurov.

There were reports that some of the opposition parties might try to forestall a vote on Yekhanurov in a bid to push through some of the remaining legislation needed to ensure that long-awaited political reforms go into effect on Jan. 1, the AP reports.

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