Parliament passes vote of no-confidence against Ukrainian government

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The Independent Online

Ukraine's parliament passed a no-confidence motion in a dramatic reversal today, bringing down the government as international mediators gathered in Kiev to try to bring the spiraling political crisis to a peaceful resolution.

Ukraine's parliament passed a no-confidence motion in a dramatic reversal today, bringing down the government as international mediators gathered in Kiev to try to bring the spiraling political crisis to a peaceful resolution.

The vote with 229 in favor came minutes after the chamber turned down the motion by a vote of 222-1, and after outgoing President Leonid Kuchma announced he supported holding an entire new presidential election, not just a revote of the disputed second round.

Ukraine had a first round of voting in which no one candidate received more than half the votes, setting up a runoff between the top two candidates. The results from the Nov. 21 runoff provoked a national standoff when the opposition refused to accept them, citing vote fraud - a charge backed by many international monitors.

"Where in the world do they have a third round of elections? A revote - it's a farce," Kuchma said at a government meeting. "I never supported it because it is unconstitutional."

The opposition has sought a revote, claiming victory was stolen from its candidate, Viktor Yushchenko. Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who had Kuchma's support, was declared the official winner.

Kuchma's proposal seemed to be an attempt to buy the government time in the face of mass protests that have paralyzed the capital for 10 days and blocked government business. It also opened up the possibility of bringing new candidates into the race - which the government has appeared to favor and the opposition fiercely opposes.

But following parliament's no-confidence vote, Kuchma must dismiss his government, said Kiev-based analyst Markian Bilynskyj. Pro-communist parliamentary groups used a similar move in 2001 to oust Yushchenko from the prime minister's post, Bilynskyj said.

As Ukraine's politicians staked out their positions, international mediators renewed efforts to defuse the crisis and the Supreme Court considered whether the election results were valid.

The last internationally brokered negotiations broke down over opposition accusations that the government was trying to consolidate its flagging authority by dragging out the talks. Yushchenko is pushing to be declared the outright winner - or for a fast revote to capitalize on the momentum generated by the protests.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana arrived in Kiev Tuesday and was to be followed Wednesday by Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and the secretary general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Jan Kubis. The speaker of the Russian parliament, Boris Gryzlov, and Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus were also expected to participate.

Mediators helped arrange talks between Yanukovych and Yushchenko last Friday. The two sides agreed to set up a working group to seek a compromise, but the opposition pulled out of those talks on Tuesday.

The issue of a revote or new election was likely to be high on the agenda of Wednesday's meetings with international mediators.

Yanukovych suggested Tuesday he could agree to a proposal for a new election - but that both he and Yushchenko should bow out if one is held.

"If this election brings a split in the country ... I'm ready to drop my bid along with him," Yanukovych said.

Yushchenko ignored the proposal. He also rebuffed the offer of the prime minister's post under a Yanukovych presidency, saying it fell far short of a solution.

"The election was rigged," he said. "People are asking whether this country has a political elite capable of upholding a fair vote."

Yushchenko has led the opposition for years and was long seen as its candidate in a country where millions are yearning for change after Kuchma's 10-year rule. Kuchma anointed Yanukovych as his favored successor last spring, hoping his prominence as prime minister would attract votes.

Solana, who met with Kuchma Tuesday, voiced hope the two sides could be brought back to the table.

"I'm sure that with the goodwill of everybody we will see the progress in the coming days," Solana told reporters.

Both campaigns are pinning their hopes on the Supreme Court, which convened for a third day to consider Yushchenko's appeal for the official results to be annulled. The opposition has presented its allegations of fraud and demanded Yushchenko be named the winner based on his narrow edge in the election's first round on Oct. 31. It remains unclear when a ruling will come.

The political crisis stoked fears of Ukraine's breakup. Yushchenko draws his support from the Ukrainian-speaking west and the capital, while Yanukovych's base is the Russian-speaking, industrialized east.

The West has refused to recognize the results, while Russia - which still has considerable influence over Ukraine - congratulated Yanukovych and complained of Western meddling.

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