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Friday, February 19, 2010

Ukraine rivals skirmish in court and parliament

Fri Feb 19, 2010 | Tymoshenko tries to block Yanukovich's Feb. 25 swearing-in

* She says rigged vote robbed her of victory

* Few believe she can win court appeal (Releads with parliament move to oust her as PM)

KIEV, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Ukrainian President-elect Viktor Yanukovich moved to oust rival Yulia Tymoshenko (picture) as prime minister on Friday, while she went to court to challenge his Feb. 7 election as fraudulent.

Tymoshenko pressed her case before Ukraine's Higher Administrative Court for another runoff vote to be organised which would block Yanukovich's inauguration on Feb. 25.

After a day's hearing, at which she urged the court to "study carefully" nine volumes of evidence which she said showed she had been robbed of victory, Yanukovich's camp in parliament took steps to force her out of office with a no-confidence vote.

A draft resolution "on the responsibility of the government" was published on the parliament's website by a deputy of Yanukovich's Regions Party faction. The deputy, Oleksander Yefremov, told Interfax: "This is a resolution of no-confidence in the government."

It will require a simple majority -- 226 votes in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada (parliament) -- to bring down the government. The vote can be expected after March 2 and after Yanukovich is sworn in.

Yanukovich, 59, who defeated the charismatic Tymoshenko by just 3.5 percentage points in the runoff, has already called on her to quit voluntarily, but she has refused.

If a vote of no-confidence is successful, she will have to step down with her government but she can stay on as acting prime minister for some time.

She will have to leave office only once Yanukovich's camp has forged a new parliamentary coalition -- a long and complicated process of horse-trading.


"A new president will have legitimacy only when all the evidence which has put it in doubt has been studied," Tymoshenko told the court.

Tymoshenko is pressing for a new presidential vote, as took place in the 2004 "Orange Revolution" which ended with President Viktor Yushchenko being elected.

Yanukovich, denied the top job by the 2004 wave of protests against electoral fraud, has denied any wrongdoing in the runoff.

Tymoshenko is also trying to have declared illegal the official declaration that Yanukovich was elected.

Few commentators expect her to win and most believe the court will throw out the appeal in time for Yanukovich's inauguration to go ahead next Thursday.

Tymoshenko pledged to abide by the court's decision, so long as she deemed it fair.

"If everything is set up and studied objectively, I will accept the decision which is the will of people. But I can not accept double standards," she said.

Tymoshenko was given a hostile reception from hundreds of Yanukovich supporters who turned out in force dressed in the campaign blue of his Regions Party. They chanted "Shame! Shame" as she was escorted by bodyguards into and out of the court building.

With her hair plaited in her trademark peasant braid, she sat next to Leonid Kravchuk, a former president, in the courtroom. Others supporting her in court included former Foreign Minister Borys Tarasiuk.

"I am sure that an honest review of all the circumstances is required not only by me as a presidential candidate. I am sure that it is also required by the candidate who considers himself president," she told the court.

Analysts say Tymoshenko's refusal to concede to Yanukovich, whose victory has been recognised by Russia and the West, may be aimed at weakening him as much as possible before he takes office and may not be based on serious hopes of a court victory.

Many expected the court to deliver its ruling in two or three days.

Although the court case is not expected to delay the inauguration, the uncertainty was bad news for stability and hopes of a quick economic recovery for the ex-Soviet republic of 46 million people.

Ukraine has been bouyed by a $16.4 billion bail-out programme from the International Monetary Fund.

This was suspended late last year over broken spending promises and the IMF is not likely to resume the programme until a stable power structure has emerged in the country.

(Writing by Richard Balmforth; editing by Andrew Dobbie)

Ukraine Politics- -20- Feb -2010