Tymoshenko Loses by One Vote

ReutersYulia Tymoshenko gesturing during a parliamentary session Tuesday in Kiev.
KIEV -- Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday failed to approve Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister in a vote that her supporters immediately charged was technically flawed.

Tymoshenko was nominated by President Viktor Yushchenko, but received only 225 votes in each of two rounds of voting, one vote short of the absolute majority needed. Her supporters, however, said the machine tabulating the votes had been tampered with.

"It's not the lawmakers that malfunctioned, it's the machine. It was programmed for 225 votes," said Volodymyr Filenko, a parliament member from Tymoshenko's party.

"The voting was grossly and blatantly falsified," Tymoshenko said.

The dispute over the vote count adds a new exacerbating element to Ukraine's chronically chaotic politics.

After the second vote, members of the anti-Tymoshenko Party of the Regions, which has the largest contingent in the parliament, blockaded the rostrum; the body then went into recess.

Katya Malofeyeva, chief economist at Renaissance Capital, predicted that Ukraine would be without a government for at least several more weeks.

"I actually expected this to happen. Full support was very doubtful," she said.

"It's definitely a strong sign that she needs to negotiate further. She would have to give up her ambitions for all the economic positions in government."

Tymoshenko told the parliament before the vote that she would fight corruption and unite the country, which is divided between nationalist western regions and the Russian-speaking east.

"When the national team is playing, we must all cheer in the same way," Tymoshenko said.

"I want a national team to be born so that we are able to turn Ukraine into a strong European state."

Although the Party of the Regions, led by the previous prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, has the largest number of seats, the parties of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko together obtained a narrow majority of the seats in September's national elections.

Tymoshenko and the president have often locked horns in the past -- he dismissed her as prime minister in 2005 after she had served only seven months -- but agreed to form a majority coalition on the understanding that she would be nominated to return to the post.

AP, Reuters