Tymoshenko Narrowly Re-elected

APYulia Tymoshenko celebrating in the parliament in Kiev on Tuesday after she was re-elected Ukraine's prime minister.
KIEV -- Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday restored Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister, sealing a political comeback for a leading figure from the Orange Revolution three years ago.

Tymoshenko, who confronted a powerful coalition led by outgoing Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, won 226 votes -- the exact number required to take office. Her adversaries took no part in the vote.

Speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk grinned broadly as his vote, the last to be counted in the parliament, gave Tymoshenko the number she needed to win the ballot.

A beaming Tymoshenko, wearing her traditional peasant braid and a white dress, was then surrounded by applauding supporters. After parliamentary officials confirmed the tally, she took her seat in the chamber's government section.

President Viktor Yushchenko was absent for the vote but said on his web site that the outcome provided grounds to believe that the coalition's "steps to tackle the country's top priorities will prove successful."

Yanukovych, given the floor before the vote, predicted that Tymoshenko's return would herald instability. "We all remember full well how it was when you were in office last time and how it all ended. Within less than a year, the economy shrunk by nearly 10 percent and prices rose," he said.

"A new era of trials lies ahead for our country, trials of crises, scandals. Our people can expect no improvement in their lives. I am certain these promises will never be fulfilled," he said.

Tymoshenko fell a single vote short of being confirmation last week. She blamed the outcome on tampering with the electronic voting system, though officials found no evidence.

The outcome of Tuesday's vote, conducted by roll call with deputies stating their positions publicly, was in doubt until the last minute. One deputy from the president's party, who suffered a stroke, was absent, adding to the tension.

During her first term in office, she quarreled with Yushchenko over calls for a sweeping review of privatizations, which spooked investors.

Relations with Moscow also worsened as she accused Russian firms of trying to cheat Ukraine, but she has in recent months repeatedly called for good ties with the Kremlin.

"Obviously it was a razor-thin victory. ... It shows how split parliament is and how split the coalition itself is," said Ivailo Vesselinov, an analyst with Dresdner Kleinwort. "This means the government will be fragile."

Relations with Russia, he added, "won't be as bad as last time. She has moderated her rhetoric a lot."

Tymoshenko told reporters after the vote that she wanted talks with Moscow on her long-held objective to eliminate all intermediaries in gas trade with Russia.

But she stressed that gas would continue to flow to Europe without any disruptions.

Europe gets a quarter of its gas from Russia, 80 percent of which travels through Ukraine.