Ukraine's incoming President Viktor Yanukovich has secured a coalition majority in parliament and appointed a close ally, former finance minister Mykola Azarov, to head a new government.
AFP - Ukraine's new President Viktor Yanukovych on Thursday tightened his grip on power as one of his closest allies became the new prime minister and his party succeeded in forming a ruling coalition.
The new coalition replaces the outgoing government of his arch-rival Yulia Tymoshenko, who Yanukovych defeated in February 7 presidential elections, and gives the new president control over all Ukraine's man power centres.
Immediately after its formation, the coalition nominated Mykola Azarov -- a dour ex-finance minister who was born in Russia and is seen as a steadfast Yanukovych ally -- as the new prime minister.
The nomination was predictably approved by Yanukovych and then confirmed by parliament in a vote. Azarov has been mocked by critics for his poor command of Ukrainian but is also seen as an experienced economic manager.
Yanukovych's Regions Party formed the ruling coalition in parliament with two minority parties and also won over sufficient other deputies to form a majority.
"I announce the creation of the coalition of 'stability and reform'," said parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, adding that the coalition had a majority of 235 MPs in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada.
Besides the Regions Party, the coalition includes the Communists and Lytvyn's own bloc.
Born in Russia and resident in Ukraine since only 1984, Azarov has been mocked by Yanukovych's foes for his poor Ukrainian language skills and his penchant for distinctly undiplomatic talk.
He served as finance minister when Yanukovych held the post of prime minister and was also the head of his election headquarters during the last campaign.
Addressing parliament, Azarov vowed to pursue structural reforms and stabilise Ukraine's economy, which was knocked hard by the economic crisis and contracted some 15 percent in 2009.
Turning on the former government, he said: "The country has been pillaged, the treasury is empty and the economic recession is continuing."
Yanukovych had announced on Wednesday that the third-place candidate in the presidential elections, businessman Sergiy Tigipko, would be given a high-ranking post in the new government as head of economic policy.
Tigipko is seen by analysts as a relatively fresh face on the Ukrainian political scene who is developing a strong base for the next presidential elections.
In a surprise appointment, Ukraine's ambassador to Russia, Kostiantyn Gryshchenko, seen as a pro-Western figure, was named new foreign minister.
Although Tymoshenko has refused to recognise Yanukovych's legitimacy, she appears to be positioning herself as a strong opposition leader against what she describes as the president's "anti-Ukrainian" policies.
The formation of a new government had been eased by a bill passed by parliament earlier this week allowing potential coalitions to recruit deputies as individuals rather than in parliamentary blocs.
This allowed the Regions Party-led coalition to recruit deputies from the Our Ukraine-People's Self Defence bloc, a minority faction split between those who want to back Yanukovych and those loyal to Tymoshenko.
The law formally took effect Thursday after it was published in the official government chronicle.
Long seen as a pro-Russia figure, Yanukovych has sought to shake off his image as a Kremlin stooge. This week he raised eyebrows in Russia by saying he would no longer seek to promote Russian to a state language in Ukraine.
Date created : 2010-03-11