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Yanukovych Returns as Ukraine's Prime Minister


Ukraine's parliament has voted to return Viktor Yanukovych to the post of prime minister, less than two years after he abandoned the job to make his failed bid for the presidency. Parliament also pushed through a number of other pressing measures Friday, following months of political wrangling.

It is a complete reversal of fortunes for Mr. Yanukovych, the former mechanic-turned politician, who suffered a bitter defeat to President Viktor Yushchenko amid the mass protests of the Orange Revolution.

By a vote of 271 to nine, Ukraine's parliament voted to confirm Mr. Yanukovych to the cheers of his Region's Party supporters.

Mr. Yanukovych has served in the post before, under former President Leonid Kuchma, but never with the extent of powers he holds now, thanks to new constitutional reforms Mr. Yushchenko agreed to during the revolution in order to end the impasse.

Those powers include greater say in cabinet picks, as well as greater job security, because according to the new changes, parliament must now approve any dismissal of the prime minister. Previously, the president alone could sack his cabinet leader.

Since the revolution, President Yushchenko has said he would like to see a revision of some of those constitutional changes, presumably those giving stronger powers to the prime minister. But parliament moved quickly Friday to ensure that would not happen, also voting to prohibit the Constitutional Court from revising the changes.

There was no immediate comment from President Yushchenko, who just one day earlier threw his support behind his archrival and joined his Our Ukraine forces with those of Regions, the Communists, and Socialists to form a new majority.

Yulia Timoshenko, who now stands as the sole opposition leader, has branded the president's deal as a sellout.

This businessman, packing up from an opposition tent camp on Independence Square agrees. Boris Voichishin told VOA he never believed the president would team up with anyone but Ms. Timoshenko.

Boris says we wanted a Ukraine looking Westward, toward democracy, fair elections, and European Union and NATO membership. Now, he says, we will have nothing but a return to Russia.

President Yushchenko has said the decision, while difficult, was the only way forward to ensure that Ukraine was truly unified between its Russian-speaking East and pro-democratic West.

Addressing the parliament immediately prior to his acceptance, Mr. Yanukovych expressed confidence that he could govern the diverse factions making up the new coalition.

It is of particular interest that he chose to speak in Ukrainian, despite the fact he campaigned on pledges to make Russian an official state language.

The United States has said it looks forward to working with Ukraine's new government. It says the political impasse in Ukraine has been overcome through democratic elections and diligent politicking.

Neighboring Russia has also hailed the result. The influential business daily, Kommersant, predicts that, in practice, Mr. Yanukovych will move closer to Europe in order to protect the considerable business interests in his industrial homeland of Donetsk.

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