Ukraine's 450-seat parliament has failed to approve President Viktor Yushchenko's choice for prime minister, Yuri Yekhanurov. The vote is a major defeat for President Yuschenko, who is struggling to get the government back on track after sacking his first government amid corruption charges.

Acting Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov is seen by many analysts as a technocrat likely to stabilize Ukraine's government, but he came three votes short of the required 226 needed to confirm his position.

Mr. Yekhanurov was named to replace ousted prime minister Yulia Timoshenko, who has since announced plans to oppose President Yushchenko in parliamentary elections next March.

The failure to confirm Mr. Yekhanurov is a serious blow that further undermines President Yushchenko's ability to govern, according to Kiev-based independent political analyst Ivan Lozowy.

"Unfortunately, Viktor Yushchenko's options are running out. He is becoming relatively weak as a president only eight months into his presidency. It is a sign that certainly what [Mr.] Yushchenko is saying about [former prime minister Yulia] Timoshenko's dismissal is not all that there is to know because it is a crisis, first and foremost, with the president," he said.

Officials had said that if Mr. Yekhanurov's candidacy was rejected, they would continue political negotiations. That effort now begins in earnest and analyst Lozowy says candidate Yekhanurov could still be approved.

"I think it's certainly quite possible and even probable that we'll see [Mr.] Yekhanurov confirmed as prime minister in the next week or so," said Mr. Lozowy.

Until then, Mr. Lozowy added, Mr. Yekhanurov will continue in his post, until the president either reintroduces his candidacy or presents another nominee to parliament.

President Yushchenko earlier urged the parliament to approve his nominee, saying it was time to put political intrigue aside and unite on the basis of national interests.

He fired his last government a little more than a week ago, amid corruption charges against several key officials.

President Yushchenko says a vote for Mr. Yekhanurov is a vote for stability.

The Ukrainian president also alleges that there is, what he calls, a cynical plan afoot to destabilize his Western-oriented reform program and he urged parliament not to allow itself to be side-tracked.