Coalition turns leader of Ukraine into a token

KIEV - Ukraine's parliament has rammed through legislation directly challenging President Viktor Yushchenko, placing the country's pro-West ruling coalition in jeopardy, local media reported.

KIEV - Ukraine's parliament has rammed through legislation directly challenging President Viktor Yushchenko, placing the country's pro-West ruling coalition in jeopardy, local media reported.

Yesterday, a parliamentary faction led by Yushchenko's erstwhile ally, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, switched sides during a stormy Monday evening session to join with the pro-Russia Regions Party to approve a package of bills directly aimed at reducing the presidency to the status of a figurehead.

The collapse of the Yushchenko-led ruling coalition has been brewing since early this year when Tymoshenko, a politician openly keen to replace Yushchenko as the country's leader, came into increasing conflict with the president over economic reforms and alleged corruption within each of their parties.

The de facto Regions-Tymoshenko bloc amassed more than 300 votes in four separate parliamentary votes, more than the majority needed to override a presidential veto, and even allowing a rewrite of the constitution, by the rules of the 450-seat house.

The assembly of such a powerful effective majority in the usually-fractious legislature, known as the Verhovna Rada, is rare, and no Rada in the past has ever managed to collect 300-plus votes to confront a sitting president. - Sapa-dpa

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