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Ukraine's new parliament, elected on September 30 in early polls, convened
Ukraine's new parliament, elected on September 30 in early polls, convened for its first session on Friday, paving the way to forming a majority coalition and government.

Addressing the Supreme Rada, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych announced his resignation. Yanukovych will be acting premier and his Cabinet members acting ministers until a new government is formed in the ex-Soviet state.

Two Western-leaning parties, pro-presidential bloc Our Ukraine and Yulia Tymoshenko's eponymous party, which gained 72 and 156 seats respectively, are expected to form a majority coalition in the 450-seat Supreme Rada.

Earlier reports said the Tymoshenko bloc would be allowed to pick a premier, and Our Ukraine would appoint a speaker.

It remains doubtful whether President Viktor Yushchenko would approve Tymoshenko, his key ally in the 2004 "orange revolution", as a candidate for premier. Her eight-month stint as head of government in 2005 was brought to an end by political in-fighting.

A parliamentary majority requires at least 226 members, and the parties said they could sign a coalition deal later on Friday.

The rival Party of Regions, led by the more Moscow-friendly Yanukovych, is the largest faction with 175 seats in the Rada. A union with its longtime allies, the Communists, who have 27 seats in parliament, would not be enough for a majority.

Both groups have sought an alliance with Volodymyr Lytvyn, whose faction comprises 20 lawmakers. However, the former parliamentary speaker has so far declined alliance proposals from both of them.

The Constitution stipulates that a government must be formed within 60 days following elections, but persisting differences within the parliamentary factions, including over Cabinet portfolios, threaten to spark further political wrangling.

In the three years since street protests overturned Yanukovych's presidential election victory in favor of Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine has seen a fierce power struggle between the two main centers of power, as well as within the "orange" bloc.

Political battles came to a head when Yushchenko called snap parliamentary elections in April, accusing Yanukovych of seeking to usurp power.

Members of the five blocs that made it into the Supreme Rada will preside in the legislature until a speaker is elected.


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