Supporters of Ukrainian President-elect Viktor Yanukovich pushed for an early Feb. 25 inauguration on Monday to put pressure on rival Yulia Tymoshenko as she prepared a court challenge to his election.
Parliament appeared set on Tuesday to approve the early date for Yanukovich's swearing-in before Tymoshenko's followers opened their challenge in a high court in Kiev.
Backers of the 49-year-old prime minister say they have evidence to support their allegations that fraud by the Yanukovich camp robbed her of victory in the Feb. 7 vote.
Although she is unlikely to succeed, the move will prolong uncertainty in the former Soviet state of 46 million, which has been hit by an economic crisis and is making do without a $16.4 billion IMF programme, suspended last year.
The charismatic Tymoshenko, who lost to Yanukovich by the narrow margin of 3.48 percentage points, according to official results, says she will never recognise him as a legitimately- elected president.
She has refused to step down as prime minister and concede defeat, despite the urging of Western governments which have formally congratulated the 59-year-old ex-mechanic and hailed his election as a victory for democracy.
The Yanukovich camp was clearly eager to see the Kiev court reject the Tymoshenko appeal quickly so that he could be installed by the end of the month, two weeks earlier than had earlier been expected.
Referring to parliament's expected agreement to a Feb. 25 inauguration, Oleksander Yefremov, a representative of his Regions Party, said: "This decision will give a signal to the court not to draw matters out."
The stand-off spells more instability and political manoeuvring with Tymoshenko continuing as prime minister after Yanukovich is sworn in until she is forced out by a vote of no confidence.
Even then, she will be able to stay on as acting prime minister while Yanukovich embarks on the long and complicated business of trying to forge a coalition in parliament to find her successor.
Tigipko, a possible PM
In an interview with the BBC's Ukrainian service, Yanukovich said: "I understand very well that the coalition will be created around the candidature of the next prime minister, so I will encourage the process of unifying parliament and the negotiating process will show how much parliament is willing to unite around one or another candidate".
And he raised the possibility of the job going to businessman and former central bank chief Sergey Tigipko, 50, who secured a good negotiating position for himself after coming a strong third in the first round of voting.
"I do not rule out the candidature of Tigipko. Tigipko is on the list which, in my opinion, will be discussed next week in parliament," Yanukovich said.
Other candidates have been touted too, among them former finance minister Mykola Azarov, a loyal ally of Yanukovich, and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a 35-year-old former finance minister and one-time Speaker of parliament.
Oleksander Turchynov, a close aide of Tymoshenko, said she herself would appear at Kiev's High Administrative Court and was pressing for proceedings to be televised.
"Our side is preparing a large quantity of video material which confirm cheating at polling stations and in constituencies. A large number of witnesses are ready to give evidence about types of falsification," he told journalists.
ReutersLast Mod: 15 Şubat 2010, 19:05