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Ukraine: orange exodus marks new parliament

Ukraine's newly elected parliament has convened for a dramatic first session. The factions remain split along party lines and the session resulted in members of the “orange bloc” theatrically leaving the session in protest at criticism voiced

On Friday, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich seemed to shine with optimism, despite having resigned from his post,  with the formation of the ruling coalition pending.

His rival Yulia Timoshenko had swapped her usual haute couture for a simple jumper bearing her party's logo. 

President Viktor Yushchenko, however, failed to attend the first sitting of the country's new parliament. 

The gathering buzzed with excitement like a crowded classroom on the first day of term.

The deputies broke the ice after nearly a year of political stand-off.  

In the session things got more serious. The former speaker, Aleksandr Moroz, came out with some biting comments aimed at the president.  

“The results of the snap election have proved that they were unnecessary and were only meant to please a few people. With the help of Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s politics is outside the law. That’s why I can’t see any stability in the country now,” he said.

The Yulia Timoshenko Bloc, which is considering joining forces with the presidential party, refused to take the criticism, and walked out. 

Together with Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Party, the bloc has a slim majority over the prime minister’s Party of Regions. However, as at least six party members have not yet signed the coalition agreement, their victory is still uncertain.

The constitution requires that a coalition be created within a month of the first session of parliament. A new prime minister must be chosen no later than 30 days after the majority is formed. 

Meanwhile, Yulia Timoshenko is widely tipped to become the next head of government. 

For that she needs all 226 votes from the ‘orange bloc’. Some members of the Our Ukraine Party,  say they will oppose any candidate for prime minister who intends standing for the presidency in 2010 – a direct reference to Ms Timoshenko.