Ukrainian lawmakers have voted down a no-confidence motion against the government. The opposition was seeking to force it out of office over the president’s failure to sign a key agreement with the European Union.
The motion of no-confidence in the government of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov (pictured above, right) was easily defeated on Tuesday, with the measure being supported by just 186 opposition lawmakers. This was 40 votes short of the 226 the opposition needed to force the prime minister to step down.
During the parliamentary debate that preceded the vote, Azarov apologized for a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters on the weekend in which more than 150 people were injured.
"On behalf of our government, I would like to apologize for the actions of our law enforcement authorities on Maidan (Independence Square)," Azarov said, while at the same time appealing to lawmakers to prevent a repeat of the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution.
"We reach out our hand to you, push away the intriguers, the intriguers seeking power and who are trying to repeat the scenario of 2004," the prime minister said.
Azarov also pleged to announce a Cabinet shuffle shortly.
"I can guarantee lawmakers one thing. I will draw firm conclusions from what happened and make serious personnel changes in the government," he said.
The opposition had called the no-confidence vote over President Viktor Yanukovych's decision last Friday not to sign an association agreement with the European Union, something he had previously been expected to do.
The vote was just the latest development in the turmoil that had gripped the Ukrainian capital ever since. Thousands of anti-government protesters were back out on the streets of Kyiv again on Tuesday, some of whom had braved subzero temperatures on Monday night, huddling in army tents set up on Independence Square. Some of them blockaded ministry and other government buildings.
In a speech to a crowd of protesters in the square on Tuesday morning, former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko, now a member of the opposition, called on them not to let up in their demonstrations against the government.
The failure of the no-confidence motion appears to have done little to resolve the tensions in the country. It wasn't immediately clear what other political options remained open to the opposition.
pfd/mkg (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)