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Elections

Ukraine re-elects Mykola Azarov as prime minister

Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has won another term in office hours after lawmakers brawled in the parliament chamber. The fight broke out while choosing a new speaker from President Yanukovich's ruling party.

Ukraine's parliament on Thursday approved Mykola Azarov as prime minister, after the ruling Party of the Regions and its allies mustered a solid majority despite protests from the opposition.

Azarov, 64, who has served as prime minister since Viktor Yanukovich became president in February 2010, was voted in for a second term in office by 252 votes from the 450-seat chamber.

The opposition accuses Azarov of economic mismanagement and says he is the wrong man to represent Ukraine next year as the country assumes the presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Brawl breaks out in Ukrainian parliament

The vote on Azarov's nomination was an early test of the support that Yanukovich, who is expected to bid for a second term as president in 2015, commands in the new chamber.

Hours before the vote, lawmakers wrestled with each other in a mass of bodies around the main stage as opposition parties tried physically to block a vote on the Regions' candidate for speaker.

Backed by their traditional communist allies, Yanukovich's Party of the Regions secured 250 votes - 226 were required - backing their candidate Volodymyr Rybak.

The opposition, comprised of deputies loyal to jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, nationalists from the far-right Svoboda and a liberal party led by boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, accuse the ruling coalition of trying to ram through voting despite violations of parliamentary rules.

The brawl started when deputies attempted to cast votes on behalf of absent parliamentarians.

The violence came at a time when Western countries have voiced concern over the state of democracy in Ukraine and have labelled the seven-year jail term for Tymoshenko as politically motivated.

Ukraine's new parliament first convened Wednesday, six weeks after elections that saw the Regions Party perform strongly, amid opposition complaints of vote-fixing.

hc/kms (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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