KIEV- Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko sought on Monday to force a quick parliamentary vote she hopes will back her government before President-elect Viktor Yanukovich has time to muster support to bring it down.
The move by the fiery 49-year-old premier indicated that, though she had reluctantly dropped a legal challenge to Yanukovich's election, she intended to throw up as many hurdles as possible to him consolidating his power.
The Regions Party faction of Yanukovich, whom she refuses to recognise as legitimate winner of this month's presidential runoff, said on Friday it planned a vote of no-confidence in the government in early March after his inauguration on February 25.
But Tymoshenko's bloc said on Monday it had collected enough signatures to force the vote this week before his swearing-in.
The faction of our bloc in parliament is insisting on a quick consideration of this question ... no later than Wednesday, Oleksander Turchynov, first deputy prime minister and a close aide of Tymoshenko's, said in a statement.
Tymoshenko's BYuT bloc appears to feel that the Yanukovich camp, which is busy preparing for Thursday's inauguration, will not have time to muster the necessary 226 votes for it to succeed this week.
She still runs the risk of the vote going against her. But if it is held this week and fails, Yanukovich's camp will find it more difficult to put together a coalition in parliament to force her out.
This would provide a psychological boost for Tymoshenko who at the weekend dramatically dropped her attempt to get a Ukraine high court to back a new presidential runoff vote on the basis of her allegations of electoral fraud.
Investors and traders reacted positively to Tymoshenko's climbdown. The cost of insuring against Ukraine's default fell and bond prices rallied.
The hryvnia currency continued to trade just below the 8.00/$ mark -- for the first time this year, while the Ukrainian Equity Index traded slightly higher.
Analysts said however this upbeat mood will be fragile in the longer term as it will follow the twists and turns of Yanukovich's attempts to consolidate his power.
GAME OF NERVES
It is a game of nerves and a game of tactics, said political analyst Andriy Yermolayev.
BYuT understands that while negotiations are going on for forming a new coalition a forced vote on the government's resignation might not get the sufficient number of votes, he said.
Tymoshenko said she was withdrawing her appeal because she did not trust a court which had refused to consider evidence showing large-scale cheating by the Yanukovich camp.
But she stood by her earlier statements that Yanukovich had not been legitimately elected and that she herself had been robbed of victory by fraud.
She lost the February 7 runoff against Yanukovich by a narrow margin of 3.5 percentage points.
Yanukovich's camp, jubilant after Tymoshenko's weekend about-turn, dismissed her parliamentary move as a PR ruse. It is nothing more than a straightforward attempt to draw attention to herself with the aim of manipulating public opinion, the Regions Party said in a statement.
There was no immediate announcement by parliament in response to the BYuT's call for an early no-confidence vote.
After a bitter election campaign of smears and insults, Yanukovich has ruled out any alliance with her but she has refused to quit as prime minister.
The Yanukovich camp is pressing ahead with trying to forge a new coalition among the opportunistic deputies in parliament which can involve long and tricky horse-trading.
If he fails to do this, he may be forced to call early parliamentary election with unpredictable consequences.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Sabina Zawadzki; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Dominic Evans)