The future of the pro-western governing coalition in Ukraine was cast into doubt on Tuesday, as the country’s deeply-divided parliament failed to back the candidacy of coalition candidate Yulia Tymoshenko for prime minister.

The vote was a blow to the coalition between the political blocs of Viktor Yushchenko, the president, and his erstwhile Orange Revolution ally, Yulia Tymoshenko, formed late last month. Ms Tymoshenko was the favourite for premier after her bloc finished with a surprisingly strong showing in snap elections held on September 30.

But on Tuesday, as her candidacy fell one vote short of winning a parliamentary majority in the 450-seat assembly, Ms Tymoshenko rushed to blame political allies of Viktor Yanukovich, the outgoing premier, of tampering with the electronic voting system.

Mr Yanukovich’s Region’s party denied the allegations, but television reports showed that a member of his party had snatched away the voting card from the parliament speaker, thereby preventing a vote in favour of Ms Tymoshenko’s candidacy. One lawmaker in the president’s camp said his card failed to register for the vote.

Ms Tymoshenko expressed hope her candidacy would be resubmitted by the president, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

“The president said that he is ready to submit my candidacy for prime minister a second time. He saw with his very eyes how the falsification was conducted,” she said.

But the incident revealed just how fragile the coalition- which controls the assembly with only a hairline majority- could be. What‘s more, some presidential allies have expressed support for a coalition with Mr Yanukovich’s Regions party.

The heroes of the Orange Revolution were reunited this summer after a bitter falling out in 2006 to oust the governing coalition of Mr Yanukovich, whom they accused of derailing western integration initiatives and sponsoring political corruption.

Ms Tymoshenko is viewed as a supporter of Mr Yushchenko’s efforts to join the European Union and Nato military alliance. But she is expected to challenge for the presidential post in a campaign that kicks off in 2009.

While increasingly popular in Ukraine, Ms Tymoshenko’s return as premier, a post she held briefly in 2005, is expected to strain relations with Moscow. She has pledged to clean up the murky role of intermediary companies in the billion-dollar natural gas trade between Kiev, Russia and Central Asia.

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