KIEV, Ukraine -- Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's governing majority in Ukraine's parliament collapsed Tuesday, bringing her newly elected rival, President Viktor Yanukovych, a step closer to his goal of removing her from office.
Volodymyr Lytvyn, the parliament speaker, declared that Ms. Tymoshenko's coalition had failed to collect enough signatures from legislators to show that it maintained a majority in the 450-seat body.
That means Ms. Tymoshenko is likely to lose a parliamentary vote of confidence Wednesday, giving Mr. Yanukovych's Party of Regions a chance to form a new government.
Mr. Yanukovych, who defeated Ms. Tymoshenko in the Feb. 7 presidential election, is seeking to consolidate his power to govern a country that has long suffered political paralysis, and that last year saw its economy shrink by 15%.
At his inauguration on Feb. 25, the new president promised to revive the economy, overhaul state structures and fight corruption—and called for "effective cooperation between the president, parliament and government."
But Ms. Tymoshenko has refused to recognize Mr. Yanukovych's victory, claiming it was tainted by vote fraud—even after international monitors called it fair. In televised remarks Tuesday, she said legislators who abandoned her coalition had "destroyed the last bastion, the last barricade defending everything Ukrainian."
She indicated that she would resign if she lost Wednesday's vote, rather than remain as a caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed.
Parliament would have 30 days to agree on a governing coalition. Failing that, Mr. Yanukovych would have the right to call early parliamentary elections.
Political analysts said Mr. Yanukovych appears likely to succeed in assembling a majority, but only after a process of prolonged horse-trading among divided parliamentary parties.
Mr. Yanukovych's Party of Regions is negotiating with former President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc, which was part of Ms. Tymoshenko's coalition but is now split over whether to back the new president.
Many of its nationalist supporters in western Ukraine are wary of Mr. Yanukovych's overtures to Russia. Mr. Lytvyn's bloc, once loyal to Ms. Tymoshenko, is expected to back Mr. Yanukovych.
Our Ukraine and Mr. Lytvyn's bloc are left with little room for maneuvering; their falling popularity means they could struggle in new elections.
"The likelihood of a new coalition has risen after today's events," said Volodymyr Fesenko, a political analyst in Kiev.
Mr. Yanukovych at the end of last month named three possible candidates for prime minister: Mykola Azarov, a former finance minister and close ally; Serhiy Tihipko, a former central banker who placed third in the presidential election; and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a former foreign minister from the Our Ukraine bloc.