KIEV, Ukraine — A week after President Clinton applauded his free-market reforms during a state visit, Ukrainian President Leonid D. Kuchma won a showdown Thursday against Communist and Socialist lawmakers who are trying to block them.
By a vote of 219 to 104, Ukraine's Parliament adopted Kuchma's "law on power," giving up its right to veto his Cabinet appointments. The vote signaled the possible demise of the leftist bloc that makes up a third of the Parliament and once engineered majorities.
Just last month, Parliament dismissed the government led by Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk.
Communists and Socialists promised a bitter fight if Kuchma tried to reappoint Marchuk and the president's "dream team" of economic reformers led by Deputy Prime Minister Victor Pinzenyk.
Thursday's vote gave Kuchma carte blanche to do just that. Politicians in Kiev predicted that Marchuk and his team will be reappointed with few changes and press ahead with laws on privatization, tax reform and foreign investment.
Kuchma had already goaded Parliament to ratify a treaty giving up Ukraine's Soviet-era nuclear weapons and to adopt a subsidy-slashing austerity program prescribed by the International Monetary Fund as a condition for loans.
During his visit to Kiev last week, Clinton praised Kuchma's efforts and the "courage and persistence" of the Ukrainian people. Promising continued economic aid, he said "the West and the United States will stay the course with you."
Volodymyr Horbulin, Kuchma's national security adviser, called Thursday's vote "a victory for constructive forces in Ukraine" that support Western-backed reform. "Now we can begin building the government," he added.
Kuchma is the latest of several presidents who have enhanced their powers in recent weeks in the former Soviet republics.
In Kazakhstan, President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev dissolved Parliament in March and won an April 29 referendum extending his term to the year 2000. President Alexander G. Lukashenko of Belarus also used a yes-or-no referendum to win voter approval last Sunday to usurp some powers from lawmakers.
Unlike those presidents, Kuchma did not get everything he wanted. His "law on power" would have allowed him to dissolve Parliament, but he dropped that provision to win a majority vote.
The law that passed gives him power to appoint the nation's prosecutor general, who was previously named by Parliament. It also gives the president power to dismiss local chief executives, who are elected by local legislatures.
Communists and Socialists accused Kuchma of seeking dictatorial powers. But Parliament's left-leaning agrarian bloc defected to Kuchma after he threatened to take his case to the voters in a referendum.