The delegates inside were more unruly than the demonstrators outside as parliament decided to delay a no-confidence vote that could turn Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko out of office. After a long debate Tuesday morning, the vote had been set for yesterday afternoon. But Yushchenko’s supporters conducted a physical filibuster, holding the podium against all comers until the majority backed off, agreeing to a two-day delay.

Backing the resolution is an alliance of Communists and oligarchic interests generally aligned with embattled President Leonid Kuchma. The Communists call Yushchenko a “puppet of the West” for his efforts to link Ukraine to the global economy. The oligarchs who control the energy and extractive industries see reform as a threat to their position. In Ukraine’s one-chamber parliament of 450 seats, the Communists control 112 and the pro-oligarchic factions about 130 for a total of 242, sixteen more than the simple majority needed to pass the resolution.

Though most observers (including Yushchenko himself) predict the resolution will pass, the failure of the communists and the oligarchs to agree on a successor could produce a compromise that leaves Yushchenko in office.

President Kuchma is ducking this fight. The president has problems of own. He has failed to refute allegations that he ordered his security aides to get rid of a journalist later found murdered, and he faces a growing popular movement calling for his resignation. While parliament is in turmoil, he is traveling in the Baltic states. Yushchenko, a former central banker who often seems uncomfortable with politics, is on an official visit to Greece.