Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday set the next parliamentary election for Oct. 28, 2012, effectively extending its term to five years from four.
The move was approved by 310 deputies. The chamber is controlled by a majority backing President Viktor Yanukovich.
The timing means the election will fall after the Euro-2012 soccer championship, which the ex-Soviet republic is co-hosting, and the Yanukovich camp and his Regions Party clearly expect to gain political ground from holding a successful tournament.
"The winning strategy of those in power foresees unpopular reforms in 2011 and then in 2012 the launch of socially oriented programmes and, after a successful Euro-2012, riding into elections on a white steed," said analyst Volodymyr Fesenko of the Penta analytical centre.
Moves to prolong the term of the current parliament by a year were set in train late last year by constitutional changes which extended Yanukovich's powers to naming his own prime minister and government.
Parliamentary allies of Yanukovich's adversary, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, refused to take part in the vote on Tuesday.
But this was not enough to prevent the Regions Party and its allies from mustering more than the 300 votes required for the motion to be passed.
Supported by a $15 billion credit arrangement from the International Monetary Fund, the government of Mykola Azarov is trying to revive Ukraine's export-oriented economy while at the same time implement painful reforms demanded by the Fund.
Yanukovich, who won a bitterly fought run-off against Tymoshenko for the presidency a year ago, has tilted foreign policy more towards Russia, whose gas deliveries Ukraine heavily relies upon.
The government says integration with the European mainstream remains a priority, though progress to establishing a free trade zone with the European Union bloc has been slow.
A new presidential election will be held in March 2015.
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