In Ukraine

Ukraine PM resigns two months after narrowly dodging no-confidence vote

RT.com, April 10, 2016   (with video news report)

Arseniy Yatsenyuk announces his resignation as Ukrainian prime minister in a televised address on April 10, 2016

Arseniy Yatsenyuk announces his resignation as Ukrainian prime minister in a televised address on April 10, 2016

After weeks of political crisis in Kiev, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has announced his long-expected resignation. Yatsenyuk made his decision public on Sunday in a televised address, saying he would formally submit his resignation to parliament on Tuesday.

The prime minister has been a highly unpopular figure in Ukraine with his approval ratings languishing in the single-digit range. The public blames him for a ruined economy and the failure to implement reforms he had promised when taking office following the February 2014 coup.

The final stages of his tenure were marred by an ugly political scandal when his economy minister, Aivaras Abromavicius, announced his resignation over alleged corruption in the Ukrainian government.

Petro Poroshenko and his resigned prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk

Petro Poroshenko and his resigned prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk

As the crisis unfolded, the ruling coalition in the Ukrainian parliament collapsed. Under Ukrainian law, President Petro Poroshenko can call an early election if a new coalition isn’t formed, but opinion polls say his own party would lose seats in that case as well.

Poroshenko tried to resolve the debacle in the cabinet by calling on Yatsenyuk to resign, but the prime minister refused to do so. An attempt to fire him through a parliament vote failed in what was a major embarrassment for the president.

Yatsenyuk said the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine “was created artificially” and has become personal for politicians. He added that his government was “the best in the history of Ukraine” and a “manifestation of the new Ukraine.”

The outgoing PM said that he now has goals that are broader than the authority a mere head of government. “New electoral law. Constitutional reform. Judicial reform. Coalition control over the direction of the new government. International support of Ukraine. Ukraine’s membership in the European Union and NATO. This is only a part of my program,” he said.

According to Yatsenyuk, parliament speaker Vladimir Groysman will be Ukraine’s next PM.

Despite his resignation, Yatsenyuk said that his party, the People’s Front, will stay in the ruling coalition. “The People’s Front will remain a coalition member as today it is the only possible way to defend the country,” he said after announcing his decision to step down, as quoted by TASS.

Yatsenyuk added that he was optimistic about his party’s political prospects, despite the lack of popular support. “We love our country and ratings are things that come and go,” he said.

Poroshenko told Ukrainian TV on Sunday that he will not dissolve the current  parliament. “I respect the Ukrainian parliament. I want no confrontation with either the parliament or the government. I have no other parliament for you and will have none whatsoever,” he was quoted as saying by TASS.

Gilbert Doctorow of Russia Insider pointed out that Yatsenyuk’s resignation occurred shortly after Ukraine’s association agreement with the EU had been rejected in a Dutch referendum. “This raised the feeling of crisis within the Ukrainian political elites and made [Yatsenyuk’s] departure something essential so they would have a sacrificial lamb and they would appear before Europeans in particular, and IMF as well, to be making some progress in putting their house in order,” he told RT.

Doctorow said that Kiev is keenly aware of what its European partners are saying about Ukraine’s EU aspirations. “The Ukraine is not going to join the EU any time soon, in fact, not in the next 20-30 years, which in political terms [means] never,” he said, adding that this was very damaging to the Ukrainian leadership’s image at home.

Ukraine’s embattled PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigns, paving way for new government

Reuters, April 10, 2016

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk tendered his resignation on Sunday, paving the way for Western-backed coalition parties to nominate an ally of President Petro Poroshenko to try to form a more stable government.

Yatsenyuk survived a no-confidence motion in February, but political infighting and graft scandals have fractured the ruling coalition and further delayed the disbursement of aid under a $17.5 billion International Monetary Fund bailout program.

The self-described “kamikaze” prime minister came to office in 2014 determined to pass stringent economic reforms. But his public support has slumped into the low single digits, partly on the perception that his government has not done enough to hold oligarchs to account.

His departure removes an obstacle to the formation of a new government, which must try to push delayed reform bills through parliament against the opposition of populist former coalition partners who have vowed to oppose austerity measures required under the IMF program.

“I have taken the decision to resign as prime minister of Ukraine. On Tuesday, April 12, my request will be submitted to the parliament,” Yatsenyuk said in a televised address.

“The political crisis in the country was created artificially. The desire to change one person blinded politicians and paralyzed their political will for real change.”

Committed to a coalition

Poroshenko’s BPP faction and Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front party had been expected to announce a re-boot of their ruling coalition next week.

In his speech, Yatsenyuk said his party was committed to the coalition and made clear that he expected to be replaced by parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Groysman, the 38-year-old former mayor of a town in west-central Ukraine already touted as his successor.

“The parliamentary faction of the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko has nominated Volodymyr Groysman to the post of prime minister. Having done everything to ensure stability and continuity of our course, I declare my decision to transfer the obligations and responsibilities of the head of government of Ukraine,” he said.

A complete break-up of the coalition could have triggered a snap parliamentary election that looked likely to boost populist parties. Meanwhile, if Groysman secures parliamentary approval, the formation of a more coherent government should increase the chance that the IMF will disburse the next $1.7 billion tranche of loans, delayed since October.

Nevertheless some domestic reformers and Western powers backing Ukraine may be disappointed by Groysman’s likely appointment, having hoped that Finance Minister Natalia Yaresko, a U.S.-born technocrat, would get the top job.

Power to Poroshenko

Having an ally as prime minister could consolidate power in the hands of the president and his circle.

“The president will have more authority, more power for his team. Only time will tell if he will use this authority and this power for the good of Ukraine,” People’s Front lawmaker Anton Gerashchenko said on television channel 112.

It was frustration with cronyism and corruption under Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovich that prompted thousands to take to the streets in 2013-14 in the pro-European “Maidan” uprising that swept Kyiv’s current leadership to power.

Groysman is seen as a canny, persuasive politician who has grown in confidence as speaker of parliament – a role that requires a calm authority to manage the bickering and all-out brawls that periodically interrupt sessions in Ukraine’s chamber.

He has vowed to stick to IMF-backed reform efforts as prime minister, but the two-party coalition will only have a slender majority and some of its lawmakers have said they will not always vote on party lines.

A Slovak daily reported last month that Groysman had asked former Slovak finance minister Ivan Miklos, currently an adviser to Yaresko, to take the job of finance minister.

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