Ukraine looks to new pro-EU government after PM quits

11th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

Ukraine prepared Monday to usher in a stable new pro-Western government following the resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk over public anger with his seeming inability to fight government graft.

Yatsenyuk's Sunday announcement came barely two months after he survived a no-confidence vote in parliament that left the government paralysed and put the release of vital foreign aid on hold.

The former Soviet republic has been roiled by a pro-Russian eastern revolt and an economic collapse that has wiped out people's savings and stirred public resentment toward the government since Yatsenyuk assumed office in February 2014.

President Petro Poroshenko's party has proposed replacing Yatsenyuk with parliament speaker Volodymyr Groysman -- a coalition builder who has gained stature by keeping the notoriously rowdy chamber in relative peace since his appointment in November 2014.

But some economists fear that the 38-year-old protege of Poroshenko may lack the toughness needed to stand up to a handful of tycoons who have dominated Ukraine's fractious politics for years.

Parliament is to decide whether to accept Yatsenyuk's resignation Tuesday at what is expected to be a marathon session that might also include a vote on Groysman's candidacy.

Yatsenyuk's party member Anton Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook that there were "more than enough votes" needed to accept the premier's resignation.

Yet what comes next is far less clear.

"There is still huge uncertainty about the political situation," London's Capital Economic consultancy warned.

- A reform-oriented government -

The parliamentary factions headed by Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk have been trying for weeks to muster the majority necessary to push through a new cabinet leader and form a government that could appease the other dissatisfied parties.

But smaller groups such as the one headed by former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko have pulled out of the pro-EU coalition that formed in wake of the February 2014 ouster of Ukraine's despised Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.

Tymoshenko's party and other rebellious factions have so far been non-committal about whether they were ready to see Groysman assume one of Ukraine's two top posts.

This confusion comes against the backdrop of fierce jostling for senior cabinet seats and a raging trade war with Russia that has hurt producers and further stalled Ukraine's return to economic growth.

Groysman himself warmly praised Yatsenyuk for his decision but said nothing about his own chances of becoming the next premier.

"I understand that this was a thought-through and dignified step, perhaps a difficult one, but one that deserves respect," Interfax-Ukraine quoted Groysman as saying.

He called on parliament to quickly forge a coalition "that can form a new reform-driver government and choose a prime minister, thus ensuring the inevitability of (Ukraine's) European integration."

- Finance ministry opening? -

Analysts and the Ukrainian media had predicted that one of the most important changes in the government would involve the departure of Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko.

The US-born former State Department worker and private banker has been widely praised by the West for being able to pull together a crucial debt restructuring deal in August 2015.

Yet some analysts said she would not want to serve under Groysman after herself volunteering for the premiership post.

Slovakia's reformist former deputy prime minister Ivan Miklos has agreed to join the cabinet if he is allowed to keep his citizenship and pursue the austerity measures prescribed by the International Monetary Fund under its $17.5-billion (15.4 billion-euro) rescue plan.

The IMF suspended tranche payments to Ukraine late last year due to the government's slow implementation of some of the reforms.

But the Ukrainska Pravda news site quoted sources as saying that Miklos will "definitely" not replace Jaresko at the crucial post.

And Liga.net cited presidential party member Vadym Denysenko as saying that Jaresko would in fact keep her job.

Capital Economics called the possibility of Jaresko's departure "a key concern".

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© 2016 AFP

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