Ukraine's pro-West coalition fights for its survival

18th February 2016, Comments 0 comments

Ukraine's pro-EU ruling coalition pulled back from the brink on Thursday after one junior partner withdrew while a populist party announced plans to step in to keep the country from slipping into an 'abyss'.

The war-scarred former Soviet republic has been riven with weeks of political chaos that culminated in a failed bid by parliament on Tuesday to oust Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's government over its perceived inability to fight corruption.

That prompted ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko -- one of the leaders of the 2004 Orange Revolution -- to withdraw the 19 members of her Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party from parliament's self-proclaimed European Ukraine majority bloc on Wednesday.

She accused Yatsenyuk's government of being the stooge of shady tycoons and called on other lawmakers "who care about the country" to follow suit.

Her call was answered Thursday by the socially-oriented Samopomich (Self-Reliance) party's announcement that it too was joining the opposition to the government.

The party's parliamentary leader Oleg Berezyuk said in a statement that "Samopomich can no longer stand in alliance with other political forces that joined an oligarch-led takeover of parliament."

Ukrainian media and analysts have noted that lawmakers who did not support Yatsenyuk's dismissal were believed to represent the interests of three top billionaires who have dominated the country's politics for years.

The two groups' decisions would temporarily leave President Petro Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk -- whose allied parties hold 217 seats -- just short of the 226-vote majority required to pass laws.

The possibility of the coalition's collapse and lawmakers' subsequent failure to form a new one within a month would give the president the right to call new legislative elections.

Poroshenko has said he prefers not to use that option unless absolutely necessary. Polls show support for both him and Yatsenyuk plunging and suggest that they would fair poorly in snap polls.

But Ukraine's two leaders were given a reprieve Thursday when the Radical Party's populist leader Oleg Lyashko said he was ready to add his 21 seats to those of the president and prime ministers' parties.

That would preserve the ruling coalition but also leave it hostage to the whims of Lyashko -- a nationalist made famous by his bizarre antics in parliament and firebrand rhetoric.

"We are ready to take part in the formation of a new coalition that has a new programme," the news site quoted Lyashko as saying.

"We are ready to form a new government capable of pulling the country out of the abyss."

Yatsenyuk has resisted any changes to his cabinet and was due to meet Lyashko later Thursday.

© 2016 AFP

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