Update: Ukrainian independent lawmakers provide possible solution for political deadlock

Wed 30 Mar 2016

Update: Ukrainian independent lawmakers provide possible solution for political deadlock

On March 30th, MPs in Ukraine said that several non-aligned Ukrainian lawmakers agreed to join Ukraine's biggest faction to help end a political crisis. "Talks are going on at the moment with several non-faction deputies - we've invited them to join our faction," Oleksiy Goncharenko from the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko (BPP) reported.

The BPP and the People's Front of Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk together have 219 seats, only seven short of the number needed to form a majority and appoint a new government.

The struggle to form a new coalition
The fate of a possible new coalition has been hanging in the balance for some time. Yesterday, a Ukrainian MP from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc reported that the latest attempt of the parliament factions to set up a new coalition failed, due to last-minute demands from the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party of former premier Yulia Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko stated her party had 10 to 15 conditions needed to be met before a coalition with Batkivshchyna could be formed including scrapping a tax on pension payments and rolling back energy price hikes. The price hikes were already a key reform demanded by the IMF as part of Ukraine's bailout program. A lawmaker from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, Mustafa Nayyem, said: "Tymoshenko invented new conditions and that's why everything has finally failed." The Fatherland party is the smallest in the parliament, but with 19 lawmakers would it have been enough to give the three-party coalition a majority.

The populist Radical party and the reformist Self-Help (Samopomich) party – former coalition parties – already refused to join the alliance. Radical Party leader Oleh Lyashko said: "So far, our initiatives have been ignored, so, we don’t see a possibility to take part in the new coalition." According to some sources Hroysman is the only possible candidate because the other potential candidate, Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, will not be able to gain the necessary number of votes to win.

Political turmoil

This coalition deal could end months of political unrest and corruption allegations that hinder the progress of reforms demanded by the West and derailed negotiations with the IMF for a new 1.7 Billion Dollar loan to prop up the war-torn country’s economy. Yatsenyuk’s government has been hanging by a thread for a month since three parties – Batkivshchyna, Self-Help and Radical Party - quit the coalition in February.

On February 16th President Poroshenko asked Yatsenyuk to resign which resulted in a no-confidence vote. However, the PM survived this when only 194 voted in favour of the resolution while 226 were needed to accept the no-confidence motion. Two days later Tymoshenko and her party withdrew from the coalition which left it with three remaining parties – the Samopomich party, the Bloc of Petro Porshenko and the People’s Front. Despite the loss of 19 seats from Tymoshenko’s party, the remaining coalition then still had a majority of seats in the parliament. At the same time the Samopomich party was still considering quitting as well. After they decided to leave, the coalition was 5 seats short of majority in parliament. As a result, Yatsenyuk's ruling alliance had 30 days to form a new coalition, and 60 days to form a new government. The longer the government fails to form a new coalition, the more likely the chaos will trigger snap parliamentary elections according to some lawmakers. This is something Poroshenko hopes to avoid as it could boost support for populist parties that oppose Western-backed austerity measures

Resignation of Prosecutor

On 29 March, the parliament approved the resignation of General Prosecutor Viktor Shokin, an official seen by Ukraine’s Western backers as an obstacle in tackling corruption. With 289 votes his resignation surpassed the 226 required. Shokin already tendered his resignation on 16 February after President Poroshenko asked him and the Prime Minister Yatsenyuk to step down.

Sources: RFE/RL 1, RFE/RL 2, RFE/RL 3, Reuters 1, Reuters 2, Reuters 3, ABC, Sputnik, TASS 1, TASS 2, NewEurope