KIEV: Ukraine’s political circus made an unwelcome return to centre stage as bickering lawmakers struggled Friday to avert a crisis of their own making after Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigned in a huff.
As the country battles a bloody pro-Russian insurgency in the east amid international attention over the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, analysts said the last thing Ukraine needed was a bout of political limbo.
But that’s exactly what the politicians seem to have landed themselves in after Yatsenyuk dramatically quit Thursday in protest at the collapse of the ruling European Choice coalition, a move that paved the way for long-awaited parliamentary polls to be announced.
“It is wrong in a situation of war to do such a thing,” political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko told Interfax Ukraine news agency. “Any crack in our unity will be exploited by Russia.”
President Petro Poroshenko on Friday asked lawmakers to pass a vote of confidence in the government.
“I hope that the strong emotions will calm down and be trumped by cold reason and a sense of responsibility and that the entire Ukrainian cabinet will continue its work,” Poroshenko said.
But lawmakers were left scratching their heads over the way ahead as speaker Oleksandr Turchynov said a confidence vote was illegal and parliament broke up without discussing the issue.
In the meantime, some insisted that Yatsenyuk was still in charge, while Ukraine’s cabinet elevated deputy prime minister Volodymyr Groysman — who has been coordinating Kiev’s response to the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 in east Ukraine — to the post of acting premier.
Pro-Western Yatsenyuk — who helped steer the country through the biggest upheaval since its independence in 1991 — lashed out at the decision to pull the plug on the coalition as Kiev is struggling to end a bloody pro-Russian insurrection tearing apart the east.
His unexpected decision to step down sparked a slanging match between the former coalition partners — with the Fatherland party of ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko describing the possible fall of the government as a “punch in the back of all patriots” that would be welcomed by the Kremlin.
“Between peace and chaos, Ukraine unfortunately is choosing political chaos,” the party said.
Meanwhile the parties that triggered the crisis by withdrawing from the coalition — the UDAR (Punch) faction of former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko and nationalist bloc Svoboda — said that they would vote against accepting Yatsenyuk’s resignation.
The mud-slinging caused anger among ordinary Ukrainians, many of whom hoped the protests that toppled pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych in February spelt the end of point scoring among the discredited political class.
“In the beginning they were with the people but now they got what they want and they’re just fighting with each other,” said Masha Zakreskaya, 24, at a kitchen tent serving the remnants of the protest camp on Kiev’s Independence Square.
“We are disappointed. We thought it would change but it remained the same. Soon we will have to kick them out too.”
The break up of the parliamentary majority gives Poroshenko — who was elected in May — the right over the next month to announce a fresh parliamentary election, which has been on the cards since Yanukovych’s toppling.
The president, a billionaire tycoon, had pledged that the possibility of upcoming elections would not paralyse the government as the country teeters perilously on the brink of both economic collapse and territorial disintegration.
The polls — expected later this year — have taken on added significance since changes in the constitution handed a raft of key powers from the president to parliament and current manoeuvring could mark the start of the election campaign.
Analysts said the latest political jostling only goes to show that a new set of lawmakers is imperative to get the country out of the crisis. “The people there now are not ready to introduce real reforms or decisively fight separatism,” said Oleksiy Garan, a political scientist at the Kiev Mogyla School of Political Analysis.
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