After Yatsenyuk: Ukraine government ‘likely to be less reformist’


Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, the prime minister of Ukraine, announced his resignation on Sunday in a surprise move that opened a new period of political uncertainty, The New York Times reports:

In a video released to television stations on Sunday, Mr. Yatsenyuk signaled that he would try to smooth over the cracks in the post-Maidan alliance. He said he would support as a candidate for prime minister Volodymyr B. Groysman, a member of Mr. Poroshenko’s political party and the current speaker of the Parliament, and would keep his party in the coalition after leaving office.

“I think we now have a real chance to move forward and get back on the path of reforms,” says Olexander Chernenko, a former civil society activist and Rada deputy with Poroshenko’s party. “Groysman is an adequate professional, and if he is allowed to work, and parliament supports him, we could really see light at the end of the tunnel for Ukraine.”

But Radio Free Europe analyst Ron Synovitz fears that Ukraine’s likely next Prime Minister is a loyal Poroshenko ally.

“Groysman is Poroshenko’s man,” said Yuri Yakimenko of the Razumkov Center. He said the appointment will allow the president to consolidate his power and implement reforms “without wasting his energy on political struggles.”

In any event, Groysman will be under immediate pressure to deliver on reforms, The Times adds.

“The prime minister will have to face not only the disappointment of impoverished Ukrainians, but also the cooling-off of donors, who for various reasons are tired of pouring water into the Ukrainian sand,” said political analyst Vadim Karasev.

Two years after the revolution that toppled Ukraine’s pro-Russia president Viktor Yanukovich, dozens of demonstrators were burning tyres outside Kiev’s presidential building again on Friday, amid scuffles with riot police, The Financial Times adds:

The street protest capped a bad week for Mr Poroshenko. It began with disclosures in the Panama Papers that he had set up an offshore holding company to move his confectionery business — a pillar of his billion-dollar fortune — to the British Virgin Islands.

Then came another calamity as Dutch voters in a referendum rejected ratification of an EU-Ukraine integration agreement, dealing a heavy blow to Kiev. It was Mr Yanukovich’s refusal to sign that EU accord, amid threats from Moscow, that sparked the 2014 revolution.

“This is a verdict on a president who . . . for the past two years has systematically and persistently chosen the past over the future,” said Mustafa Nayem, an instigator of the 2014 “Maidan” protests and now a reformist MP in Mr Poroshenko’s parliament faction.

The Dutch referendum result was “President Petro Poroshenko’s personal verdict,” parliamentary deputy Mustafa Nayem, once the president’s closest ally, wrote on Facebook this week. “For the president of this country, who, having all the authority, gave preference to the ‘elite’ and oligarchs and not the civil society, the new generation,” said Nayem, who was the inspiration of the Euromaidan revolution, The Daily Beast’s Anna Nemtsova reports.

The Panama controversy comes at a sensitive moment for Kiev. A governmental crisis has been dragging on for more than a month, The Economist notes, warning that early parliamentary elections look ever more likely, an outcome that Ukraine’s Western backers have been straining to prevent.

“Compared with the government and the parliament, the presidency was an institution that seemed to maintain a relative measure of trust,” writes reform-minded MP Svitlana Zalishchuk (right). “Now the war of all against all is entering a new and dangerous phase.”

Another activist MP, Serhiy Leshchenko [above, left, a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy], said the Dutch vote was a “cold shower for Ukraine’s political elite” and showed Kiev was “losing international support because of the lack of reforms”.

“The mandate of Maidan that was given to Yatsenyuk in February 2014 was poorly spent during these two years, while his friends have significantly improved their financial situation,” said Leshchenko, a parliament deputy and one of the organizers of the Maidan protests.

The European Commission will propose this month granting visa-free travel to Ukrainians despite the Dutch referendum vote, a senior EU source said, Reuters adds.

Anders Aslund, a Ukraine expert at the Atlantic Council think-tank in Washington, said that the crisis had been precipitated by attempts by the Poroshenko camp to consolidate more power over the government, the FT adds.

The main concern with a Groisman government is that it is likely to be less reformist and competent, Aslund fears:

In the short run, Poroshenko has scored a major victory, acquiring nearly full control over the government, but his downside is full responsibility for the government, no longer being able to blame his prime minister. The Financial Times captured the change well: “Petro Poroshenko becomes focus of Ukraine’s disillusion.”

The Dutch referendum defeat packs a symbolic wallop for Ukraine, where the Euromaidan unrest that toppled the government nearly two years ago was fueled in large part by a desire for closer relations with the EU, notes the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, a partner of the International Renaissance Foundation and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email