Ukraine's Western-backed coalition cracks

Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk's government still has majority in parliament

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk delivers a speech during a session of parliament in Kiev, Ukraine, May 19, 2015.

A junior ally in Ukraine's Western-backed coalition quit on Wednesday, spelling more trouble for Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk's government just a day after he survived a no confidence vote in parliament.

The exit of the Fatherland faction, led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, again raises the prospect of early elections and could make it even harder for Yatseniuk to enact reforms demanded by Ukraine's Western creditors.

Months of squabbling in the coalition came to a head of Tuesday, when President Petro Poroshenko, who leads the largest party in the alliance, called for Yatseniuk to resign. Yatseniuk survived the no confidence motion that followed, but the majority of Poroshenko's lawmakers voted against him.

A self-described "kamikaze" prime minister who came to office in 2014 determined to pass unpopular austerity measures, Yatseniuk now risks becoming a lame duck leader of a country battling a deep recession and a pro-Russian separatist conflict.

If his government cannot implement reforms more quickly, it risks further delays to receiving money under a $40 billion aid programme from Ukraine's international backers that keeps its economy afloat.

Tuesday's events showed "that Kiev's politics have become deeply dysfunctional. The prospects for an effective reform programme being implemented by the current political elite are close to nil," said Daragh McDowell of risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.

"It looks as if Yatseniuk will become increasingly reliant on the Opposition Block and smaller, oligarch controlled parties. This makes progress in fighting corruption, or implementing economic reforms, even less likely."

Tymoshenko's party has 19 seats in parliament, and its exit still leaves the remaining three parties in the coalition with a majority. It was not immediately clear what the other members of the alliance would do.

The coalition now contains President Poroshenko's party, Yatseniuk's party and the Samopomich (Self-help) party, which was created in the wake of the 2013/2014 'Maidan' protests that toppled the previous pro-Russian president.

One lawmaker from Samopomich said his party was debating a "dissolution of the coalition of Ukraine's kleptocrats",,suggesting they might walk out too.

Tymoshenko called the coalition "a facade" and urged others to quit the government.

"There was a shadowy, backroom coalition of political clans, which formed a government that ruled the country and pushed the country to the brink," she said, adding that her party felt it impossible to remain in a government that "doesn't have a chance, because it doesn't want to carry out reforms, [or] protect Ukraine."

Yatseniuk's party dismissed the move as "irresponsible populism."

Lame Duck

Kiev's failure to tackle corruption and implement reforms has prompted the International Monetary Fund to withhold the next tranche of aid, worth $1.7 billion, part of the $40 billion Western aid programme.

Yatseniuk's government has struggled to tackle bribe-taking in the judiciary, to sell off loss-making state companies and to give more autonomy to eastern regions claimed by separatist rebels.

When his economy minister quit at the start of February, saying corrupt vested interests were making his job impossible, the government's difficulties in delivering change were laid bare.

"Snap elections are now becoming a reality ... It was incredibly hard work for the government to get laws through parliament even before all of this, but now even more so," Olha Chervakova, a lawmaker from Poroshenko's bloc, told Reuters.

A source from the bloc said, "There's a big risk we won't get the money from the IMF. After what happened yesterday who wants to do business with a lame duck?" 

TRTWorld, Reuters