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Ukraine's Government Crisis Comes to a Head

Threat by Poroshenko to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections highlights Ukraine's instability.

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The Ukrainian government crisis may be about to come to a head with a threat from Poroshenko to dissolve the Ukrainian parliament this week if a new government is not formed.

In the event the parliament is dissolved there will be new parliamentary elections. 

At a time when both the two big parties - Poroshenko’s and Yatsenyuk’s - are unpopular such elections would hardly be welcomed by most of the parliament's deputies.

The elections would also be unpopular with Ukraine’s Western backers.  Not only do they risk returning a more turbulent and less compliant parliament, but they would extend the political instability by several more months, bringing the whole process of government to a virtual stop at a time when the country is battling an economic crisis.

Why has Poroshenko made this threat?

Last week his parliament faction finally broke with Yatsenyuk and proposed the parliament’s speaker and Poroshenko’s longstanding associate Volodymyr Groysman as Prime Minister.  

Groysman’s - and Poroshenko's - difficulty is that it is far from clear that Poroshenko has the support of a majority of the deputies in the parliament. 

Poroshenko’s threat to dissolve the parliament and call early elections appears to be intended to scare deputies of Yatsenyuk’s party - without whose support Groysman cannot form a majority and which would face a total wipe-out if elections were called - to back Groysman.

Even if this threat succeeds and Groysman becomes Prime Minister it is unlikely the new government will be stable.  

Yatsenyuk and his supporters in the parliament make no secret of their resentment at his coming ouster.  

The attempt to talk up Finance Minister Jaresko as a possible alternative to Groysman for the post of Prime Minister - and her threat to resign from the government if she is not appointed - now looks more like an attempt by this group to put a spoke in the wheel of Groysman’s candidacy rather than a serious bid.

There have also apparently been angry demands from Yatsenyuk and his supporters that they be rewarded with senior positions in the parliament and the government in return for backing Groysman.

These actions point to the extraordinary sense of entitlement of Yatsenyuk and his supporters.  It suggests they will make uncomfortable bedfellows in any coalition Poroshenko and Groysman manage to cobble together.

As for the cause of reform in Ukraine, if Ukraine’s Western backers still harbour any illusions about it then Groysman’s appointment should finally disillusion them.  Someone with the deep ties to Poroshenko that Groysman has is unlikely to be any sort of reformer.  

The idea that the cause of reform could be advanced whilst Poroshenko is Ukraine’s President always seemed strange given that Poroshenko is one of Ukraine’s leading oligarchs.  

With Groysman both close to Poroshenko and dependent on him the idea Groysman can act against Poroshenko’s wishes or interests - or those of any of the other oligarchs close to Poroshenko - is farfetched.

Meanwhile, as the Canadian commentator Roger Annis has pointed out to me, the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic in the person of its leader Alexander Zakharchenko has categorically rejected the scheme of Rinat Akhmetov and the eastern oligarchs for returning Donbass to Ukraine that I discussed previously.

Zakharchenko’s comments are reported in an article by Ulrich Heyden translated from the German by Roger Annis himself.  They could not be clearer and they cast an interesting insight into the thinking of the people who now lead the Donbass:

“Plans were announced at the end of last week by some Ukrainian oligarchs and the leader of the anti-EU ‘Ukrainian Choice’ party, Viktor Medvedchuk, for a ‘federalized’ Ukraine. 

According to this plan, the wealthy industrialist Akhmetov and Opposition Block leader Yuri Boiko would govern the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk republics and bring them back into the  Ukrainian fold. 

But the idea was quickly rebuffed by Zakharchenko. 

There is still no confirmation of the existence of this plan and whether Poroshenko has reviewed it.

On March 15, Zakharchenko explained his rejection of the Medvedchuk plan, saying that Donetsk has realized one of the dreams of the Maidan-protesters, namely, a Ukraine without domination by oligarchs. 

This demand was voiced strongly at the outset of the Maidan movement in 2013, said Zakharchenko; a return to the rule by the Ukrainian oligarchs in eastern Ukraine is out of the question.

As to whether the Opposition Bloc could participate in elections in the Donetsk republic, Zakharchenko said the party must first recognize the “war crimes” committed by the Kyiv regime in Donetsk and Lugansk.

Kyiv’s desired return of control over Donetsk and Lugansk would be a “step back”, Zakharchenko said. “What the people have achieved will not be given back.””

It is difficult to see in these comments anything other than proof that at least in Zakharchenko’s mind Donbass’s secession from Ukraine is final and that there is no going back.

As I discussed previously it is inconceivable Poroshenko was ever interested in the so-called Medvedchuk plan.  Zakharchenko’s comments show the eastern oligarchs were anyway unable to deliver on it.

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