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Political bargaining lets Ukraine’s 'lame duck' prime minister stay in office for now

February 17, 21:25 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
Ukraine's PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk (center)

Ukraine's PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk (center)

© AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

MOSCOW, February 17. /TASS/. Ukrainian lame duck Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s long-expected dismissal has not materialized yet, which prompted many experts to speculate some backstage political bargaining is involved.

President Petro Poroshenko on Tuesday urged Yatsenyuk and Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin to step down for the sake of restoring confidence in the authorities. In his televised address to fellow citizens Poroshenko said this: "Society has obviously decided that the government’s mistakes outweigh its achievements and expressed no confidence in the government ministers." Poroshenko said that as many as 70% of the population had no trust in the Cabinet.

A resolution of no confidence in the government had been drafted beforehand and the required number of legislators’ votes collected by the time Yatsenyuk was to appear in parliament with a report on his Cabinet’s performance over the past two years. But despite the publicly declared intention of the leading parliamentary parties, including the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, to express no confidence in the government the resolution received the support of 194 legislators, falling short of the required minimum of 226 votes. Yatsenyuk has retained the prime minister’s seat for now.

The deputy director of the CIS Countries’ Institute, Vladimir Zharikhin, believes that the discussion of the resignation issue in parliament was not transparent. "As many as one-third of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc’s members avoided to vote for Yatsenyuk’s dismissal. One cannot but suspect that many legislators had been bribed. This is something unlikely to surprise either Ukrainian society or the rest of the world, though, after the row over the resignation of Economics Minister Aivaras Abromavicius. Obviously, Poroshenko’s men decided to live for today, because what will happen tomorrow is anyone’s guess," Zharikhin said.

"The outcome of the voting must have been largely a result of the stance taken by the parliamentary faction Opposition Bloc, consisting of the former ruling Party of Regions. "It looks like Poroshenko failed to invite any of the Opposition Bloc’s members into a future Cabinet. The legislators must have decided there is no reason why they should vote against Yatsenyuk since none of them had a chance to take a seat on the Cabinet. What difference will it make if Yatsenyuk remains prime minister or some other person takes his place? None of us has the chances to lead the Cabinet, so we just don’t care," says Zharikhin.

He also reminds that Poroshenko has agreed to sacrifice his best friend — Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin — by urging him to step down, hoping to force Yatsenyuk follow suit. "The prosecutor-general agreed to tender his resignation. Later in the evening it turned out, though, that Yatsenyuk would stay. Shokin instantly changed his mind and took a paid leave. As long as he is on vacation he cannot be dismissed. This goes to show the real worth of Ukrainian politicians’ word of honor."

Under the applicable legislation the Ukrainian parliament will be unable to put on the agenda the question of no confidence in the government again during the current spring session. "Two scenarios remain. Either the Verkhovna Rada will raise the issue of the government’s resignation when it is back after the summer recess, or the Ukrainian president may disband the current parliament to call early elections. But Poroshenko himself said in his message to the nation that he would resort to the right to disband parliament only in an extreme situation we just cannot afford to let happen." Apparently, the US Department of State fears that a new Ukrainian parliament may prove still worse than the current one. Also, Poroshenko himself is aware that in the context of a political crisis Western sponsors will deny loans to Ukraine," Zharikhin said.

"In the end the Ukrainian politicians demonstrated to their voters what kind of European democracy rules the country and what attitude it takes towards popular protest sentiment," Zharikhin said.

The director of the Globalization Problems Institute, Mikhail Delyagin, believes that the Ukrainian president’s call addressed to the prime minister and prosecutor-general for resigning turned the vector of public anger over the government’s work and outrageous embezzlement of public funds away from him towards his subordinates. "Everybody knows that Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk hate each other. They have no common program. Either pursues one’s own business interests."

"It is not ruled out that the current scandal over the government’s resignation was launched to put a smoke screen around another redivision of public assets. On Tuesday, the Ukrainian parliament inconspicuously introduced amendments to a number of laws making it possible to sell to private entities the remaining government-owned assets in machine-building and chemical industries and power production. The current scandal by no means puts an end to the government crisis in Ukraine," Delyagin said.

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