Poroshenko’s protégé set to become Ukraine’s premier

Volodymyr Groysman likely to replace Arseniy Yatsenyuk following his resignation

Volodymyr Groysman:  his expected appointment as prime minister would foster greater cohesion between president and government, but also raise fears of an unhealthy concentration of power. Photograph: Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

Volodymyr Groysman: his expected appointment as prime minister would foster greater cohesion between president and government, but also raise fears of an unhealthy concentration of power. Photograph: Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

 

Ukraine’s parliament may vote to appoint a new prime minister on Tuesday, as it seeks to end a period of political paralysis amid rising public discontent and intensifying violence in eastern regions.

Deputies are set to approve the resignation of premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk after more than two tumultuous years in office, and to debate and possibly vote on the candidacy of the man most likely to replace him, Volodymyr Groysman.

Mr Groysman, now the speaker of parliament, is a protégé of President Petro Poroshenko, who has backed him to take the helm of a reconfigured government that will face huge pressure to intensify anti-corruption and economic reforms.

Following Mr Yatsenyuk’s resignation announcement on Sunday evening, political parties held talks on Monday to form a new coalition and seek agreement on a new cabinet.

The new ruling alliance is expected to comprise only the two largest parties in parliament, Mr Poroshenko’s eponymous bloc and Mr Yatensyuk’s People’s Front, after several smaller groups went into opposition in recent, turbulent weeks.

Mr Groysman’s appointment would foster greater cohesion between president and government, but also raise fears of an unhealthy concentration of power at a time when Ukrainians are demanding more open and transparent rule.

Furthermore, the new two-party coalition would have only a slender majority in parliament, potentially jeopardising the passage of tough cost-cutting and anti-graft reforms demanded by Ukraine’s western creditors.

“If the coalition suggest I head the government, I would need the new government to have a core of people who have proved in recent times they lack political bias, are clean, and able to carry out reforms,” Mr Groysman said.

Unlike Mr Yatsenyuk, he is neither a fluent English speaker nor a familiar figure to western states and lenders that are giving Ukraine vital diplomatic and security support, as well as billions of euros in financing.

His credentials as a reformer are also in doubt, as are those of Mr Poroshenko, whose appearance in the leaked Panama Papers only added to doubts about his ability to fight Ukraine’s endemic corruption.

“I think there is some agreement between ‘oligarchs’ and the president and political parties to establish a new government and coalition,” said Serhiy Leshchenko, a deputy in Mr Poroshenko’s party and an anti-corruption campaigner.

“Unfortunately, for me the bigger part of this consensus is the oligarchs – they are involved in the process and are going to be beneficiaries of this new coalition,” he added.

Once a new premier and cabinet are in place, Mr Poroshenko must appoint a new prosecutor general, after Viktor Shokin resigned amid fierce criticism for blocking key cases and ousting prosecutors who went after influential people.

Mr Leshchenko put himself forward for the vacant job on Monday, but it is expected to go to Yuri Lutsenko, another trusted ally of the president.

The European Union warned on Sunday that clashes between government troops and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine were now at their most serious level since last year’s supposed ceasefire.