Ukrainian coalition’s collapse draws ire of president-elect

Deputies accused of clinging to power as Volodymyr Zelenskiy prepares for inauguration

Volodymyr Zelenskiy claimed a landslide presidential run-off victory in Ukraine last month. Photograph: Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko

Volodymyr Zelenskiy claimed a landslide presidential run-off victory in Ukraine last month. Photograph: Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko

 

Ukraine’s governing coalition has formally broken up, in what incoming president Volodymyr Zelenskiy sees as a bid by discredited deputies to cling to power after he takes office on Monday.

The comedian turned politician claimed a landslide presidential run-off victory last month over incumbent Petro Poroshenko, and may want to call early parliamentary elections to replace an unpopular old guard with reformist allies.

Prospects for a snap vote receded on Friday, however, when the People’s Front group quit the ruling alliance, triggering a 30-day period during which deputies can form a new coalition and the president cannot dissolve parliament.

When that period expires, less than six months will remain before planned parliamentary elections in October, and Ukraine’s president is also legally barred from disbanding the assembly so close to a national poll.

Mr Zelenskiy’s office noted on Friday that the coalition had lost its majority in 2016 due to the departure of other parties, saying of the move by People’s Front: “Is it possible to leave something that doesn’t exist?”

“The current game in parliament is another indication that deputies don’t care about the people who elected them. It’s more important to them to continue their serene existence,” the president-elect’s team wrote on Facebook.

“But we want to remind them that the country needs changes and deep reforms. That’s the request of the Ukrainian people. And a capable parliament is needed to make that happen.”

Surveys suggest Mr Zelenskiy’s nascent Servant of the People party – named after a television comedy show in which he plays a teacher who becomes president – is much more popular than all Ukraine’s established parties even before unveiling a manifesto or candidates.

New politics

Ukrainians’ desire for reforms and an end to corruption, poverty and a five-year conflict with Russia swept Mr Zelenskiy (41) into power, and he promises to replace opaque, oligarchic rule with a new and open style of politics.

The parties currently in parliament insist they want to work with Mr Zelenskiy to introduce long-overdue changes, but analysts say they may try to stymie and weaken him to damage Servant of the People’s election chances.

“We are ready to look at all the initiatives of the new president, including his ideas about personnel,” said Maksym Burbak, parliamentary leader of People’s Front.

“We are sure that the newly elected president will propose new, decisive steps for changes in Ukraine and demonstrate high standards of co-operation with society, parliament, government and the prime minister.”

Ukraine’s premier, Volodymyr Groysman, urged deputies to use the last months of their mandates to overhaul the country’s election law and scrap their own immunity from prosecution.

As Mr Poroshenko prepares to step down, Ukraine’s foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin and the secretary of its security and defence council, Oleksandr Turchynov, resigned on Friday.