Doubts over new government for Ukraine

2016-03-30 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Ukraine's prospects of forming a new government, which is vital to get billions of dollars in crucial international assistance, were thrown into fresh doubt on Tuesday. The political tensions emerged within hours after Ukrainian parliament approved the resignation of Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin amid ongoing corruption scandals.

Stefan Bos reports: 

Officials initially said Ukraine's three major parliamentary parties had agreed to form a new coalition and nominate parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Hroysman, 38, to be Ukraine's new prime minister.

But at the last moment Julia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister herself and and outspoken politician, pressed demands as the price of taking her Fatherland Party into the alliance.

Her requests included scrapping a tax on pension payments and rolling back energy price hikes, though these were key reforms implemented under Ukraine's bailout program from the International Monetary Fund.

Tymoshenko's comments underscored concerns that a coalition was far from certain despite an announcement by Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk's party of a new alliance with Fatherland and the faction belonging to President Petro Poroshenko.

Pushing reforms

The lack of a stable coalition capable of pushing reforms through parliament has derailed talks for a new $1.7 billion loan from the IMF. And the the Fund has warned that political paralysis is putting the entire $17.5 billion program aid at risk.

Complicating the situation are comments by current Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk, who has been under pressure to leave due to ongoing high-level corruption. He has refused to step down until a new coalition agreement is signed.

Tuesday's tensions followed a turbulent day which also saw parliament approving the resignation of controversial prosecutor-General Shokin. He was seen by Ukraine's Western backers as an obstacle to tackling corruption.

An hour earlier, Shokin had fired his deputy, Davit Sakvarelidze, one of several foreign-born experts brought in to assist Ukraine with its Western-backed reform drive. Sakvarelidze had accused Shokin of maintaining ties with corrupt officials and lawmakers.

Prosecutor Shokin's resignation came a day after several hundred people rallied against him outside the Ukrainian parliament. However the executive director of Ukraine's independent anti-corruption action center, Daria Kaleniuk, says doubts remain even after his resignation. "We don't believe even that this prosecution can be reformed. Because it doesn't exist. It is an organized criminal group, not a prosecution," she said. 

NGO targeted

Her group had been targeted in what critics view as controversial actions by the prosecutor’s office, including attempts to seize banking documents.

Kaleniuk is disappointed that Western-backed President Petro Poroshenko did not act earlier after what became known as the Euromaidan revolution toppled pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. "We are here now to ask our president: '"what the hell is going on?'," she said during Monday's protest.

"This is not what we were asking for during Maidan... This is not what we expecting after [President] Yanukovych ran away." She and other protesters suggest that a new political revolution is needed to press real change in the former Soviet republic.

(from Vatican Radio)