Volodymyr Groysman, a close ally of Ukraine’s president, has become the country’s prime minister after being voted in by parliament, paving the way for a new government in Kiev.
But only 206 of the 227 MPs in the ruling coalition backed Mr Groysman’s candidacy on Thursday, raising fears that the latest parliamentary shake-up may not put an end to months of political turmoil. Such concerns were underscored as MPs failed in repeated votes to uphold a reform plan presented by the new Groysman-led cabinet.
The parliamentary vote came four days after Arseniy Yatseniuk resigned as prime minister, amid relentless criticism over unpopular austerity measures adopted as part of a $ 17.5bn International Monetary Fund programme, to which billions of dollars in additional western support is linked.
Critics questioned whether Mr Groysman would have the political backing from parliament and President Petro Poroshenko to redouble reform efforts and unfreeze the IMF programme.
“I will show you what leading a country really means,” Mr Groysman said on Thursday. Addressing the war-torn country’s parliament before being sworn in, Mr Groysman pledged to “speed up and improve quality of reforms” by improving co-operation between the executive and legislative branches of government.
He said “corruption, ineffective state management and populism” were as big a threat to Ukraine as “the enemy to the east of our country”.
Mr Groysman’s cabinet will be made up largely of politicians from a two-party, wafer-thin ruling majority coalition composed of the parties of Mr Poroshenko and Mr Yatseniuk.
The new government replaces an extraordinary Yatseniuk-led cabinet that included foreign technocrats. It was praised by the country’s western backers but criticised at home for ushering in tough austerity measures.
US-born finance minister Natalie Jaresko, who is favoured by Ukraine’s western creditors, is being replaced by Oleksandr Danyliuk, a former senior consultant at McKinsey & Company who has advised some of Ukraine’s top officials since 2005.
He will now lead the talks with the IMF.
Mr Groysman said he would continue to move Ukraine towards closer ties with Europe, despite a controversial Dutch referendum last week that challenged a landmark EU-Ukraine association and free trade pact that took effect this year.
His appointment comes days after an embarrassing revelation in the leaked Panama Papers showed Mr Poroshenko, Ukraine’s oligarch president, set up an offshore company to move his chocolate business to the British Virgin Islands.
The revelations sparked anger in a country mired in corruption scandals whose ruling elite is often accused of cronyism and kleptocracy. Mr Groysman will be under pressure to crack down on endemic corruption through the formation of independent courts and prosecutors.
Mr Yatseniuk had led the country’s executive branch since a pro-western leadership was propelled to power by the 2013–2014 revolution. Rivals accused him of failing to raise living standards as the economy plunged into deep recession after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula and waged a hybrid separatist war in breakaway eastern regions.
Mr Yatseniuk in turn accused the president’s party and other rivals of not backing government reform legislation and of engineering an “artificial crisis”.
Putting aside the bitter stand-off, Mr Yatseniuk has promised to back a Groysman-led government, in which his party controls about half the ministerial posts.
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