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Ukraine: Yatsenyuk to Go Into Opposition?
Arseniy Yatsenyuk. (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
After announcing his resignation, Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk entered into open confrontation with President Petro Poroshenko. That could either transform him into the president’s principal opponent, or completely destroy his political career.
Yatsenyuk’s resignation yesterday [July 24] came amid the battle between the pro-president UDAR, joined by Svoboda, and Batkivschina faction led by Yatsenyuko and [parliamentary speaker Olexandr] Turchynov ahead of the early legislative election scheduled for the end of October. This creates a number of possible scenarios.
After Yatsenyuk’s emotional speech in parliament, deputy prime minister Vladimir Groisman was appointed interim head of the government.
Poroshenko responded to Yatsenyuk’s resignation later in the evening. In an open letter to Turchynov, the president stated that the collapse of a coalition did not constitute legal grounds for the government to resign or for parliament to halt its work. He called for parliament to review confidence in the government when it met on Friday.
"The collapse of a parliamentary coalition is not legal grounds for the government to resign. As president, I appreciate the efforts this cabinet has taken to deal with the crisis. I realise it is working under extremely difficult conditions which have never faced any other government. I hope that heated emotions will subside and that cold rationality and a sense of responsibility will prevail, in order that the cabinet can continue in its entirety, " the president’s letter said.
One of several future scenarios is that parliament will approve Yatsenyuk’s resignation. Poroshenko’s appeal to his own faction, UDAR, to express confidence in the government does not necessarily they will vote accordingly. Poroshenko can always pretend he has nothing to do with UDAR, while the party’s members may decide to vote however they see fit without reference to the president.
If that happens, Groisman will continue as acting prime minister, and Poroshenko and UDAR will accuse Yatsenyuk of political manoeuvring and of fleeing a sinking ship. Yatsenyuk will respond in kind, accusing parliament of being reluctant to take unpopular decisions before an election. If the Party of the Regions and the Communists collapse, Yatsenyuk then becomes the president’s chief opponent and can enter parliament on the back of his critical stance.
But there is a risk that Yatsenuk will come in from more acute criticism from the president’s team so that he sinks under the weight of the accusations against him.
Nor is it ideal for Poroshenko to have Groisman as acting prime minister. A former mayor of Vinnitsa, Groisman is undoubtedly a professional, and he is also an ally of the president. His vision of economic problems differs little from Yatsenyuk’s, so there is no reason to believe he will come up with solutions any more popular than those of his predecessor. That would mean that the president would become more directly responsible for the government’s performance.
Then again, it is also possible that parliament will not support Yatsenyuk’s resignation, so that he remains head of government until the election. He might then continue to battle the president and his parliamentary group. In that scenario, Yatsenyuk will be the recipient of negative fallout from unpopular decisions, and that would be no bad thing for Poroshenko. At the same time, Yatsenyuk could create some space for attacking his opponents, blaming UDAR and Poroshenko for preventing his government from functioning and for obstructing his initiatives.
It is also possible that Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk will reach an accommodation and work together as a team. But the more time goes on, the less likely this combination seems. After his government failed to get its plans approved yesterday, Yatsenyuk is likely to seek complete carte blanche from Poroshenko in the event of a deal. If he gets that, he could then claim he is the victim of treachery, politicking and backstabbing any time he fails to win further concessions.
It is worth noting that Yulia Tymoshenko has not yet reacted to the situation in any way. But it is certain that she will. Despite her withdrawal from active work and the complete uncertainty surrounding her alliance with Turchynov and Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s former political prisoner № 1 remains a political heavyweight. If she enters the fray, it could substantially change the situation.
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