Ukraine President's Premier Nominee Struggles to Muster Support

  • Parliament speaker nominated ahead of Finance Minister Jaresko
  • Lawmakers reconvene next week in Kiev to approve new premier

Ukrainian Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Hroisman, backed by President Petro Poroshenko to head a new government to lead the country out of a political tumult that’s halted the flow of international financial aid, is struggling to assemble a parliamentary majority as parties bicker before a vote on his candidacy next week.

Even lawmakers from Poroshenko’s own party said they haven’t yet decided whether to support Hroisman, as did those from the Radical Party, ex-Premier Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna party and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front after talks in Kiev on Friday. A parliamentary majority must approve his appointment, with the legislature set to reconvene Tuesday. Yatsenyuk, who must also step aside, said he’d “accept any decision.”

“The partners need to agree on the coalition accord, and this may not be very easy," Yuriy Yakymenko, an analyst at Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies, said by phone from Kiev. The groups need to sort out policy proposals -- some of which may be incompatible with the terms of an international bailout -- the terms for Yatsenyuk’s departure and the distribution of Cabinet posts, he said.

If confirmed, Hroisman would take charge amid a volatile political environment, with Ukrainians and the nation’s foreign backers losing patience over delays in fighting corruption and modernizing the economy after a street revolution calling for European values. Yatsenyuk’s authority was shaken last month when top reformers left his cabinet and two parties quit the coalition in a flurry of graft accusations. The economy is in the midst of a fragile recovery following 1 1/2 years of recession.

‘Coherent Policy’

“The most important thing for Ukraine is to have one voice to the lead the country out of its economic abyss,” said Simon Quijano-Evans, chief emerging-markets strategist at Commerzbank AG in London. “Investors are prepared to hold the country’s bonds but ultimately that needs coherent policy that guarantees a continuation of reforms and the crucial IMF program.”

Hroisman has prioritized restarting cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, saying Ukraine must “flawlessly” implement its $17.5 billion bailout, on hold since infighting consumed the government.

The quarrels aside, the talks show that Ukraine is getting closer to resolving its political crisis, according to Volodymyr Fesenko at the Penta research institute in Kiev. He expects a new government to be approved next week, before Poroshenko embarks on a visit to the U.S.

‘Blackmail, Bargaining’

“It’s just political blackmail and bargaining,” Fesenko said by phone. “Don’t think that there isn’t any progress even if it looks like there isn’t any progress. This is Ukrainian politics.”

Ukrainian government bonds and the nation’s currency gained as the coalition talks got under way. The yield on debt due 2019 fell one basis point to 9.881 percent, while the hryvnia strengthened almost 1 percent to 25.9500 to the dollar as of 6:22 p.m. in Kiev, The currency has slumped 7.4 percent this year.

Hroisman has been parliament speaker since November 2014, serving before that as a deputy prime minister under Yatsenyuk and mayor of the city of Vinnytsya. His appointment, ahead of candidates such as U.S.-born Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, would consolidate Poroshenko’s grip on power.

Jaresko’s Future

In a sign Jaresko may not be a member of a Hroisman-led government, former Slovak Finance Minister Ivan Miklos was named by the parliament speaker as a possible ministerial appointment. There was insufficient support in parliament for an earlier proposal under which Jaresko would head a government of technocrats, according to Lutsenko. Jaresko’s office wasn’t immediately available to comment.

“We should create a professional government, with political support from parliament, that will be responsible, transparent, and effective,” Hroisman, 38, told reporters in the capital, Kiev. “It’s very important to form a quality team. People who join the government must have an impeccable record.”

In announcing Hroisman’s candidacy, Yuriy Lutsenko, who heads Poroshenko’s party in parliament, warned of the dangers of letting the political uncertainty persist. Four parties may unite to form a new ruling coalition in the legislature, he said.

“If we don’t resolve the political crisis next week, the only way out is through early elections, which carries a huge threat of political and economical destabilization,” Lutsenko told reporters.

Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk emerged to lead Ukraine after a popular uprising two years ago ousted the country’s Kremlin-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych. Having climbed out of recession, restructured $15 billion of debt and signed a pact to end the armed conflict against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Poroshenko’s team splintered over efforts to stamp out corruption.

“I will accept any decision that will stabilize the situation and that will allow the country to move forward,” Yatsenyuk said at a government meeting in Kiev on Friday. “Gather 226 votes, show the Cabinet, its program and real coalition that will implement this. Otherwise support this Cabinet of Ukraine.”

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