KIEV The chances of Ukraine forming a new technocrat government to replace Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk faded on Tuesday after cross-party talks failed to produce a breakthrough, likely prolonging a months-long political crisis.
Yatseniuk's government has been hanging by a thread since three smaller parties quit his coalition and President Petro Poroshenko pushed for the premier to resign. Technocrat Finance Minister Natalia Yaresko was touted as a possible replacement.
Ukraine needs a stable government to conclude negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for new aid worth $1.7 billion (£1.2 billion) to keep its war-torn economy afloat and pass economic and judicial reforms demanded by its Western backers.
If Poroshenko cannot get parties to agree on an alternative to Yatseniuk, it will leave in power a prime minister opposed by the majority of lawmakers and whose party's popularity ratings has fallen to 1 percent, according to a February poll.
"Last week I said with confidence that 80 percent of the government issues would be resolved this week," said Vadim Denisenko, a lawmaker in Poroshenko's party. "Now I see that everything has hit a dead end."
After Monday's cross-party evening talks, a senior lawmaker in Poroshenko's faction accused the reformist Samopomich party of killing off the chances of a technocrat cabinet to tackle financial problems and the blight of corruption.
The idea "was basically buried yesterday by Samopomich's announcement that it will not join any new coalition under any kind of government," Yuriy Lutsenko told parliament.
Samopomich has said it would agree to a new government on three conditions, including the introduction of a new electoral law.
NOTHING IS CERTAIN
The Ukrainian public has grown increasingly disillusioned with the pro-Western government that took over after the 2013/2014 Maidan street protests ousted a pro-Kremlin president.
Despite the government launching an ambitious reform programme, corruption is still endemic in the ex-Soviet country and Ukrainian soldiers are dying every week in the war against pro-Russian separatists in its eastern industrial heartland.
A foreign-born investment manager, Yaresko has been championed by Washington as a reformer. But several lawmakers in the 450-strong parliament told Reuters that not enough MPs would back her.
"Parliament will not consider the question of prime minister in the near future because nothing is agreed yet," said Boryslav Bereza, an independent lawmaker.
"There's no absolute certainty yet in any particular candidate. For example, Yaresko only has 100-150 votes. It's not worth going to the vote with that level of support."
(Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets; writing by Matthias Williams; editing by Ralph Boulton)