May 17, 2019 / 7:49 AM / 7 days ago

Ukraine ruling coalition breaks up in setback for incoming president

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine’s ruling coalition broke up on Friday and one of its two constituent parties said it would try to form a new one, annoying President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy who is weighing calling a snap parliamentary election to bolster his power.

An interior view shows a session hall of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev, Ukraine May 14, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

The decision of the People’s Front party to quit the faction of outgoing President Petro Poroshenko triggers a 30-day period for discussions on forging a new coalition. This would probably prevent Zelenskiy from calling an election as it would be too close to the current planned date of the poll in late October.

Zelenskiy, a comedian with no prior political experience, won the presidency by a landslide last month but his new party has no representation in parliament, making it expedient for him to call a snap poll while his popularity remains high.

His ability to work with parliament will be crucial to his ability to meet the expectations of his voters and also pass reforms needed to keep foreign aid flowing.

“So the current game in parliament is another testimony to the fact that deputies are indifferent to the people who elected them,” Zelenskiy’s press service said in a statement criticising the move by the People’s Front.

“However, we want to remind you that the country needs changes and deep reforms. This is the demand of the Ukrainian people. And for its implementation, a capable parliament is needed.”

SERVANT OF THE PEOPLE

Parliament has been dominated by an alliance between Poroshenko’s faction and the People’s Front since they came to power following street protests in 2014 that ousted Ukraine’s previous pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovich.

“We declare our withdrawal from the current coalition, the cessation of its activities ... and the initiative to form a new coalition with a new agenda,” Maksym Burbak, the People’s Front faction leader, told parliament earlier on Friday.

Zelenskiy won the presidency by appealing to voters fed up with entrenched corruption and low living standards in a country that remains one of Europe’s poorest nearly three decades after it secured independence from the Soviet Union.

Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, named after the TV comedy series where he played a fictional president, is on course to win the next parliamentary election but fall short of a majority, a survey by the Reiting pollster showed this week.

Zelenskiy signalled his desire for a snap parliamentary poll when he accused the election commission of deliberately delaying the official announcement of his presidential win and thereby narrowing the legal window for him to dissolve parliament.

However, more recently he has declined to say for sure whether he wanted a snap poll, saying any such announcement would only happen after his inauguration on May 20.

Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Gareth Jones

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