Ex-PM Tymoshenko's faction quits Ukraine governing coalition

AP News
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Posted: Feb 17, 2016 9:41 AM
Ex-PM Tymoshenko's faction quits Ukraine governing coalition

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — Ukraine saw more political turmoil Wednesday, as former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko announced that her faction was withdrawing from the governing coalition, which she criticized as an obstacle to reforms.

Tymoshenko's move came a day after Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's cabinet survived a no-confidence vote in parliament even though a majority of lawmakers declared its work unsatisfactory. The vote reflected lawmakers' fears that it could lead to the collapse of the governing coalition and an early election.

Tymoshenko, who leads the smallest of the four factions in the governing coalition, accused its participants of collusion in a bid to protect their seats.

"We consider it inadmissible to be part of that pack, which has no chance because it doesn't want to conduct reforms, protect Ukraine and renew our life," she said.

President Petro Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk lead the largest factions in the coalition, with 217 of parliament's 450 seats between them. They retain a majority in parliament despite the exit of Tymoshenko's 19 seats.

Fierce spats involving members of Yatsenyuk's and Poroshenko's blocs amid Ukraine's economic woes have strained public patience and eroded the confidence of the West. Some well-respected reformers have resigned in the past week, citing their disenchantment with the government's cronyism and corruption.

Just before the no-confidence vote Tuesday, Poroshenko via his spokesman urged Yatsenyuk to resign, but many members of the president's faction then refrained from voting for the Cabinet's dismissal.

The fourth faction, Samopomich (Self Help), which has 26 seats, is now key to securing the governing coalition. If it follows Tymoshenko's example, the coalition will face a daunting task to find other partners to keep a majority and avoid a quick election.

Yatsenyuk became prime minister after Ukraine's former Russia-friendly president was chased from power in February 2014 following massive street protests. Poroshenko was elected several months later with broad support and a seal of approval from Western leaders.

Ukraine has remained locked in a bitter tug-of-war with Moscow, which annexed the Crimean Peninsula om 2014 and supports a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine, where fighting has killed more than 9,000 people since April 2014 and devastated the nation's industrial heartland.

Last week, International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde threatened to halt the delivery of another installment of Ukraine's $17.5 billion aid package, which the country is counting on to keep the economy afloat.

Vadim Karasev, the director of the Kiev-based Institute of Global Strategies, said with his latest maneuver, Poroshenko sought to both secure the flow of Western aid and try to make the prime minister more pliant.