By Natalia Zinets
KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk urged lawmakers on Wednesday to back him, sack him or force snap elections as lawmakers held talks with potential replacements.
Yatseniuk has seen his popularity collapse since he took office in 2014, undermined by incessant wrangling over reforms and corruption allegations that have seen key cabinet figures resign in protest.
The country has been in political limbo since the departure of two coalition members from the ruling alliance in mid-February, and the prime minister narrowly survived a no confidence vote last month.
That has left the government without the votes needed to pass laws necessary to secure more aid from Ukraine's international backers. Finance Minister Natalia Yaresko, a foreign-born former investment manager favored by the West, is among those touted as a possible replacement.
Yatseniuk urged two parties who quit his coalition, the Samopomich (Self-help) party and the populist Radical party, to return and said in any event, lawmakers must take a decision soon.
"The quicker this question is resolved, the quicker we will carry out the changes and the reforms the country needs. The political uncertainty has suspended practically all processes of change," he said.
Ukraine's Western backers have warned that a $40 billion bailout program could be derailed if Kiev reneges on its promises to tackle the cronyism that flourished under previous administrations.
Snap elections could delay reforms further and boost support for populist parties who oppose austerity measures such as energy tariff rises and pension changes backed by the International Monetary Fund.
The Ukrainian hryvnia currency fell to an 11-month low around the time of the confidence vote, and Ukrainian bond spreads hit distress levels for the first time since November. Both have made a partial recovery since.
NEW PRIME MINISTER?
President Petro Poroshenko's party, the largest in the coalition, has not yet proposed a new government line up, although Yaresko is widely seen as the frontrunner to lead a new government.
In recent days she has discussed the post with lawmakers, according to a source familiar with the matter, and Poroshenko advisor Oleh Medvedev said on Sunday that, as a respected technocrat and political outsider, she was a likely candidate for the job.
Yaresko has so far not commented publicly on the speculation over her role and it is unclear whether she would have the political clout to push through reforms.
"Prime Minister Natalia Yaresko should be seen as an unlikely scenario ... she can't count on a regular majority in the Rada (parliament)," political analyst Tanas Berezovets said in a Facebook post.
(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; editing by Matthias Williams and Jon Boyle)