Kiev: Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday appointed pro-Western speaker Volodymyr Groysman as prime minister in a bid to end months of political gridlock and unlock vital aid to the war torn-state.
Lawmakers voted by 257 to 50 to approve the resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk — condemned by President Petro Poroshenko for losing the public’s trust — and select Groysman in the first cabinet overhaul since Ukraine’s 2014 pro-EU revolt.
“I understand my responsiblities,” the 38-year-old Groysman told deputies shortly before the vote.
He vowed to “ensure the permanence of our course toward European integration” and oversee a government “that does not tolerate corruption”.
Poroshenko himself called Groysman, a lawyer by training, “a politician from a new generation”.
“What do I expect from the new government? The same thing our society does,” the president said while presenting his candidate.
“The start of economic growth and an improvement in people’s well-being. We have moved from a survival strategy, which was fully justified in 2014-15, to a strategy of accelerated growth.”
– Foreigners out of government –
The fast-rising new premier is a Poroshenko protege who only two years ago served as mayor of the small western Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia and remained a relative unknown.
He moved to Kiev and joined the government after the 2014 ouster of Ukraine’s Moscow-backed leadership and the country’s decision to strike a landmark EU trade and political association pact, a shift out of Russia’s orbit.
Groysman was elected to parliament on Poroshenko’s party ticket in October 2014 and became speaker the following month.
He is seen as a coalition builder who has gained stature by keeping the notoriously rowdy parliament — prone to ugly brawls — in relative peace.
He has also pronounced himself strongly committed to the belt-tightening measures prescribed by the International Monetary Fund when it approved a $17.5-billion (15.4-billion-euro) rescue package for Ukraine in March 2014.
But some economists worry that the mild-mannered Groysman may lack the toughness needed to stand up to a handful of tycoons who have dominated Ukrainian politics and made the former Soviet republic a breeding ground for graft.
The new government may draw further concern of investors because it will not feature the respected US-born Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko or two other foreign technocrats Poroshenko enlisted in December 2014 to help stem Ukraine’s economic nosedive.
– ‘Need to move forward’ –
Yatsenyuk became prime minister days after the downfall of the Kremlin-backed regime and won renown for his scathing criticism of Russia during its March 2014 annexation of Crimea and the pro-Moscow eastern insurgency that broke out a few weeks later.
Russia denies charges by Ukraine and its Western allies of stirring and backing a war that has now claimed nearly 9,200 lives, in order to keep the new Kiev government off-balance and retain lasting influence over its western neighbour.
But Yatsenyuk saw his party’s approval plunge to around two percent due to a broad public perception that he was working in tandem with the very oligarchs who had enjoy enormous clout under previous administrations and whom he had vowed to fight.
Yatsenyuk, 41, announced on Sunday that he was quitting, almost two months after surviving a no-confidence vote in parliament.
“I would like to thank my opponents and foes for making me stronger,” he told parliament shortly before Thursday’s vote.
“I would like to note that together we did lot for our country and our people. But we need to move foreward,” he said.
“I ask you to accept my resignation. Big deeds and big achievements lie ahead.”
The Ukrainian government has been paralysed since Yatsenyuk survived the February 16 no-confidence vote that fractured the pro-EU coalition and sparked an intense battle for political power in Kiev.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde said in February she could not see how funding — suspended since the end of last year because of Ukraine’s failure to follow through on some of its economic pledges — could resume until a new and united government is formed.