KIEV, March 1 (Xinhua) -- The political crisis that has been dragging on in Ukraine for almost a year took new twists in February after the parliament unsuccessfully tried to oust the government, the ruling coalition lost its legislative majority and the prosecutor general resigned at the request of the president.
The developments highlight the deep divisions within Ukraine's ruling elite and have raised concerns that the country could face a new power shift and another period of instability, which could push it toward chaos.
Feb. 16 was a day of political drama for Ukraine as President Petro Poroshenko unexpectedly asked Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin to resign, which immediately caused a no-confidence motion against the cabinet and later triggered havoc in the whole governing structure.
The president's plea was another alarming sign of things worsening among Ukraine's political elite, which had been earlier shaken by the resignation of several reform-minded politicians over what they described as extensive corruption in the governing bodies and political pressure from the president-allied officials.
Many experts believe that by demanding the removal of Yatsenyuk and Shokin, the president, who had come under harsh public criticism after the resignation of the reformists, among them Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius, was trying to divert attention from his own failures to the prime minister and the prosecutor general.
Other experts view Poroshenko's move as an attempt to distance himself from the highly unpopular prosecutor general and even more unpopular prime minister, who both have been criticized for failing to implement the promised reforms and for their ineffective fight against corruption.
"The president's decision is based on a simple logic -- he was just trying to save his own popularity. The negative, which is concentrated around the prime minister and the prosecutor, might drag down the president's approval rating. That's why the president was trying to defend himself," said Alexandra Reshmedilova, a political scientist at Kiev-based international information and analysis center CRU.
Meanwhile, some experts and politicians suspect a conspiracy behind the presidential request, after which Shokin has agreed to step down, while the no-confidence motion against Yatsenyuk failed as only 194 lawmakers in the 450-seat assembly supported it.
The point is that the majority of lawmakers, who tend to be loyal to Poroshenko and have always supported bills backed by the president, rejected the no-confidence motion, triggering speculations that senior leaders of the state have engineered a plot aimed at derailing the power reshuffle.
"The failure of the no-confidence motion against the government was the result of backstage agreements between oligarchs on one side and Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Petro Poroshenko on the other side," said Mustafa Nayyem, a reformist legislator from the ruling Solidarity Party.
SNAP ELECTIONS ON HORIZON
Graft and cronyism in the governing bodies are nothing new in Ukraine, but the current developments seem to be particularly dangerous to the East European country as they have brought to the surface alleged corruption at the highest level.
The scandal surrounding the no-confidence vote has raised fears that the current authorities, which came to power on a promise to reform Ukraine and fight corruption, will fail to deliver on their pledges and the country will head toward snap elections.
Citing their anger over the failed no-confidence vote and denouncing it as a "shadowy plan" and "oligarch coup," two parties -- the Fatherland and the Samopomich -- decided to quit the parliamentary majority, leaving it with only 215 votes, below the minimum of 226 required for passing legislation.
After the collapse of the ruling coalition, the government has 30 days to form a new legislative majority. Otherwise, the president will have to dissolve the parliament and call early elections.
Analysts here are divided over the probability of a snap election.
Many suggest that the vote is highly unlikely as senior governing figures, whose popularity has eroded to record lows, will be trying to avoid it by all means.
"No one is interested in early elections, except some small parliamentary political groups, whose forces are insufficient to push for the snap vote," said Olexiy Golobotsky, an analyst at the Situations Modeling Agency of Ukraine.
He said the parliament still has the potential to work. To save the coalition, the best option for the government is to gather under its wing unaffiliated lawmakers or join forces with the major Radical party, which has 21 seats in the parliament -- enough to form a majority.
Yet, many experts believe that snap elections are unavoidable, pointing out that both the Ukrainian society and the country's foreign partners are losing patience with the government's and the parliament's delays in implementing reforms and fighting corruption.
Matters have been further complicated by deep divisions among the lawmakers who now form the parliament.
"The new coalition will not be viable at least because the same lawmakers will form it. If they could not agree in the previous format, they would have no new reasons to agree after changing the name of their political force," said Andriy Eremenko, an analyst at the Active Group think-tank.
He suggested that the snap parliamentary elections could happen in Ukraine as soon as mid-autumn.
NO EASY WAY OUT
Under the current circumstances, things do not look bright for Ukraine, whose fresh political troubles coincide with an economic crisis and conflict in eastern regions.
In the event of snap elections, Ukraine's foreign financial lenders are expected to freeze their aid until the formation of the new coalition and the permanent government and it certainly would provoke a further deepening of the financial crisis in the cash-strapped country.
The period of uncertainty ahead of the snap vote may further hamper the implementation of the Minsk peace agreement, which is seen by many observers in Ukraine and abroad as the only tool to peacefully resolve the conflict in Eastern regions.
Even if the parliament is changed, the elections may be useless and their outcome will not make a difference for ordinary Ukrainians, given the results of the opinion polls, which have suggested that the assembly will be composed of the same old faces.
Furthermore, if elections occur, none of the political forces will dominate the parliament, if one considers the polarization of the Ukrainian voters in their electoral sympathies. Instead, it will lead to parliamentary fragmentation and an even more fragile government.
"After the snap elections, the number of factions in the parliament will increase, and this will only strengthen the contradictions inside the assembly and intensify the crisis," said Vladimir Fesenko, director of the Penta Center of Applied Political Studies.
Yet delays in efforts to reshuffle the government and the parliament, whose results fell short of expectations after more than a year of being in power, threaten to put the East European country in a protracted political deadlock.
"There will be no positive changes without holding the elections, because we will never get qualitatively better results from the current government, the current coalition and the current parliament. Therefore, it is necessary to replace them," said Andriy Novak, chairman of the Committee of Economists of Ukraine.
What's worse, Ukrainians are becoming extremely angry with the authorities due to dashed hopes, lack of stability and the loss of trust in the government bodies.
Therefore, some analysts even suggested that the situation risks snowballing into another wave of protests, if elections are not held.
Indeed, it is questionable whether the country needs a snap vote, but one thing is clear: There is no single easy way out of Ukraine's political deadlock and emergency actions are needed from the authorities to keep the growing instability in check.
Otherwise, the current crisis in the East European country may grow increasingly worse.
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