Ukrainian president Yushchenko dismisses PM, cabinet

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine announced the dismissal of his government Thursday, under accusations of graft and political infighting. Amongst those dismissed was Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Yushchenko, who won the Presidency almost one year ago, in what became known worldwide as the "Orange Revolution" had vowed to stamp out the corruption that was widespread under Leonid Kuchma. Most of the dismissed officials took part in the revolution that swept the popular Yushchenko into power.

Yushchenko announced that Yuriy Yekhanurov, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk province would replace Tymoshenko, as PM and form a new government. He also claimed that he wanted to give a fresh start to an administration that he said failed to meet the high expectations of supporters.

According to Yushchenko, the dismissed officials "...remain my friends. It is very difficult but today I must remove this Gordian knot," criticising the dismissed officials for lack of team spirit.

It is hoped by analysts that the technocratic Yekhanurov would help strengthen the country's economy, which has suffered recently from a sharp downturn and inflation.

The move is seen as leading to a possible standoff between the President and his dismissed Prime Minister in the upcoming 2006 parliamentary elections, as Tymoshenko is both a powerful political figure and leads her own party alliance. Tymoshenko had a notable role within the Orange Revolution as a public speaker whose speeches brought thousands of supporters to the Yushchenko camp, in a revolution that caught the world's attention. She was recently named the third most powerful woman in the world, behind such major political figures as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Wu Yi of the People's Republic of China.

There had been noted friction between the President and Prime Minister in recent months, largely over the country's economy. The friction ultimately led the resignation of Yushchenko's chief of staff, who cited deep corruption within the administration. This friction may make it difficult for Yekhanurov to be confirmed by the parliament, in which the Pro-Yushchenko groups do not control a majority.

According to the Ukrainian Constitution, special elections to the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) can be called by the President to be held within sixty days of the initial call. As of yet, with the March elections around the corner, there appears to be no indication that Yushchenko will be calling for special elections.

International response has been mostly similar, with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the U.S. and Ukraine's neighbor, Poland downplaying the dismissals as being of no cause for alarm.