DONETSK, Ukraine — Ukraine’s entire government abruptly resigned on Thursday after the governing coalition collapsed, exposing major differences in Kiev as it struggles to quell the conflict in the country’s east.
Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said in parliament that he was resigning because two pro-European parties resigned from the coalition, which he said made it impossible for the government to function.
“When there’s no coalition, and the acting coalition in a parliamentary-presidential republic has collapsed, the government and the prime minister have to resign,” Yatsenyuk said, according to the UNIAN news agency. “I announce my resignation as a result of the collapse of the coalition and the blocking of government initiatives.”
The move sets the stage for snap parliamentary elections in the fall that are expected to strongly boost pro-European parties at the expense of Russian-friendly ones who dominated the last election in 2012. Under Ukraine’s constitution, President Petro Poroshenko can call a snap election on Aug. 24 — Ukraine’s independence day — if the government is unable to form a coalition for 30 days.
It was not immediately clear whether Yatsenyuk’s resignation was part of an agreement to dissolve the widely loathed parliament or the result of internecine squabbles and backdoor deals gone sour. The move came after two junior parties, former boxer Vitaly Klitchko’s UDAR and far-right nationalists Svoboda, withdrew from the coalition with Yatsenyuk’s party, Fatherland, earlier Thursday. Despite the prospect of civil war in the east and the imminent threat of default, lawmakers had spent weeks squabbling over measures needed to finance Ukraine’s army and cooperate with international financial institutions.
Poroshenko, who made a new legislature a key promise after he was elected in May, welcomed the two parties’ move on Thursday before Yatsenyuk announced his resignation. “All surveys of popular opinion, as well as direct interaction with the public, show that society wants the government to be completely reset,” he said in a statement.
Without a significant force of his own in parliament, Poroshenko struck a deal with Klitschko in April under which the boxer dropped his run for president and ran for mayor of Kiev instead, winning easily. The move was aimed at crippling the chances of Fatherland’s domineering and divisive leader, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and brokered by her arch enemy, Moscow-linked gas kingpin Dmitry Firtash, currently awaiting extradition to the U.S. on corruption charges.
Relations between her party, the largest in the coalition, and Poroshenko have since been strained. Lawmakers from Fatherland have criticized Poroshenko, who is in charge of security appointments, for not doing enough to quell the conflict in the east and demanded that he introduce martial law.