Calls for new Ukraine polls grow as confidence in president collapses

Calls for new Ukraine polls grow as confidence in president collapses
Poroshenko's presidential headache.
By Ben Aris in Moscow April 18, 2016

In the latest of a growing number calls for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to change course or leave, a powerful editorial by the liberal English language Kyiv Post has advocated fresh elections and warned of another revolution.

"Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is becoming more dangerous by the day... Poroshenko will continue to say the right things, but he's fooling fewer people all the time. The West should keep suspending aid for now," editor Brian Bonner wrote. "Those who think that early elections are a crazy idea should think again. Elections are far better than revolutions, which is where the country is headed again unless Poroshenko radically changes course."

Strong words for a paper with a strongly pro-Western editorial line that has until now given Poroshenko and his team the benefit of the doubt. The paper remains influential in Ukraine, as it is one of the few titles that is not controlled by one oligarchic group or another.

However, a yawning credibility gap between what Poroshenko says and what he does has become so wide it is now impossible to ignore. Domestic support for his regime is falling away as more and more people come to believe that they have installed not a reformist government that will lead the country towards liberal values, but another bunch of corrupt oligarchs that intend to use their access to power to further enrich themselves.

Katya Kruk, the well-known Maidan activist and bne IntelliNews columnist, summed it up in a comment: "Recent developments at the Prosecutor General's Office prove better than anything that the authorities, or to be more precise the team led by President Poroshenko, have no intention of reforming Ukraine. Their priority is to remain in power, even if to do so they have to resort to the kind of practices used during Yanukovych's regime." 

The signs of slippage have been there for a while. The popularity of the president's party has plummeted and it did less well than it should have in October's regional elections. Then an advisor to Minister of Finance Natalie Jaresko delivered a scathing critique of the national leadership's failure to fulfil on the promise of reform, in a paper released in late November titled "How (not) to reform Ukraine". And most glaringly was the decision in February by Economy Minister Avarius Abramavicius to quit. In short, Ukraine's European dream is dying.

The April 14 appointment of Volodymyr Groysman as prime minister and the replacement of US-born Jaresko, one of the most effective reformers in the government team who has managed to stabilise the economy and restructure its debt, are bad signs. They suggest to many that the new cabinet is nothing to do with reforming Ukraine's dilapidated economy and everything to do with Poroshenko consolidating his grip on power.

Ukraine's liberal supporters like Bonner and Kruk are now openly calling for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to suspend paying out any more aid until Poroshenko can prove his intentions are honourable. But he has so destroyed the trust he had when elected that the call for new elections is growing louder and some worry could end up with a another revolution.

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