Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko called on the embattled prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to resign, even as his government survived on Tuesday a no-confidence vote.
Poroshenko also called for the resignation of Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin, who has been seen by many reformers, and even Western diplomats, as an impediment to cleaning up rampant corruption
The vote came amid what opinion polls suggest is growing disenchantment among Ukrainians with the pro-Western government that took power following the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014. 80% of Ukrainians disapprove of Yatsenyuk’s performance as prime minister, yet he insists on staying.
“The tension between the government and the factions has become so high that it poses a threat to the coalition’s functioning,” Poroshenko said in a statement.
Yatsenyuk defended his Cabinet’s performance during a raucous debate, saying that “hatred and anger are not emotions which should unite the political class.”
The no confidence motion got 194 votes in the Verkhovna Rada Tuesday, falling short of the 226 votes required to oust the Cabinet. Minutes before it, 247 lawmakers voted to consider the cabinet’s performance unsatisfactory.
Despite harsh rhetoric, both Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk are keen to avoid snap elections since their political parties have fallen in recent opinion polls as public frustration mounts with the government’s lack of progress.
The blocs led by the prime minister and the president are the largest in parliament and they, along with a collection of other political factions, have been in a tug-of-war for influence that has stymied reforms.
Yatsenyuk became prime minister after the country’s ostentatiously corrupt and Russia-friendly president was chased from power in February 2014 following massive protests. Poroshenko was elected several months later with broad support and a seal of approval from Western leaders.
However, a string of very public spats between Ukrainian lawmakers, often involving members of Yatsenyuk’s and Poroshenko’s blocs, have strained the public patience and eroded the confidence of the West.
Last week, International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde threatened to halt the delivery of another installment of Ukraine’s $17.5 billion aid package that the country is counting on to keep the economy afloat.
Two well-respected reformers resigned in the past week, citing their disenchantment with the government’s cronyism and engrained corruption.
Aivaras Abromavicius stepped down on Feb. 3 as the economy minister and said he and his team received pushback on their reform efforts from government leaders including members of Poroshenko’s party.
Vitaly Kasko resigned on Monday as Ukraine’s deputy chief prosecutor, accusing Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin of derailing anti-graft cases. Poroshenko on Tuesday asked the widely criticized Shokin to step down, but it wasn’t immediately clear if he did so.