Ukrainian parliament sacks PM Honcharuk, full Cabinet reshuffle underway

Ex-Prime Minister Honcharuk was Ukraine's youngest-yet prime minister. Photo: espreso.tv 

Politics

This article will be updated as new details emerge.

With 353 votes, on 4 March 2020, the Ukrainian Rada voted to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk. Zero MPs opposed and 49 abstained. A full reshuffle in the government is underway. The candidates are being voted for at the evening session of the Rada. However, the full list of new ministers for the vacant positions is still unclear. Denys Shmyhal has been appointed as the new Prime Minister.

Honcharuk was appointed to his post on 29 August 2019 at the age of 35 years and was the youngest prime minister in the history of Ukraine.

In his final word, Honcharuk said that his government “didn’t steal and systematically fought corruption from the first day to the last.”

Speaking in the building of the Rada, President Zelenskyy praised Honcharuk’s government but that it’s “not enough”:

“This government has gains. These are the reduction of inflation, the national bank discount rate, the fight against the shadow markets, including gambling and illegal gas stations, the privatization of state-owned enterprises that were been looted all these years. These are loans to small and medium-sized businesses, reducing the role of the state in the economy of our country. … 

But the truth is that today this is not enough for Ukrainians. It’s not enough to not steal. This is a government of new faces, but faces are not enough. New brains and new hearts are needed. This government knows what to do, but not enough to know. we have a lot of work to do. We have to admit mistakes.”

Zelenskyy criticized the economic downfall Ukraine is experiencing, saying that smuggling had “dealt a knockout blow to customs.” He also said the industry’s fall by 5% for the fourth consecutive month was another pain. Zelensky stressed that the government had failed to communicate with local authorities and people and clammed the high salaries and bonuses of Supervisory Board members.

At the same time, the president said he was “not ashamed of this government.”

“I really do think that the former government did everything possible, but today Ukrainians need a government that will do the impossible. I hope that the next Cabinet of Ministers will be exactly that.” 

Denys Shmyhal. Photo: pravda.com.ua

44-year-old Shmyhal was voted in with 291 votes. From August 2019 to February 2020, he held the post of the head of the State Administration of Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, a west-Ukrainian mountainous region. Then he was appointed as vice-prime minister.

Speaking from the rostrum, he said that the strengthening of the Ukrainian hryvnia had dealt a blow to exports and had not improved the well-being of Ukrainians, that the country needs a coronavirus management program, that the government needs to strengthen its economic block, that the salaries of ministers and Supervisory Board members should be decreased, social payments increased, and that the new government’s program will be introduced shortly.

Leaked conversation scandal as a precursor

Honcharuk came to the Zelenskyy’s team via Andriy Bohdan, the former lawyer of oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi who headed the President’s Office until recently. However, when Bohdan was replaced by Andriy Yermak in February 2020, things went south for the PM.

Honcharuk became a victim of leaked conversations from, presumably, one of his meetings. On one of them, a voice resembling Honcharuk’s acknowledges that he is not competent in economic issues. As well, he says that President Zelenskyy has a “primitive understanding of economic processes.”

As a result, Honcharuk filed a resignation letter in January; however, the President’s Office later published a video where Zelenskyy talks to Honcharuk and agrees to give him “a second chance.” Honcharuk’s second resignation letter was made public only yesterday.

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