As predicted, the leftist deputies of Ukraine’s parliament failed to persuade the majority to vote for dismissal of Prime Minister Pustovoytenko’s cabinet. The no-confidence motion, proposed by the Left Center, Communist and Hromada factions fell twenty-three votes short of the simple majority in the 450-seat, one-chamber body (Ukrainian television and agencies, October 13).
The cabinet was initially scheduled only to report on its work for nine months. Last week, however, the leftist factions managed to collect 202 signatures to include on the agenda of Tuesday’s parliament–which was convening on the issue of government responsibility for the current state of the economy. Such influential parliamentarians as Speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko and former Economy Minister Viktor Suslov, tried to shift the blame for the economic hardships on the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) and its head, Viktor Yushchenko, personally. President Leonid Kuchma indirectly blamed the NBU’s strict monetary policy for the current financial crisis (see the Monitor, October 9). This prompted certain mass media to report about a pending dismissal of Yushchenko (see, for example, RFE/RL Newsline, October 12). However, during the October 12 cabinet meeting, Kuchma described the work of the NBU as “professional”. He, along with Tkachenko, called on the parliament not to dismiss the cabinet. Kuchma also sensationally announced that he would ask the Communist leader Petro Symonenko, as leader of the parliament majority, to form a new government if the current one were to get a no-confidence vote on Tuesday (Ukrainian television, October 12). This move, apparently not expected by the Communists, was supported by the radical leftist Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), but only if Symonenko selected the new cabinet. The members of this party are known for their bitter rivalry with the Communist leader Petro Symonenko. Their support of Kuchma’s announcement–and thus of the Communist Party–further confused the Communists.
Pustovoytenko’s report to the parliament was far from convincing. He tried to shift the blame for the dismal state of the Ukrainian economy on the NBU and the State Property Fund, saying that his cabinet did not have sufficient authority to control financial and privatization policies. Pustovoytenko also somewhat awkwardly tried to sweeten the pill by citing his predecessors’ poor performance. Parliament did not take advantage of Pustovoytenko’s weaknesses, however, and Symonenko was clearly unprepared to take responsibility for formation of a new cabinet.
The constitution allows parliament to vote on a cabinet dismissal only once each session. Thus Pustovoytenko’s government will stay in power until at least February 1999. Despite the relatively poor performance of his cabinet, Pustovoytenko, who is personally devoted to Kuchma, feels confident in his position. Half jokingly he promised that he will remain premier for another ten years (Ukrainian television, October 11). For all the weaknesses of the current cabinet, its dismissal would have inevitably aggravated the financial crisis by a political one, which would repeat the current circumstances in Russia. It has now been in power for fifteen months–longer than any of its predecessors since the independence of 1991.–OV
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