Ukraine’s government took another hit today when a senior prosecutor resigned because he believed the government had become too corrupt. Reuters:
The resignation, the second exit of a Western-backed reformer in under a fortnight, came a day before a possible no confidence vote in parliament that could topple Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk and lead to a snap election.
Failure to tackle endemic corruption has derailed a $40 billion aid program that keeps the war-torn country afloat. If Yatseniuk falls, it would further delay negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for the next tranche of money, $1.7 billion, which has been on hold since October.
“Today, the General Prosecutor’s office is a brake on the reform of criminal justice, a hotbed of corruption, an instrument of political pressure, one of the key obstacles to the arrival of foreign investment in Ukraine,” Deputy General Prosecutor Vitaliy Kasko said in a televised statement.
When Vice President Joe Biden visited Kyiv in early December, he pleaded for the members of the ruling coalition to put aside their differences and work together. A few days later, a brawl erupted when a member of President Petro Poroshenko’s bloc tried to take Prime Minister Yatsenyuk away from the speaker’s podium by firmly grasping him by the crotch.
Though the government managed to pull together before the end of the month to pass a budget and a package of tax code reforms, dysfunction quickly set in again in the new year. Ten days ago, one of Ukraine’s most-respected reformists, Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius, resigned because of his concerns about unchecked corruption at the highest levels of government. After the resignation of Abromavicius, the IMF’s Christina Lagarde warned that it was “hard to see how the IMF-supported program can continue and be successful.”
But the downfall of certain factions is an opportunity for others. Former Georgian President and current Governor of Odessa Mikheil Saakashvili clearly has his eyes on the Prime Ministership, and is trying to pull together a new reformist coalition made up of disillusioned activists from both the Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk camps in anticipation of early elections. Longtime Ukraine-watchers like Adrian Karatnycky, most likely reflecting attitudes within the Obama Administration, are troubled by the prospect of the mercurial Saakashvili ascending to power in Kyiv. And former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko was in Washington earlier this month, saying that she would be pushing for early parliamentary elections—”the sooner the better.” Trying to stake out a firm nationalist line, she said that she and her allies in parliament would oppose any constitutional changes mandated by the Minsk accords with Russia.
During his December trip, Biden warned that the Maidan-inspired “Revolution of Dignity” was in danger of collapsing, not unlike how the Orange Revolution fizzled more than a decade ago amid oligarch tussles and dirty dealings. “The only thing worse than having no hope at all is having hopes rise and see them dashed repeatedly on the shoals of corruption,” Biden said. These snap elections, if they come to pass, may not necessarily lead to worse outcomes down the line. But they most certainly mean more instability for Ukraine in the immediate term, which can be nothing but unwelcome news for a struggling White House staff trying to grind out its last year in office.