New Ukraine president endures torrid first week
In his first week as Ukraine president, Volodymyr Zelensky (pictured) suffered a heavy defeat in parliament with legislators voting against his plans to hold an early general election.
The 226-92 vote appeared to point towards the growing disharmony between the legislature, the Supreme Rada, and the president.
The 41-year-old former TV comedian has appointed allies from his production company to senior government positions.
A scriptwriter, studio co-founder and producer were given roles in the administration or as aides.
He named Ivan Bakanov, his campaign manager who set up his political party, as deputy chief of the security services and head of a body fighting corruption and organised crime.
The new chief of staff is Andriy Bohdan, a lawyer who has worked for Ihor Kolomoisky, a billionaire whose television channel has broadcast the comedian’s programmes.
Bohdan worked for the deposed pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych. He is barred from holding government roles under a 2014 law.
Zelensky’s staff say the ban does not apply to the president’s team, sparking an argument with the opposition.
Kolomoisky left Ukraine in 2017 after falling out with outgoing president Petro Poroshenko. The Kiev government nationalised one of his major assets, PrivatBank. He returned to Ukraine last week and is trying to regain control of the bank through legal action.
Zelensky used his inaugural speech to say he would dissolve the parliament for a July election.
The surprise move drew questions about whether he had the powers to do so.
Yesterday (Wednesday), Zelensky proposed changes to electoral law, which were quickly defeated in the chamber.
Zelensky said he wanted to reduce the electoral threshold and remove first-past-the-post voting. Ukraine currently has a mixed system with some proportional voting.
Zelensky’s staff said the move was designed to enable minor parties to achieve parliamentary representation.
Speaker Andriy Paruby condemned Zelensky’s “worrying” plans and said the calls to disband parliament contravened the constitution.
He posted on Facebook: “It is sad and worrying that the guarantor of the constitution has begun his job with such a gross violation of the constitution.”
Paruby is closely associated with the outgoing Poroshenko.
Bohdan said the new administration was considering putting any potential peace deal with Russia to a referendum and a vote in parliament.
Zelensky said his first task was securing a ceasefire with Russian-backed separatists in the east of Ukraine. “We didn’t start this war but it is up to us to end it,” the new president said.
The inauguration of Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Picture credit: Wikimedia