Over the past two years, Ukraine has rarely been absent from the world’s headlines. Today, yet again, the country finds itself in the midst of a political crisis, the worst since 2014. After a failed no-confidence vote to remove the Prime Minister, the governing coalition collapsed in mid-February. Ukraine has 30 days to form a new coalition and 60 to form a new government or face an election.
On 16 February 2016, the Parliament of Ukraine held a no-confidence vote to remove its Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The vote failed when only 194 MPs supported the motion, far short of the required 226. Even though the Prime Minister survived the no-confidence vote, the ruling coalition collapsed just days after. Batkivshchyna, the party of Yulia Tymoshenko, officially left the coalition the day after the vote. It was followed by Self-Reliance, the second party in two days to exit the ruling majority. Both parties took with them 45 MPs, officially depriving the coalition of its majority.
The President and the political parties are currently in the middle of the coalition negotiations in efforts to form a new majority. The current Prime Minister seems to have agreed to step down once the new coalition is formed. But his party, the People’s Front, will keep a number of important cabinet positions, including the interior and justice ministries. In addition, the party also demanded that the new coalition agreement include adoption of lustration law.
After weeks of speculations, Volodymyr Groysman, the current Speaker of the Parliament, seems to be at the top of the candidate list to replace Yatsenyuk. Although, Natalia Jeresko, the current Finance Minister, has also been discussed as a potential candidate. But Bloc Petro Poroshenko and the People’s Front party alone cannot form a majority coalition. Thus, it is the potential third coalition partner, who can make or break the new agreement. It has been announced that Batkivshchyna agreed to join the new coalition. However, the latest reports suggest that the deal is far from done. Although Batkivshchyna is the smallest party in parliament, it is still likely to use its bargaining position to press for more demands.
As we know, presidents have an entire toolbox at their disposal when it comes to forming new coalitions. It is easier and cheaper to negotiate with parties as opposed to individual MPs. However, two former coalition partners, Self-Reliance and Radical Party, refused to participate in the negotiation. But the current parliament also includes 47 non-affiliated deputies, who could potentially end up in the middle of the negotiations.
The latest political infighting not only threatens much needed flow of foreign aid, including the disbursement of $1.7 billion loan from the IMF, but also can derail Ukraine’s prospects for European integration. The timing for a political crisis is never good but it is especially bad at the moment, when the Netherland is preparing to hold a referendum on Ukraine-EU Association agreement. The Netherlands is the only EU country yet to ratify the agreement. If a Dutch voter was hesitant before, she is likely to be even more cautious now after witnessing the recent political crisis in the country. Ukraine should be careful not to repeat the events of Yushchenko’s presidency, when the coalition infightings had disastrous political and economic consequences for the country.
 Chaisty, Paul, Nic Cheeseman, and Timothy J. Power. 2014. “Rethinking the ‘presidentialism debate’: conceptualizing coalition politics in cross-regional perspective,” Democratization 21 (1): 72-94.