Ukraine’s new and unpredictable parliament set for marathon first session

File photo. Ukrainians carry a giant flag during the National Flag Day celebrations in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, 23 August 2019. [Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA/EFE]

Ukraine’s new parliament will meet for the first time on Thursday (29 August), dominated by the party of ex-comedian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy who has an unprecedented chance to fulfil his political ambition of “breaking the system”.

The 41-year-old won a landslide election in April and his young Servant of the People party gained an absolute majority in last month’s snap parliamentary elections.

Zelenskiy’s overwhelming success in the polls demonstrated the level of frustration in one of Europe’s poorest countries with the old elites, seen as corrupt and inefficient.

Zelenskiy has already picked his prime minister, according to a source close to the presidency: Olexiy Goncharuk, a lawyer who is just 35 years old and currently oversees economic issues in the administration.

Lawmakers could confirm the nomination as early as Thursday, according to some Ukrainian media. One source told AFP however that the vote was more likely to happen next week.

Goncharuk was appointed to be part of Zelenskiy’s administration at the end of May and previously headed the consultancy Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO) financed by the European Union to promote small and medium-sized businesses.

Among Zelenskiy’s campaign promises is to put an end to the conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, fight corruption and launch economic reforms.

“I am not a politician,” he said in April ahead of his election, “I am just a simple person who has come to break the system”.

“I am the result of your mistakes and promises.”

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‘Work all night’

Besides possible confirmation of a new prime minister, a parliament source told AFP that Zelenskiy’s party was also planning to vote on Thursday for two key posts — a new prosecutor general and a new head of the SBU security services.

Zelenskiy’s team has instructed deputies to “prepare to work all night” from Thursday to Friday to vote on up to a hundred laws, media reported.

Made up of many young political novices, the Servant of the People party won 254 seats out of 450 in last month’s polls. It was a result unprecedented in independent Ukraine where parliamentary clashes have sometimes become physical.

Ukraine president on course for unprecedented majority after election win

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy looked set on Monday (22 July) to become Ukraine’s first leader since the fall of communism to command a single party majority in parliament, in what would be an unprecedented mandate to deliver promised reforms.

“It’s an extraordinary opportunity, and an extraordinary responsibility,” Sergiy Fursa, chief of Dragon Capital investment group, said on his blog.

“This parliament can either accelerate structural changes and transform the country” or “get bogged down in populism and change nothing,” he wrote.

Four other political forces managed to surpass the five-percent barrier to get into parliament, including the pro-Russian Opposition Platform (43 seats), ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland (26 seats), ex-president Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity (25 seats), and Voice, founded by rocker Svyatoslav Vakarchuk (20 seats).

Fifty-six deputies represent other smaller parties or are independent, and a further 26 seats are unclaimed because their constituencies live in Crimea or parts of eastern Ukraine that are not controlled by Kyiv.

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