Ukraine's New Leader Starts Push for Snap Parliamentary Vote





(Bloomberg) -- Ukraine's newly appointed president immediately moved to dissolve parliament and call a snap election as he seeks to consolidate power following his rapid rise from TV comedian to the country's top politician.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who was sworn in Monday, won a resounding electoral victory last month on pledges to end decades of corruption and resolve the deadly conflict fomented by Russia after it annexed Crimea in 2014.

The newcomer's party, named Servant of the People after his popular television show, has no representation in the legislature but leads polls before a scheduled vote in October. Calling an early ballot -- as early as summer -- will be tricky, however, as the current ruling parties staged a tactical move last week to cling to power.

"There will be serious legal debates about the terms of parliament's dissolution," Yuriy Yakymenko, an analyst at the Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies in Kiev, said by phone. "This situation will be resolved by the courts."

The People's Front, parliament's biggest party but one that's unlikely to even clear the barrier to entry in a new election, pulled out of the ruling coalition last week, triggering lengthy talks that could prevent an early vote.

On Monday, the second-largest party, the bloc of outgoing President Petro Poroshenko, said it would be prepared for a snap ballot, as long as such a step is justified. Samopomich, the legislature's fourth-biggest group, said it would also be ready for what it called "society's request."

Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroisman, who's running for parliament after splitting from Poroshenko's party, said he'll quit this week following Zelenskiy's comments on Monday. That could complicate negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, with officials set to arrive in Kiev on Tuesday to discuss the next tranche of a $3.9 billion loan.

The new president has invited parliamentary leaders for consultations on early elections on Tuesday morning, according to a Samopomich lawmaker.

With graft a hot-button issue for voters and Ukraine's Western donors, Zelenskiy, 41, urged lawmakers to pass bills clamping down on illicit wealth and ending officials' immunity from prosecution. He also asked them to dismiss the unpopular prosecutor-general, the head of the security service and the defense minister.

"It's not everything you can do but it's fine for a start," he said in Kiev. "You'll have two months for that."

While Zelenskiy's campaign team included reformist ex-ministers, little was revealed about his precise plans as president and he failed to reveal his favored candidates for the key government positions under his control.

But his underlying message has been well received by investors. The hryvnia, eastern Europe's top performer in the past month, gained more than 1% against the dollar amid Monday's call to disband parliament.

"In the last five years, I did everything to make Ukrainians smile," he said. "In the next five, I'll do everything so Ukrainians don't cry."

(Updates with prime minister's pledge to resign in seventh paragraph.)

--With assistance from Marton Eder.

To contact the reporters on this story: Daryna Krasnolutska in Kiev at dkrasnolutsk@bloomberg.net;Yulia Surkova in Kiev at ysurkova@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net, Andrew Langley, Michael Winfrey

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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