President Seeking To Dump Prime Minister?

KIEV, Ukraine -- A senior ruling party lawmaker on Wednesday denied speculation that President Viktor Yanukovych is secretly seeking to replace Prime Minister Mykola Azarov with First Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov

Azarov will face a no-confidence vote in Parliament on Friday.

The motion, initiated by opposition groups, needs to be supported by the Communist Party and by independent lawmakers to be successful.

Opposition leaders said there were signs indicating the Communist Party, which on several occasions sided with the ruling party, has been secretly asked to back the motion.

If Azarov loses the vote, he would be automatically dismissed along with the entire government.

Yanukovych has been long seeking to promote Arbuzov, who is believed to be very close to Yanukovych’s son, Oleksandr, according to people with knowledge.

This would fit the pattern of all high profile appointments in the country, from the Finance Minister, the Revenue and Fees Minister, the Interior Minister to the governor of the National Bank of Ukraine.

All of these officials are close allies of Oleksandr Yanukovych, whose wealth has been growing exponentially since his father has become the president in February 2010.

But the ruling Regions Party was split with a half of their lawmakers backing Azarov and vehemently refusing to support the promotion of Arbuzov.

Hryhoriy Smitiukh, a senior member of the Regions Party, on Wednesday dismissed speculations and said there were no plans to replace Azarov with Arbuzov.

“I am convinced the Mykola Yanovych [Azarov] will keep working,” Smitiukh said in an interview with Radio Liberty.

“Nothing is eternal, but we will work through the year 2015, until after the presidential election. This is guaranteed.”

Smitiuk also dismissed speculations that the Communist Party may turn against Azarov.

“The Communists will not vote for the dismissal of the government,” Smitiukh said.

“If you look at the track record of the Communists in Parliament, they always have their pragmatic long-term plans. They are guided by these plans.”

“Don’t even hope that the Communist will vote,” Smitiukh said.

“They can declare slogans, demand some actions, but as far as the government’s dismissal is concerned – they will not go for it. I am convinced.”

A spokesman for the Communist Party declined to comment on whether the party would back the motion.

Neither the Regions Party nor the three opposition groups control majority of seats in Parliament.

This makes the Communist Party’s position key to whether the motion is rejected or approved.

Parliament, which was blocked by the opposition groups since April 3, resumed its normal sessions on Tuesday, following a compromise between the groups and the Regions Party.

The compromise includes scheduling the no-confidence motion, and also vote on legislation that may lead to the release of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

The compromise also includes efforts to schedule the next Kiev mayoral election and a vote to cancel the government’s controversial pension reform.

The Regions Party, which has weak political support in Kiev, defeated the plan for the Kiev mayoral election, leaving a Yanukovych appointee in charge of the Kiev government indefinitely.

Source: Ukrainian Journal