Fri, 20 Sep 2019

KYIV -- A day after his inauguration, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a decree to dissolve parliament and set snap parliamentary elections for July 21.

Zelenskiy also appointed on May 21 a new chief of the General Staff to head the Ukrainian military amid its conflict with Russia-backed separatists who hold parts of eastern Ukraine.

Earlier in the day, Zelenskiy held discussions on his plan to disband the legislature with Verkhovna Rada speaker Andriy Parubiy and leaders of parliamentary factions at the presidential administration building in Kyiv.

Zelenskiy said after the meeting that he decided to dissolve parliament and call early elections because there had been no ruling coalition in the Rada since 2016.

'The main reason to dissolve the parliament is citizens' very low [level of] trust in that institution -- just 4 percent. That is the assessment of the parliament's work and the most important reason to end its authority,' he said.

Zelenskiy said that as president and 'guarantor of the constitution,' he 'must safeguard the rights of Ukraine's citizens,' and added that the 'judicial reason' for the dissolution of parliament is that 'there has been no coalition since 2016.'

The ruling European Ukraine coalition was established in November 2014 and consisted of the party of Zelenskiy's predecessor President Petro Poroshenko, Poroshenko's Bloc, the People's Front, Samopomich (Self-Reliance), Batkivshchyna (Fatherland), and the Radical Party. The latter three political parties quit the coalition in 2015-2016.

The People's Front announced its decision to quit the coalition last week, after which Parubiy announced that coalition was dissolved.

Zelenskiy announced in his inaugural address that he was disbanding the Rada, Ukraine's unicameral parliament, and the consultations are part of the process.

He is expected to sign a decree dissolving parliament after the talks. Under the constitution, new parliamentary elections must be held within two months of the decree.

A comedian and actor with no previous political experience, Zelenskiy defeated incumbent Petro Poroshenko by a wide margin in a presidential runoff vote on April 21.

The 41-year-old ran for president without the support of a political party and has no formal backing in parliament now.

The next parliamentary elections had been set for late October. As he starts a five-year term, early elections are a chance for Zelenskiy to strengthen his position and sideline allies of Poroshenko.

Opponents have questioned whether Zelenskiy has the authority to disband parliament under the constitution because of the timing of his inauguration, but there has been little sign of vocal resistance to his plan since he announced it on May 20.

Hours after Zelenskiy was sworn in, Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman said he will resign on May 22 and suggested that he will run in the snap elections.

'I proposed to the president and the parliament that we together form a new agenda and very quickly begin to make decisions that would make Ukraine stronger,' Hroysman said. 'The president has chosen a different path.'

Zelenskiy has taken the helm of a country of 44 million that faces deep-seated corruption, economic challenges, and a deadly conflict with Russia-backed militants who hold parts of the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Zelenskiy on May 21 promoted Lieutenant General Ruslan Khomchak to be the chief of Ukraine's General Staff after dismissing Viktor Muzhenko, according to a presidential decree.

Muzhenko had served as the head of the country's armed forces since 2014.

The war in the region known as the Donbas has killed some 13,000 people since April 2014 and Russia continues to control Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula it occupied and seized the same year.

Zelenskiy also appointed on May 21 his legal adviser Andriy Bogdan as the head of the presidential administration.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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