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Politics

Ukraine's prime minister gets new lease on life

Mykola Azarov is back at his old job in Ukraine. The country's newly constituted parliament has once again chosen him as prime minister. The result shows that the ruling party has a stable majority.

No big surprises. The Ukraine parliament in Kyiv on Thursday (13.12.2012) re-elected Mykola Azarov to the post of prime minister. The candidate, who is also chairman of the ruling Party of the Regions, was proposed by his ally, President Viktor Yanukovych, and dutifully received 252 votes in the 450-seat chamber. The country's parliamentary president, Volodymyr Rybak, also a member of Yanukovych's party, was elected the same day.

Ukrainian lawmakers fight around the rostrum during the first session of Ukraine's newly elected parliament in Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012. A violent brawl between supporters of the president and opposition lawmaker broke out in parliament on Thursday, nearly overshadowing the naming of a new pro-government speaker to lead the fractious body. (Foto:Sergei Chuzavkov/AP/dapd)

Deputies scuffled over voting procedures

The vote took place a day later than scheduled. Fists literally flew: expensive suits, and many a face, suffered from the confrontation, as parliament convened Wednesday for its first session since elections in October. Deputies from the opposition tussled with colleagues from the Party of the Regions following disagreements over voting procedures.

Yanukovych took the safe path

Just 10 days ago, Azarov - along with his entire cabinet - resigned, staying on as a caretaker government. At the time, there was much speculation in Kyiv that he would be replaced by the much younger head of the Ukrainian national Bank, Serhij Arbuzov, who is close to the Yanukovych family. That could have been viewed as an attempt to bring in some fresh political blood, but instead the president went for the tried and tested option.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov listens during a news conference in Riga February 10, 2012. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins (LATVIA - Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT)

Azarov is the new, old premier

"With the selection of Azarov, Yanukovych opted to maintain the status quo," Arsen Stezkiv, of the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies, told DW.

Olexij Haran, a professor of political science at Kyiv's Mohyla Academy, said Yanukovych wanted to go the safe route. "Since the parliamentary election, his Party of the Regions is vulnerable," said Haran, stressing that it was entirely possible that there would have been no majority for another candidate.

The parliamentary election on October 28 left the ruling Party of the Regions with around 30 percent of the vote, about two percent less than the last ballot. However, Thursday's vote in parliament was a clear indication that the president's party, with the backing of the Communists, has a comfortable majority.

This is also a result of the direct mandates, or those candidates who won seats outright against their opponents. The three opposition parties together, which won more than half the votes by party list but had fewer direct mandates, therefore fell short in terms of the total number of seats and are left with little influence in parliament.

Economic crisis

Experts agree that economic considerations also prompted Yanukovych to go against swapping prime ministers. "Ukraine has gotten itself into macro-economic difficulties," say Ricardo Guicci and Robert Kirchner from the German Economic Consulting Group in Kyiv.

ARCHIV - Der ukrainische Präsident Viktor Janukowitsch (Partei der Regionen) gestikuliert bei einer Pressekonferenz in in Kiew, Ukraine, am 08 Juli 2011. Am 28. Oktober wählt die Ukraine ein neues Parlament. EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO (zu dpa-Themenpaket vom 26.10.2012) +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

President Yanukovych's party is firmly in control

In the third quarter of 2012, Gross National Product (GDP) dropped 1.3 percent compared to a year earlier, they said. Industrial production in October slumped a precipitous 4.2 percent, and Ukraine's currency reserves in 2012 nosedived 15 percent.

Negotiations for a fresh line of credit from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have stalled, and if this trend continues, the German experts in Kyiv say, then Ukraine's economic crisis will get even worse by no later than spring 2013.

"Considering the difficult economic situation, the new prime minister will probably be forced to make unpopular decisions," says political scientist Haran. It is entirely possible that Azarov makes these decision and then resigns to make room for a younger successor, he added.

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