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Ukraine Prime Minister and Cabinet Resign

4. December 2012 by Lorena 0 Comments

Mykola Azarov, right, meets with a member of the Estonian Foreign MinistryYesterday, Ukraine’s President accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. The rest of Azarov’s cabinet resigned, as well, because Ukrainian law requires that the cabinet be dissolved when the prime minister steps down. The move was not unexpected, as Azarov, along with a number of members of his cabinet, was elected to Parliament in the recent elections. Azarov will stay on as interim prime minister until a decision is made regarding who will fill the seat. Azarov has served as Prime Minister since Viktor Yanukovych was elected President in 2010.


It is uncertain whether a new Prime Minister will be selected or whether Azarov will be reappointed. Azarov is viewed as a cautious and wise leader who has worked tirelessly to revive Ukraine’s economy. With upcoming negotiations with Russia and the IMF, many feel that this is not the time for a change in leadership. Ukraine is negotiating with Russia to reduce the cost of natural gas; Ukraine says that the prices that Russia is charging are well over market price, and are a huge drain on Ukraine’s economy. Russia is Ukraine’s top energy provider. The negotiations with IMF involve a $6.4 billion loan that comes due next year. Ukraine hopes to extend the note; IMF insists on increases on household gas costs before extending the loan.


President vs Prime Minister: What’s the Difference?

Unlike the US, Ukraine has both a Prime Minister and a President. In many countries that have both roles in government, the office of President is a ceremonial office with little power. In Ukraine, however, the President and Prime Minister divide executive duties.


Ukraine’s President

The President is Ukraine’s official Head of State. He represents Ukraine in international relations. He is also the commander in chief of Ukraine’s army. The President has limited authority to dissolve Ukraine’s parliament, Verkhovna Rada. He is able to veto any law passed by parliament; however, his veto can be overruled with Verkhova Rada can must a 2/3rds majority vote.


The President is directly elected by Ukrainian voters and serves a five-year term. Ukraine’s President may only serve two consecutive terms. There have been four Ukrainian Presidents since the office was formed in 1991.


Ukraine’s Prime Minister

The Prime Minister of Ukraine holds the country’s highest executive office, presiding over the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. Ukraine’s Prime Minister is appointed by the President with the approval of Verkhovna Rada. The PM can serve as long as the President that appointed him, or can leave office earlier. There have been 15 Prime Ministers since Ukraine’s independence in 1991. When the Prime Minister leaves office, the cabinet is required to resign, as well. Since the constitutional reforms of 2004, the Prime Minister can only be dismissed by Verkhovna Rada. Previously, the President had the power to unilaterally dismiss the PM. 


The Prime Minister is responsible for implementing laws passed by Parliament. The PM also frequently countersigns decrees from the President. One oddity of the role of Ukraine’s Prime Minister: individual citizens will appeal to him, often successfully, to help with personal problems. In letters, phone calls and even on the PM’s Facebook page, citizens will ask for help obtaining medical care, repairing public housing and even getting firewood delivered. The custom is a holdover from Tsarist rule, when people would appeal directly to the head of state. Historians believe that, with Ukrainian independence and easier communication through the Internet, the custom will eventually die out. 


Photo: Estonian Foreign Ministry