Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the 41-year-old TV comic with no political experience who won Ukraine's presidential election just last month with 73% of the vote, isn't wasting any time. Minutes after he was sworn in as the country's new president on Monday in Ukraine's parliament, the Supreme Rada, he announced the dissolution of the legislative body and said it was time for a new government.
Zelenskiy has reason for haste: by law, he as only until May 27 to dissolve parliament and call new elections. After that date, a grace period will come into effect protecting the Rada ahead of the scheduled election in late October. But if the new president has his way, Ukrainians will now head to the polls in July.
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Looking for parliamentary support
The tone of Zelenskiy's inaugural speech — like his video messages on social media during the election campaign — was reminiscent of the main character he played in the popular comedy series, Servant of the People.
In the show, Zelenskiy played a teacher who accidentally becomes Ukraine's president and pushes out existing officials with reputations for corruption and abusing power. Life further imitated art on Monday with Zelenskiy also asking parliament to support his motion to fire the defense minister, the head of the state security service and the prosecutor general, all allies of former President Petro Poroshenko.
"Dear people, during my life I tried to do everything to make Ukrainians smile," he said in his speech. "In the next five years, I will do everything, Ukrainians, so that you do not cry."As Ukraine's real-life president, Zelenskiy has made it clear he will take a tough stance when it comes to parliament, which is highly unpopular with the people. And it was hardly a surprise that he called for its dissolution on Monday.
For weeks, observers had speculated over whether he would call a snap election to get his new political party into the Rada. Without parliamentary support, Zelenskiy's hands are tied on many issues —according to Ukraine's constitution, power lies with parliament. The president only has the power to name certain ministers, the foreign and defense ministers among them.
The most recent opinion polls show Zelenskiy's party, named after his hit TV show and relatively unknown until recently, could take as much as 30% of the vote — far more than any of the country's other parties. But pundits have questioned whether this support can be sustained until the autumn, explaining Zelenskiy's eagerness for a July vote.
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Snap elections: Justified or not?
Whether or not he'll get his wish will be determined in the coming days. On Friday, the People's Front party tried to hobble the new president and prevent a snap election by announcing its withdrawal from Poroshenko's ruling coalition.
Parliament now has 30 days, theoretically, to form a new coalition. Should it fail, the president would then be allowed to call fresh elections — though by then, the grace period would already be in force.
Zelenskiy, meanwhile, has argued that Ukraine's ruling coalition no longer exists. Indeed, the 2014 political alliance fell apart in February 2016 when three constituent parties, including Yulia Tymoshenko'sFatherland party, joined the opposition.
The remaining two parties — the People's Front and Poroshenko's Bloc Solidarity — have since relied on independent lawmakers to secure parliamentary majorities on an ad hoc basis, meaning Zelenskiy's election call may have a solid legal ground.
Political crisis ahead?
The country's judiciary, and ultimately Ukraine's constitutional court, will make the final ruling. The court's presiding judge, incidentally, was recently dismissed after a vote of no confidence by his colleagues. It remains unclear whether there is a connection to Zelenskiy's planned dissolution of parliament.
A protracted power struggle between Zelenskiy and parliament over the timing of fresh elections could further harm the country, which is already politically and economically weak.
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