March 14, 2016 / 1:28 PM / in 2 years

Ukraine's president sees finance minister as option to replace PM

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko sees Finance Minister Natalia Yaresko as possibly taking over as prime minister, his spokesman said on Monday, having repeatedly urged the government to resign saying that it had lost the trust of the people.

Ukraine's Finance Minister Natalia Yaresko speaks during an interview with Reuters in Kiev, Ukraine, November 12, 2015. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk’s cabinet is on the brink of collapse despite surviving a no confidence vote in February, prolonging a political crisis that has stymied reforms and delayed disbursing new foreign loans in the war-ravaged economy.

Yaresko, a foreign-born former investment manager rather than a career politician, might be a popular choice with Western allies but might not have the political muscle to push through reforms any faster than Yatseniuk could.

Poroshenko, whose party is the biggest in parliament, will meet the heads of other parties on Monday to discuss a solution.

“The aim of the President’s meetings with political leaders is to speed up the end of the political crisis,” the president’s spokesman Svyatoslav Tsegolko said in a Facebook post.

One option was appointing Yaresko at the head of a technocrat government, he said, and another was a political government led by the chief of the reformist Samopomich party.

Ukraine urgently needs a stable coalition in order to conclude negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for $1.7 billion in new aid to keep its economy afloat, and to press ahead with economic and social reforms.

But Yatseniuk is not going quietly and last week called on lawmakers to rally around him. Appointing a new government would almost certainly need the consent of Yatseniuk’s party, which is the second biggest in parliament.

Volodymyr Fesenko, a Kiev-based political analyst, estimates that only about 170 out of 450 lawmakers would be willing to support Yaresko, because she forced the budget and unpopular tax reforms through parliament last year.

That number could rise if Poroshenko and Ukraine’s international backers pressed lawmakers to appoint her.

“The problem of Yaresko is that she is not supported by a significant part of the deputies, even in the president’s party,” Fesenko said.

Three political parties have deserted Yatseniuk’s coalition since September, while his personal popularity ratings plummeted since taking over the reins of government after street protests in 2013 and 2014.

Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Louise Ireland

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