New Ukrainian President Zelensky calls early parliamentary polls

July 21 vote is widely seen as an attempt to gain momentum and cement power at a high point of new leader's popularity.

    New Ukrainian President Zelensky calls early parliamentary polls
    Zelensky became Ukraine's youngest post-Soviet president after winning a landslide victory in April [Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images]

    Ukraine's new President Volodymyr Zelensky called early parliamentary elections for July 21, a controversial move a day after his inauguration.

    Zelensky, a political novice before running for the presidency earlier this year took office on Monday before dissolving the current assembly, according to a decree published on the presidential administration's website on Tuesday.

    In his inaugural speech, the 41-year-old former comedian announced he would dissolve Parliament to call early elections, originally scheduled for October.

    On Tuesday, during a meeting with parliamentary leaders, Zelensky said the current chamber was supported by only four percent of Ukrainians.

    "The main argument for dissolving the Verkhovna Rada is an extremely low trust of Ukrainian citizens in this institution," Zelensky said.

    He became Ukraine's youngest post-Soviet president after winning a landslide victory over incumbent Petro Poroshenko in April with a campaign capitalising on widespread discontent with the political establishment.

    His move to call early polls is widely seen as an attempt to gain momentum and cement power at a high point of his popularity.

    190520155817398

    Zelensky's newly-formed "Servant of the People" party, named after the sitcom in which he starred, is leading in opinion polls with almost 40 percent support. The vote would give his new party the opportunity to win seats for the first time.

    Although the legal status of Zelensky's move to dissolve Parliament remains uncertain, he claimed on Tuesday that he has the authority to disband the legislature because "since 2016, there has been no coalition."

    The main parties in the current chamber, including those of Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, are unlikely to challenge the decision.

    Prime minister resigns

    On Monday, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said he would resign after Zelensky urged him to do so.

    Zelensky also called for the sacking of the head of the state security service, prosecutor-general and defence minister who are loyal to his predecessor but these moves have to be approved by Parliament.

    On Tuesday he promoted Lieutenant General Ruslan Khomchak as chief of the general staff, and lawyer Andriy Bogdan as head of the presidential administration.

    Zelensky has vowed to press ahead with the country's pro-Western course but critics question how he will deal with the enormous challenges of a deadly separatist conflict in the east and deep-seated economic problems.

    190520062559754

    On Tuesday, an IMF team arrived in Kiev to review progress on implementing previously agreed reform measures.

    In December, the IMF board approved a new loan package for Ukraine and released a first tranche worth $1.4bn.

    Zelensky on Monday said his top priority is ending the war with Russia-backed separatists which has claimed some 13,000 lives since 2014 when Moscow annexed Crimea.

    But the Kremlin on Tuesday warned him against asking Washington for more sanctions against Russia, suggesting it would not help his efforts to end the conflict. 

    SOURCE: News agencies