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Ukraine president proposes young lawyer as prime minister


AFP Kiev
Ukraine's new parliament met on Thursday with President Volodymyr Zelensky asking lawmakers to approve a little-known 35-year-old lawyer as the country's next prime minister.
As MPs gathered for the first time, Zelensky officially nominated Oleksiy Goncharuk, who has worked on economic issues in the presidential administration.
The parliament, where Zelensky's newly formed party commands a majority, was expected to back his choice in a vote later Thursday.
Before joining the presidential administration in May, Goncharuk headed a consultancy funded by the European Union to improve the business climate in Ukraine, called the Better Regulation Delivery Office.
Zelensky, 41, won a landslide election in April, announcing he planned to "break the system" that had ruled Ukraine since independence in 1991.
His newly created Servant of the People party won an absolute majority in snap parliamentary polls last month, handing him an unprecedented mandate for reforms.
Lawmakers on Thursday were expected to name other ministers and vote on two key posts: the prosecutor general and the head of the SBU security service.
They were also set to vote on a draft law proposed by the president on changing the constitution to reduce the number of MPs.
Only two ministers from the outgoing government were expected to retain their posts: Finance Minister Oksana Markarova and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.
MPs voted to work late to get through all the items on the agenda.
Dressed in his trademark casual style with a dark suit but no tie, Zelensky attended the ceremonial swearing-in of MPs, watched by a group of former presidents and outgoing ministers.
He was to give an address to parliament setting out his political and economic goals.
Among Zelensky's campaign promises were putting an end to the conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, fighting corruption and launching economic reforms in the ex-Soviet country that is one of the poorest in Europe.
With many new political faces, the Servant of the People party won 254 seats out of 450 in last month's polls.
It was a result unprecedented in independent Ukraine, where a normally divided and often fractious parliament has been the scene of brawls.
"It's an extraordinary opportunity, and an extraordinary responsibility," Sergiy Fursa, chief of Dragon Capital investment group, said on his blog.
"This parliament can either accelerate structural changes and transform the country" or "get bogged down in populism and change nothing," he wrote.
The political landslide won by Zelensky and his party demonstrated the level of public frustration with the old elites, seen as corrupt and inefficient, and has ushered in a period of political change.
The main other political parties represented in parliament are the pro-Russian Opposition Platform (43 seats), ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko's Fatherland (26 seats), ex-president Petro Poroshenko's European Solidarity (25 seats), and Voice, founded by rock star Svyatoslav Vakarchuk (20 seats).
Twenty-six seats are unclaimed because they represent constituencies in Moscow-annexed Crimea or in parts of eastern Ukraine that are not controlled by Kiev.

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First Published: Aug 29 2019 | 8:30 PM IST

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