KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s government under Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk survived a rowdy vote of no confidence on Tuesday, as outrage over economic recession and political cronyism threatened the collapse of his ruling coalition.
The motion to oust the cabinet, which gained momentum as President Petro Poroshenko endorsed a government reshuffle, received 194 votes in Ukraine’s parliament, falling short of the 226 votes required to pass. Fears of greater political turmoil, including snap elections, appeared to save Yatsenyuk, whose ratings with voters have plunged into the single digits in recent months amid the country’s deepest political crisis since the pro-Western revolution of 2014.
Tuesday’s vote revealed the raw anger directed at the post-revolutionary government, which has failed to enact promised reforms.
After a wave of resignations from reform-minded political appointees this month, Poroshenko on Tuesday said that Yatsenyuk’s cabinet had lost the public’s trust and that he had also asked Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who had been accused of blocking prosecutions of corruption, to resign.
“Obviously, society and the government are not satisfied with the pace of change,” Poroshenko said in a blistering statement published Tuesday as lawmakers whipped votes for the motion in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament. “Therapy is already not enough to restore confidence. Surgery is needed.”
The conflict in eastern Ukraine long diverted public attention to questions of separatism and Russian intentions. But as that conflict has reached a stalemate, attention has returned to the glacial pace of reforms in Kiev.
Ukraine’s government has also been under increasing pressure from its backers in the United States and Europe, who have looked with increasing dismay at ongoing problems with corruption.
Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, threatened last week to halt a highly anticipated $17.5 billion aid package for the Ukrainian economy.
Yatsenyuk, who gave a report on the government’s progress Tuesday, called for the no-confidence resolution to be put to a vote, saying he would transfer the government with “honor and dignity.”
Perhaps ironically, some of the key abstainers in the no-confidence vote came from the Opposition Bloc, who backed the previous, pro-Russian government that Yatsenyuk replaced.
Mustafa Nayyem, a journalist elected to parliament after organizing the protests that led to the 2014 revolution, said in a Facebook post that lawmakers tied to several prominent oligarchs left the parliament hall rather than vote against Yatsenyuk.
“That is all you need to know about Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s government,” he wrote.
Several key reformers in the government have resigned this month with scandalous denunciations about the state of reform in Ukraine. On Monday, Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaly Kasko left office, writing that “the current leadership of the prosecutor’s office has once and for all turned it into a body where corruption dominates, and corrupt schemes are covered up.”
“It’s not justice and law that are in charge here, but arbitrary rule and lawlessness,” he wrote.
The problems with the Ukrainian government are so severe that some Western diplomats have begun to worry that they will weaken the Western sanctions regime against Russia. E.U. measures expire at the end of July, unless the 28 E.U. nations vote unanimously to extend them.
“The Ukrainians have not helped themselves,” said one Western diplomat involved in the sanctions regime, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal talks candidly. The E.U. sanctions against Russia are linked in part to whether the Kremlin helps Kiev regain control of rebel-held parts of the Russia-Ukraine border. But whether or not Russia lives up to its end of the bargain, fractious European nations may be losing their appetite to make financial sacrifices on Ukraine’s behalf, the diplomat said.
European nations, besieged by a flood of refugees from the conflict in Syria, may be looking for more cooperation from the Kremlin, the diplomat said, with Russia’s airstrikes now playing a major role in the grinding battle there. E.U. leaders may also be less willing to line up behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who until now has been the main enforcer of sanctions discipline but is under attack for throwing open Germany’s doors to refugees.
Michael Birnbaum in Moscow contributed to this report.