THE political struggle over the scope and pace of economic reforms in Ukraine is intensifying after parliament engineered the ouster of Prime Minister Vitold Fokin's government.
The parliament, dominated by conservative former Communist Party members, last Thursday expressed no confidence in the government of Mr. Fokin, who had tendered his resignation a day earlier.
The 295-to-6 vote was the first time parliament had succeeded in defying President Leonid Kravchuk, who had urged legislators to accept Fokin's resignation while retaining the rest of the Cabinet.
Mr. Kravchuk on Friday appointed conservative economist Valentyn Simonenko as interim prime minister. Mr. Simonenko was to fill the interim role for up to 10 days, the time limit for Kravchuk to present a prime ministerial candidate for parliamentary approval. Once a new prime minister is approved, he will have a further 10 days to select a Cabinet.
The charge to change governments was led by the Ukrainian nationalist movement Rukh, which accused Fokin of dragging his feet on economic reform. "Every day living standards are growing worse and we have come to the brink of hyper-inflation," Mihailo Bodchishin, chairman of the Rukh secretariat, said in a telephone interview.
Mr. Bodchishin said Rukh would like to see the formation of a "government of national trust" that would press ahead with radical reform, theoretically establishing a distinct political and economic identity for Ukraine.
The formation of such a national trust government is "unrealistic," however, given that conservatives still control the parliament, Bodchishin said.
Simonenko, the interim prime minister and a leading candidate to succeed Fokin, is an opponent of the "shock therapy" reforms that have been introduced in Russia. A former Communist Party official who was a deputy prime minister under Fokin, Simonenko instead favors the gradual approach to economic reform.
"We can hardly expect the new Cabinet to be a Cabinet of reform. The most difficult time lies ahead. It will be a compromise government," says Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chernovil.
To break the apparent deadlock, Rukh has launched a petition drive to force a referendum on new parliamentary elections.
If new elections are held, Rukh leaders express confidence that they can take control of the legislature, despite the presence of a large ethnic Russian minority in Ukraine.