Andrew Wilson, who gave us an interview about Zelensky’s virtual campaign, analyzed how will the country’s new, youthful leadership team cope with an embedded sistema for ECFR
Ukraine’s new comedian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has wasted no time forming a new government since parliament assembled on 29 August. He ignored constitutional convention to attend the first day’s session, haranguing MPs and forcing them to sit after hours. This was all for public consumption, of course, but it has produced results.
The new prime minister, Oleksiy Honcharuk, is just 35 – four years younger than the average MP. Modern Ukraine itself is only 28, if one marks its birth with the fall of the Soviet Union. So the fundamental question is: how will the country’s new, youthful leadership team cope with an embedded sistema, or deep state, that is almost as old as they are?
The Ukrainian state is shrinking, with the number of ministries falling from 25 to 17. Honcharuk is a lawyer who,since 2015, has headed the Office of Effective Regulation – an organisation focused on deregulation that seeks to encourage a boom in small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as foreign direct investment. Honcharuk’s key deputy is the 28-year-old Mykhailo Fedorov, who once stood for the libertarian 5.10 party on a platform of abolishing all taxes aside from sales and social ones. Having also run Zelensky’s social media election campaign, Fedorov is now vice-prime minister for digital transformation, charged with implementing Zelensky’s slogan of a “state in a smartphone”.
Other appointments also point to a reform agenda. The leadership of the national bank is unchanged, even though oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, Zelensky’s supposed patron, has been at loggerheads with the institution since the nationalisation of his PrivatBank in 2016. Oksana Markarova, who is respected by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has kept her job as finance minister. The new minister of economic development, trade, and agriculture – Tymofiy Mylovanov – is honorary president of the Kyiv School of Economics, which has ambitions to become Zelensky’s ideas factory.
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