Over the weekend, Yatsenyuk called for a referendum on a new constitution. It's "high time for the Ukrainian people to have their say about a new Ukrainian constitution in a new European Ukraine," the prime minister said, during his weekly televised address to the nation on Sunday.
The new constitution, in his words, would be a "new agreement on the redistribution of powers between authorities, an agreement on relations between the center and the country's regions, an agreement on a new honest and fair judicial system, and on clear geopolitics," (i.e., enshrining in the constitution Kiev's goals of joining the European Union and NATO).
Commenting on the prime minister's response, the Ukrainian newspaper Vesti suggested that his words amount to "blackmail."
First off, the paper recalls, the conflict between Yatsenyuk and Poroshenko escalated following the quarrel between Odessa Governor Mikheil Saakashvili and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov over corruption allegations last month, and the 'leak' by the presidential administration about Poroshenko's desire to sack the disgraced interior minister. The prime minister bluntly responded to the veiled threat that he would leave "together with Avakov, and immediately into the opposition."
Moreover, the paper notes, Poroshenko is now attempting to "pressure Yatsenyuk" to at least replace Avakov with another candidate from Yatsenyuk's People's Front.
In response to Yatsenyuk's initiative, Vesti says, MPs from the People's Front are already preparing their own version of the constitution, ostensibly to counter presidential proposals presented to parliament earlier this year, which call for a modest decentralization of power to the regions.
The Petro Poroshenko Bloc, complaining under its breath that constitutional amendments are a function of the parliament, says that "everything else is mere populism." For his part, Poroshenko Bloc Rada Chairman Volodymyr Groysman suggested that a referendum would mean that the Donbass would not receive the autonomy so vital for the Minsk peace plan, adding that the referendum's question would surely be 'subject to manipulation'.
Speaking to Vesti, Ukrainian political scientist Ruslan Bortnik explained that at the moment, "Yatsenyuk, Avakov and his entire government hang within a hair's breadth of dismissal." Subsequently, the analyst noted, "the prime minister's announcement is a form of blackmail: the president is being told that…he will not be able to count on the People's Front's support any longer."
Ultimately, the newspaper suggests, all this testifies to the fact that the country's pro-EU, pro-Washington coalition may be on the verge of collapse.
"The coalition is de-facto collapsing. But before the parliament's dissolution, the president has other tools: a 'reformatting' of the government (expected in the spring), and a 'reformatting' of the ruling coalition."