Ukraine's Zelensky calls snap parliamentary polls for July 21

Kiev (AFP) –


New Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday called early parliamentary elections for July 21, a controversial move aimed at replacing lawmakers who he says no longer enjoy public support.

Zelensky, who took office on Monday, dissolved the current assembly, according to a decree published on the presidential administration's website.

In his inaugural speech Monday, the 41-year-old former comedian announced he would dissolve parliament to call early elections, originally scheduled for October.

On Tuesday, during a meeting with parliamentary leaders, Zelensky said the current chamber was supported by only four percent of Ukrainians.

He became Ukraine's youngest post-Soviet president after winning a landslide victory over incumbent Petro Poroshenko with a campaign capitalising on widespread discontent with the political establishment.

Zelensky -- whose only previous political experience was appearing as president in a popular TV show -- also vowed to fight poverty and corruption.

His move to call early polls is widely seen as an attempt to gain momentum and cement power at the likely highest point of his popularity.

Zelensky's newly-formed "Servant of the People" party, named after the sitcom in which he starred, is leading in opinion polls with almost 40 percent support.

- 'A new style' -

Although the legal status of Zelensky's move to dissolve parliament remains uncertain, the main parties in the current chamber, including those of Poroshenko and former prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, are unlikely to challenge the decision.

Analysts say early elections are needed for Zelensky to get through a series of political and economic reforms while he can.

"The early elections have the potential to advance a reform agenda from Zelensky more quickly and effectively," Eurasia Group think-tank said in a note on Tuesday.

On Monday, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said he would resign after Zelensky urged him to do so.

Zelensky also called for the sacking of the head of the state security service, prosecutor-general and defence minister who are loyal to his predecessor but these moves have to be approved by parliament.

"Zelensky demonstrates the political will, he imposes his own scenario... A new style of the new president," Kiev-based political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko said on Facebook.

Zelensky has vowed to press ahead with the country's pro-Western course but critics question how he will deal with the enormous challenges of a deadly separatist conflict in the east and deep-seated economic problems.

On Tuesday, an International Monetary Fund team arrived in Kiev to review progress on implementing previously agreed reform measures.

In December, the IMF board approved a new loan package for Ukraine and released a first tranche worth $1.4 billion.

But, according to the Eurasia Group, the IMF is unlikely to finalize any agreements until it knows who will lead the new government.

Zelensky on Monday said his top priority is ending the war with Russia-backed separatists which has claimed some 13,000 lives since 2014 when Moscow annexed Crimea.

But the Kremlin on Tuesday warned him against asking Washington for more sanctions against Russia, suggesting it would not help his efforts to end the conflict.