Ukrainian lawmakers have approved 35-year-old lawyer Oleksiy Honcharuk as the country's new prime minister during parliament's first session since elections last month.
Honcharuk, a political newcomer who previously worked in the presidential office, was nominated on August 29 by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian-turned-politician who has pledged to “break the system” in Ukrainian politics.
Despite his lack of experience, lawmakers easily approved Honcharuk with 290 deputies in the 450-seat house voting in favor of his appointment.
Honcharuk has spent much of his career as a lawyer, eventually becoming a lead partner at a firm that specializes in real estate development. In 2015, he ran the EU-funded nongovernmental organization BRDO that focused on reforms and advised Stepan Kubiv, the first deputy prime minister during ex-President Petro Poroshenko’s administration.
“It will be very difficult for this government," he acknowledged in a speech to parliament.
"You all know about these problems that we have in the country. These are the debts we have inherited," he added.
Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party took a solid majority of 254 parliamentary seats in last month’s elections for the 450-seat legislature.
That unprecedented mandate is expected to give Zelenskiy a free hand to "break the system," as he pledged during his election campaign in April.
Zelenskiy will have to deal with finding a solution to a violent conflict with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, fighting corruption, and launching economic reforms in an ex-Soviet country that remains one of the poorest in Europe.
Among the 27 agenda items for the marathon session on August 29 is the consideration of a bill to lift lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution. Because it’s a constitutional amendment, the bill requires a two-thirds majority vote that Servant of the People lacks.
For Ukrainians, abolishing immunity has consistently been one of the most desired anti-corruption measures, according to public opinion polls.
For a time, it was a condition for a visa-free travel deal with the European Union, but the demand was dropped after a report by the EU’s legal counsel advised against it.
The draft resolution showed that Vadym Prystaiko will be nominated as foreign minister, Andriy Zagorodniuk as defense minister, and Ruslan Ryaboshapka as prosecutor-general.
Between 30 and 100 legislative bills will be considered, Servant of the People deputy Yuriy Kamilchuk told the 112 Ukraine channel.
"There is a chance that we’ll adopt more than 30, and maybe up to 100 draft laws," he said.