Ukraine is no stranger to political turmoil. And extraordinary scenes in parliament suggest things could be going from bad to worse.
Scuffles and fistfights broke out as the chamber in Kiev voted to sack its speaker, a close ally of Ukraine’s President.
But his dramatic dismissal not only deals a blow to Viktor Yushchenko. It could also spell trouble for the president’s arch-rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, sparking speculation she might fall next.
Newly-ousted speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk warned that democracy is under threat.
“It is very important not to bury democracy through the lavish funeral of the Ukrainian parliament,” he told reporters.
His departure comes after President Yushchenko abandoned plans to hold an early election this year.
Tymoshenko had opposed a snap ballot, citing the effects of the financial crisis. And her one-time Orange Revolution ally now acknowledges officials should focus on coping with the effects of the global economic downturn.
It has hit Ukraine particularly hard and many believe a multi-billion euro loan from the IMF will do little to ease the pain.