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Elections in Ukraine: All You Need To Know

Ukraine is in the midst of an electoral campaign. Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Petro Poroshenko, who received the biggest number of votes in the first round of presidential elections, are actually close to the finish line. However, the electoral campaign becomes more and more interesting. Candidates focus on show and action, sometimes forgetting about their own programmes and ideas.  

What is happening in Ukraine, what is this struggle about and who will win - Vitaliy Tysiachnyi, coordinator of the Social Democratic Platform, our partner in Ukraine, explains.


What are the results of the first round?

The former showman, and now the Ukrainians' favourite, Vladimir Zelenskiy, has become the leader of the race. Moreover, he did it confidently, bypassing the current head of state by almost 15%. Petro Poroshenko gained 15.92% votes, while Zelenskiy got 30.26%.

As soon as exit polls were announced, the participants of the second round of elections made bombastic speeches, once again assuring their supporters of a victory. The fight began with mutual accusations and clichés.

Who is Mr Zelenskiy?

Volodymyr Zelenskiy is a phenomenon of modern Ukrainian politics. To a large extent, he has met the public demand for leaders who are outside of the political system. Following the example of Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Beppe Grillo, he suddenly burst onto the political field.

Having established the party "Servant of the People", which is identical to the name of a famous Ukrainian satirical series in which he plays the lead, Zelenskiy managed to gather around him the whole protest electorate, as well as involving young people. He works innovatively, he posts creative and high-quality videos on YouTube and Instagram; he puts things in simple terms to Ukrainians, and speaks for all that is good and against all that is bad.

He partially based his campaign on the series, where he plays an honest high-school history teacher, whom fate gave a chance to become president. Many Ukrainians cannot distinguish the character of Vasiliy Goloborodko from Volodymyr Zelenskiy himself.

His "Kvartal 95" studio adds particular popularity to the actor. This company has been producing the best humorous mockeries of the political establishment for a decade and a half. Everything is made fun of there, including Zelenskiy's direct competitors.

In this story, there is one big "but": the lack of real political and ideological content. Right now, one doesn't know for sure what Zelenskiy proposes and how he will develop the country further. Who leads his team or whether he has it, remains a mystery. His colleagues present most of the information, but the candidate vigorously avoids live broadcasts. Furthermore, the candidate tries to reduce to a show even such serious topics as internal and external policies.

Another "dark stain" on this candidate is that somehow he may be connected with oligarch Igor Kolomoisky. The TV Channel 1+1 owned by the oligarch regularly broadcasts programmes with Zelenskiy, bodyguards, who used to work for Kolomoisky, now protect Zelenskiy. This gives rise to certain concerns about his independence.

What about his opponent?

His opponent is current president, Petro Poroshenko. He is an experienced politician, billionaire and oligarch; he has ruled our country for the last five years. According to Poroshenko, among the achievements of his work, one may notice integration of our country towards the EU and NATO, strengthening of the Ukrainian army, stabilisation of the banking system.

To tell the truth, it seems that not all Ukrainians saw the president's work as so productive. That is why only 15% of the citizens voted for him. During his term in office, the country did not get rid of large-scale corruption. Journalists accused some of the president's business partners, close friends and colleagues of laundering hundreds of millions.

These people own business empires, steal from the state budget (journalists regularly publish investigations), but there is no real punishment for them. There has been no conviction of a top official for the last 5 years!

To this one may add the poverty, social insecurity of ordinary Ukrainians, big gap between rich and poor people.

By the way, the president still has the largest faction in the Verkhovna Rada and is able to directly influence the legislative and decision-making process. Current Prime Minister, Volodymyr Groysman, publicly supported Poroshenko.

What is happening in Ukraine before the final vote?

Both candidates are preparing for debates. This is accompanied by a real show. At first, Zelenskiy proposed to hold them not in the studio, but at a stadium. At the same time, he called for his opponent to pass medical exams for alcohol and drug use. Some media outlets accused Zelenskiy of drug addiction, commenting on his particular kind of behaviour. Therefore, he decided to show that he is healthy and does not use drugs. The president, in turn, also accepted the challenge, urging Zelenskiy to pass tests at a lab right at the Olympic stadium in Kyiv.

 As a result, the candidates passed tests at different labs, but they both questioned the objectivity of the other's results. The opponents communicate with each other through video messages. Zelenskiy publishes them in the evenings, and Poroshenko - late at night.

 At the same time, there is no talk about the country's global problems. The problems of corruption, poverty, Russian military aggression, as well as the future of the country are not on the agenda.

Who will win?

Taking into account the data of sociological polls, as well as the first round of elections, Vladimir Zelenskiy has the biggest chances. In the final vote, he may get the votes of not only his supporters but also those of the other candidates who were in opposition to Petro Poroshenko. According to various sources, these constitute about 50% of the vote.

In this situation, the current president also has a big anti-rating. His activities are negatively estimated by approximately 50% of Ukrainian citizens. At the same time, Poroshenko still has power and the support of the so called patriotic part of the population of Ukraine based in Western regions.

What's next?

Most likely, Ukrainian politics will face major changes. First, the holding of parliamentary elections will also be a turning point. Many political parties and ex-presidential candidates look mostly to this particular race. It is possible to predict a very serious struggle between political elites.

If Zelenskiy wins, Ukraine has а chance of becoming a pure parliamentary-presidential republic, with a strong parliament and a weak president. In this case, the price of the positions of the heads of the parliament - Verkhovna Rada - and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine will increase significantly. It will be very important to find a balance between different institutions.

If Poroshenko wins, he may still have serious problems with the election of his party to the next parliament. The current head of state does not offer anything new and this means that there will be no fundamental changes.


Vitaliy Tysiachnyi

Coordinator, Social Democratic Platform of Ukraine


Photo: Prozyshyn officially / Facebook