Eastbook.eu’s commentaries about the Sunday presidential election in Ukraine: the meaning of high turn-out despite harsh circumstances, falsehood of theories on “Ukrainian nationalism”, legitimization of the winner and future challenges.
New Opening for Ukraine
Tomasz Piechal | Editor of „Partnership for Culture” section, Eastbook.eu PL | @TomaszPiechal
The Sunday presidential election – thanks to Petro Poroshenko’s victory in the first round – is foremost a symbolic culmination of revolution that started in November last year, and the important step towards actual restoration of the Ukrainian state. Once again, Ukrainians expressed their will to make a change.
The victory of Poroshenko shows the real acceleration of events – only a few months ago his name was mostly not included in any surveys concerning the presidential race. Half a year later, he wins with a support of more than 50% of voters, becoming yet another example of “from zero to… a president”.
The Maidan revolution has verified leadership skills of many politicians, including those who managed to disgrace themselves. Vitali Klitschko was forced to race for the position of Kyiv mayor instead of the head of state, winning nevertheless in the first round. The one who severely suffered from the “Maidan effect” was Oleh Tyahnybok – the support for leader of nationalist Svoboda reached 1%. A similar result was obtained by Dmytro Yarosh, leader of radical “Right Sector”. Those two numbers verified the much discussed theories about Ukraine – especially its western parts – infected with a virus of nationalism: the 2% support for right-wing leaders and data showing that the majority of voters come from western and central Ukraine show their falsehood. Meanwhile, the good results of Anatoliy Hrytsenko and Oleh Lyashko should draw our attention – together they received 15% of votes – the proof that some Ukrainians are still waiting for brand new leaders and a real political alternative.
This Is Not the End
Krzysztof Nieczypor, editor of Eastbook.eu PL (from Kyiv, Ukraine) | @knieczypor
Petro Poroshenko’s victory is a good sign for Ukrainians and all those who wish Ukraine well. The strong support together with a high turnout may give the new head of state the so much needed legitimization. The election itself, however, does not mean that the change will take place overnight. The east of Ukraine remains dominated by separatists not ready to accept the results. Representatives of “people’s republics” are ready for everything, perfectly aware that there’s no place for sympathy – they will fight to the bloody end.
The election results do not automatically translate into a full picture of future government of the state – we should expect an escalation among current political elites. Recent comments uttered by the former PM Tymoshenko (that in case of her defeat she would call the nation to continue protests) do not bode well.
Meeting citizens’ expectations, Poroshenko announced his support for calling early parliamentary elections, which probably wouldn’t be welcomed by many Ukrainian MPs. They perfectly understand that the voting would show the real level of support for their activities in Vekhovna Rada, especially in the case of Party of Regions, and end many political careers. In such circumstances, cooperation between the head of state and the parliament in order to create a government able to launch necessary reforms may be extremely difficult.
I Don’t Buy Poroshenko
Paweł Lickiewicz, editor in chief of Eastbook.eu | @pawelLickiewicz
There are grounds for optimism after the election process in Ukraine we witnessed on Sunday. Despite harsh political conditions, we had a peaceful voting and a high turn-out – a huge success considering scenarios that the election could have been totally cancelled. It’s a big step on the path towards a democratic system in the country.
However, the victory of the oligarch from Vinnytsia, Petro Poroshenko, in the first round, is both a chance for political stabilization and a potential threat. The legitimisation of power, given by voters, is necessary in the context of de-escalation of the conflict in eastern regions of the country and modernization process. The new president will probably continue cooperation with the incumbent PM Arseniy Yatseniuk – especially with the perspective of upcoming early elections to Verkhovna Rada.
Yet I have doubts whether Poroshenko will truly support a change of the current political and economic system – strong ties between business and policy-making – as he remains its biggest beneficiary. I believe he’d rather push for only partial reforms, not intended to change the political reality in Ukraine. His decisions regarding handing over his business and selling 5 Kanal, a popular Ukrainian tv channel, may be a sign of his commitment towards becoming a politician ready to fight corruption and implement reforms painful to all citizens – also oligarchs.
The challenges ahead include normalization of the relationship with Moscow, dealing with separatists in the east and administrative reforms in order to prevent a paralysis of executive power in the country. Poroshenko’s attitude towards the separatists and occupation of Crimea will be the indication if, as some have suggested this week, he’d made an unofficial deal Russia in exchange for not disturbing the presidential election.