OP-ED on Ukrainian elections

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Apr 18, 2019
Dear public of this forum, I am currently studying International Relations and I'd be appreciated to hear any comments on this piece, including stylistic and other remarks simply to start working on my writings. Please let me know if you have something in mind. Advises how to improve the narrative would be much appreciated.

Ukrainian politics on the threshold of a new beginning

Ukrainian political life struggled for the lack of stability during the previous twenty-five years, vacillating between the pro-European and pro-Russian candidates. Ukrainian history repeats itself, and again Ukraine faces the choice between pro-EU and NATO candidate Petro Poroshenko and so to say pro-Russian candidate Volodimir Zelensky. This article will briefly discuss the background of Ukrainian elections, then proceed with discussing both candidates and present prediction for the upcoming second round of presidential elections.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, post-Soviet states, including Ukraine and Russia suffered immense consequences of this malicious separation or if to put differently, dissolution of communism empire. Apart from economic difficulties, Ukrainian society became socially divided. Lingual and cultural division of Ukraine lasted for more than 70 years from the beginning of the second world war, while the western part of Ukraine was more willing to cooperate with western powers, including the WWII itself by adjacent to Hitler forces. On the contrary, the eastern part of Ukraine was more culturally, linguistically and spiritually closer to the Russian Federation. The history of Russian-Ukrainian brotherhood goes back more than 10 centuries, especially considering the Kiev-Rus heartland. This cultural and linguistic difference was suppressed during the rough Soviet regime but weakened after the Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Since the 1990s, even though Ukraine has had one of the most prominent and favourably located territories in Europe, the differences among the population was an Achilles tendon inside the country. Without considering domestic economic and political issues of Ukraine due to skyrocketed levels of corruptions and negligence to rule of law, this article focuses particularly on the societal division and different perceptions separating society to pro-European and pro-Russian. The election results from 1991 to 2010 clearly show “vivid” (in case or map - colourful) division among voters. With elections in 2014, Petro Poroshenko with victory in the first round was the first case when the electorate had the least disagreements in more than 20 years of electoral history. Nonetheless, Ukrainian troublesome period of 2014-2019 with Russian illegal annexation of Crimea, domestic political problems and business past of Poroshenko with its chocolate fabrics negatively affected his popularity. Back to April 2019, in the second round of the presidential race, Ukrainians face the choice between aforementioned Petro Poroshenko and Volodimir Zelensky.

Petro Poroshenko, initially businessman with some economic and political education, obtained the first political experience in Parliament chosen from its own district in the late 1990s. During his first steps made both, success by reaching high ranking positions such as minister for trade and economic development in the late 2000s, he also had several scandals due to economic machinations and allegations on corruption. Having successful economic “chocolate” business and being a stakeholder in one of the main television channels in the country, it helped him to create a platform for spreading his political position during the early stages of the Ukrainian crisis. For instance, Poroshenko as an active supporter of joining the EU was among politicians who sponsored Ukrainian Maidan and spread information through his media channels. After the president Yanukovich fled the country in early 2014, Poroshenko was the main candidate and in the first round obtained a solid majority with more than half of all votes. Presidency of Poroshenko was successful in terms of getting closer to the EU and NATO, but being unsuccessful in terms of his previously given promises to Ukrainian people. The group of his supporters is mainly nationalistic anti-Russian electorate, opposing the Russian language, Russian speaking population and anything related to Russia in any form: either by expressing support to renaming streets, Ukrainiazing education with prohibiting it in Russian language or simply blocking Russian language media outlets to “protect” society from the Russian threat. At the end of his presidency, Poroshenko obtained solid support of pro-western leaders but weak support at home, mostly from the western Ukrainian Kyiv region. During the first round, he received the support of only 15% population, which is half of Volodimir Zelensky numbers with 30,4% and slightly more than 5 million voters.

Volodimir Zelensky, a lawyer who never worked professionally behind the bar, dedicated his whole life working in cinematography and humour shows. From one side, looking on Zelensky as a foreigner after briefly skimming his biography, it might appear that he has no understanding of politics whatsoever except his latest role in three season series as a president. Additionally, as a professional whole his life working in the Russian language, he has been criticised for his loyalty for Russia. Nevertheless, after conducting a throughout background research of his professional performances with his satirical humour group Kvartal 95 for more than a decade, it might be seen his extensive patriotism, love and loyalty for Ukraine and pinpointing satirical criticism of Ukrainian politics and heart-touching patriotic songs which shows his deep immersion and understanding of everything happening in Ukraine. People claim that Zelensky became their last resort of fairness and unconditional loyalty for Ukraine among the existing over-corrupted political elite. Thus, they are willing to prefer his consciousness and simple trustworthy image without professional political experience instead of sweet lies of current corrupt experienced political elites. President, especially in struggling from corruption on high-levels Ukraine, should have high moral standards with hatred to corruption and only then he could gather a team of like-minded professionals who would help him to govern the country. For instance, the previous governor of Odessa region, experienced political actor in tackling corruption in Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili openly expressed his intention to strategically support with the electoral campaign and on the early stages of his potential presidency advising him to immediately change all judges and part of the political establishment.

Ukrainian political shows and access to the Internet in general, considering the importance of the increasing role of media in the outcome of elections worldwide, definitely operate in favour of Volodimir. Apart from already existing video material base on Zelensky from Youtube presenting politician for broad Ukrainian public in a positive way, leading political analysts, for instance - Dmitry Gordon with his solid professional authority in Ukrainian journalism and massive public, openly expresses his support to this candidate. Even though international media awaits for TV debates on 19th of April, leading Ukrainian political analysts to state that no major shift in votes can be expected. Considering the turnout of the first round and received votes by other candidates, for example, Igor Smeshko and Yuriy Boiko (both in top 6 of the first round) and their potential support for Zelensky (after analysis of Gordon’s interviews), I would argue that Volodimir Zelensky will more than certainly become the next Ukrainian president.