On March 31st, Ukrainians will head to the polls to vote for their next president, and while the results remain uncertain, what is promised is that these elections will differ significantly from previous ones in the country's history.
“Every election in Ukraine is a crucial one”, so goes the joke among Ukraine experts, east and west. Just like with any joke, there’s some truth behind it. In the post-Soviet landscape, the country has always stood out as relatively pluralistic: its politics, though never completely democratic, are highly competitive, and its civil society is habitually described as “vibrant”.
The March 31st Presidential elections in Ukraine matter for Ukraine, its region and the EU. While the majority of experts deem it impossible for a winner to be declared in the first round and, thus, expect a second one in April, the March contest will be a first important step in the crucial process to determine the direction the country will take. So, while we should not hold our breath on election day, we should definitely keep a close eye on the contest and its outcome.
As Ukraine prepares to hold its second presidential election since the 2014 “Revolution of Dignity”, there is less focus on the country in the United States now that at any point in the last five years. That is not to say that it has fallen off the radar or that US policy circles no longer care about what is happening there, but rather that the situation in Ukraine is seen as being a fair way along the inevitable process of moving from crisis to normalisation.
The upcoming Ukrainian elections are of crucial significance due to their ability to influence the complex structures of regional security and stability. The election results will indeed impact (although to what extent, remains to be seen) the Russia-Ukraine and the wider Russian-EU relations. Given their geopolitical importance, they will surely draw attention from all the significant international actors involved.
Purple posters with three words, “Army, language, faith” have lined the road to the airport in Kiev since last summer. These posters are incumbent President Poroshenko’s campaign slogan and they differ from his previous campaign rhetoric in 2014. Yet, from the perspective of a foreign investor or business partner, the words you would probably prefer to read after landing in Kiev would be something like “Trade, Positive Business Environment, and Transferability of Funds”.
Volodymyr Zelensky, who portrays the president of Ukraine in a political sitcom, Servant of the People, is now one of the poll leaders in Ukraine’s real-world presidential elections.
As the day to elect Ukraine’s next president draws near, the candidates’ campaigns have become more aggressive and their positions more intransigent. The three leading candidates have entered the campaign phase in which, in addition to their official platforms, nonpolitical tools are being wielded to gain an edge on the competition.
The March 2019 presidential elections and the October 2019 parliamentary elections could change the balance of power in Kyiv. By February 2019, it is still unclear who will govern the country in 2019-2024 and thus take responsibility for Ukraine’s conflict resolution efforts. The Minsk Agreements are likely to remain on the table as the main tool to achieve an effective ceasefire. On top of that, any successful candidate is likely to search for other additional diplomatic means to resolve the current tensions.
A short summary can be a good start to answer the question. In August 1991, President George H. W. Bush delivered a speech to the Kiev Parliament in which he urged Ukrainians to seek autonomy rather than independence. He feared that the disintegration of the USSR would destabilise the entire region. He went unheard; and a new phase began, in which Ukraine started fluctuating, depending on its leaders, between the West and the East.