FAES Analysis Group
The results in the first round of the presidential elections in Ukraine — the comfortable victory of the comic actor Volodymyr Zelensky (30.3%), followed by the current president Petró Poroshenko with 15.9% of the votes — reflect that Ukrainians reject the current status quo of politics in their country. The patriotic and anti-Russian speech that has marked Poroshenko’s campaign has not spared him of what it really is: a symbol of disappointment due to the slow pace of structural reforms, the perpetuated corruption, the erosion of the rule of law and the democratic institutions that timidly arose after the Maidan Revolution and the downfall of the Government of Víktor Yanukóvich in 2014. Under the chairmanship of Petró Poroshenko, many of the oligarchs have been protected or have been able to continue their old way of doing politics by controlling the means of communication and blocking economic, political and judicial reforms.
The overwhelming victory of Volodymyr Zelensky — actor that became famous for being the main character of a TV series of huge success, in which he played the role of a honest teacher that becomes elected as president— verifies the lack of political leadership in Ukraine. Zelensky won in all the regions of the country except for five (the western ones) and unless there is a significant setback, he can be very close of becoming the President of Ukraine in the second round of elections the next 21st of April.
It is difficult to know what does the victory of Zelensky in this first round really mean, but what it is sure is that the campaign for the second round will be unpleasant. Both of the candidates will continue with their campaign speech: Poroshenko has suggested that Zelensky has been supported by Russia and that he is a “puppet” of the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, enemy of the current president and property owner of the TV channel where Zelensky got his popularity. The comic actor, at the same time, promises to end up with corruption and immunity of politicians and get to an agreement with Russia about the Donbas conflict.
Poroshenko is an expired president, who has not been able to deliver on his promises. Zelensky is a populist who has not even articulated a politic or economic program, but who has arrived to the victory by promising everything that all the presidential candidates have been promising since 1991: to end up with the nepotism, corruption and impunity; to overcome the current Ukrainian economic stagnation and break free from the interdependence with Russia. There is a need to consider that currently Ukraine occupies the position number 122 of the countries with higher levels of corruption (being the position 180 the most corrupt).
The next 21st of April we will see if Zelensky, president in the fiction TV series, will become in the real President of the Government of Ukraine. What we would not see is exactly what could this victory mean for Ukraine due to the lacks of concrete policy proposals in their electoral program.
Translated by Nerea Eiroa