Ukraine Elections Special: Poroshenko Guides Ukraine Towards NATO and the EU

The Current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will run for re-election in the fast-approaching presidential race. However, the chance of his success is uncertain. The elections have no clear favourite. Poroshenko routinely polls as one of the three top candidates, alongside former PM Yulia Tymoshenko and comedian Volodimir Zelenskyi. During his mandate, Poroshenko failed to crack down on corruption or to significantly improve Ukraine’s economic situation. He was more successful, however, in reducing Russian influence over Ukraine and he proved his commitment to lead Ukraine towards further integration into Western structures.

Petro Poroshenko was voted into office in the 2014 snap elections and replaced the former head of state Viktor Yanukovych, who was toppled following the Euromaidan protests. He won with an overwhelming majority in the first round, likely due to the desire of the Ukrainians to swiftly choose a leader who would fulfil the Maidan demands and combat the threats of Russian aggression (manifested in the annexation of Crimea) and separatism in eastern Ukraine. However, he lost his widespread public appeal during his first term and it is unsure whether he will even manage to get into the second round of the upcoming elections. He is facing two strong opponents – Yulia Tymoshenko and Volodimir Zelenskyi.

 

It is obvious that Poroshenko will use all options available to secure his re-election

 

 

Compared to the other candidates, Poroshenko has the most to lose in the elections. It is therefore obvious that he will use all options available to secure his re-election. That entails not only using his presidential powers (such as the appointment of local governors) but also attempts to ensure a positive portrayal in the media, especially on the TV, which still remains a popular source of information and entertainment for many Ukrainians. Poroshenko himself owns a small TV channel and through friendly relations with Ukrainian oligarchs (Ihor Kolomojskyj being a notable exception), who own most of the major Ukrainian media outlets, he has managed to minimize critique against his person on TV screens across the country.

Petro Poroshenko failed to fulfil many of the promises he had made during the 2014 presidential race. Most importantly, he has not managed to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine. However, the extent to which the blame for this failure is borne by the Ukrainian President is debatable. For peace to be achieved, Russia would have to cease its support of the separatists and in this regard, Ukrainian options are limited. However, Poroshenko also failed to achieve some of his campaign goals that were entirely in his power, such as strengthening the power of the parliament and reinforcing the independence of the judiciary branch.

 

Poroshenko has a solid record of directing the country on its course towards NATO and the EU

 

On the other hand, the Poroshenko administration also had some notable successes. It managed to introduce a number of reforms aimed at decentralizing state power and restructured the country’s energy sector to loosen Russia’s grip on Ukrainian energy. Poroshenko also signed the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement and in recent months, he managed to ensure the unity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its independence on its Russian counterpart.

Ukraine’s problems are so deep-rooted and complex that it would be naive to assume that they could be solved over the course of a single term. Moreover, long-term change cannot be driven by only a few politicians. The media and the country’s civil society also have a key role to play. While Tymoshenko is searching for her “new course for Ukraine” and Zelenskyi offers a murky and naive vision of the future, Poroshenko has a solid record of directing the country on its course towards NATO and the EU and he is actively working to push back on Russian influence in Ukraine. Soon, we will have a chance to see what the Ukrainian voters choose.

About author: Petr Fena

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