Reviewing the Results of Petro Poroshenko's Presidency and the 2019 Ukraine's Presidential Elections
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Alina Shymanska

Reviewing the Results of Petro Poroshenko's Presidency and the 2019 Ukraine's Presidential Elections

During the Revolution of Dignity, the people of Ukraine decisively made a historical decision to re-establish their true European identity and dismiss their Soviet past by electing the pro-European candidate Petro Poroshenko as the country's new president. This decision was due in part by the increased interference of the Russian government into the domestic and international affairs of Ukraine. This inference can be seen in Russia's attempt to prevent Ukraine from signing the European Union Association Agreement and preventing any further integration of Ukraine into the European economic and security community. This caused outrage among Ukrainian citizens and was followed by the pro-Russian government of Ukraine being overthrown, which took place in February 2014. This happened after 4 months of prolonged massive demonstrations known as the Revolution of Dignity, which ended in May 2014 with the election of the newly elected pro-European President Poroshenko. In response, the Kremlin decided to push forward with an aggressive policy of interference by annexing the Crimean Peninsula and supporting a separatist movement in the Ukrainian region of Donbass.

Since that time, relations between Ukraine and Russia have only deteriorated. This can be seen through Ukraine commencing the ongoing Anti-Terrorist Operation against Russian-backed separatists in Donbass in 2014, the suspension of Ukraine's membership in the Commonwealth of Independent States in 2018, and the cancellation of the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between the two countries in 2019. However, President Poroshenko's term was marked with diplomatic victories for Ukraine, such as the cancellation of Schengen visas for Ukrainian citizens with biometric passports, the addition by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of Ukraine to the list of NATO aspiring members (along with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and the Republic of North Macedonia) in March 2018, and with the signing of the Ukraine-Israel Free Trade Agreement in November 2019.

5 years after President Poroshenko was elected, the Ukrainian people would get the chance to assess the government's policies through the means of a presidential election which took place in 2019. The first round of elections took place on March 31, with 39 candidates in total. This was the largest number of candidates that had ever run for president. The list of potential candidates included many experienced politicians, such as Julia Tymoshenko who was the Prime Minister of Ukraine from 2007-2010 and had served as Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister of Energy and Coal Mining from 1999-2001. Also among the list of potential candidates was Svyatoslav Vakarchuck, who is the frontman of the rock band Okean Elzy; he eventually declined to participate in the elections. But it was actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelensky who won the elections as a result of the second round of votes that took place on April 1 and thus became the newly elected President of Ukraine.

As the official data shows, Volodymyr Zelensky used ‘the big tent fits all’ strategy and called for an implementation of the principles of direct democracy during his campaign win over Poroshenko. Zelensky would take a majority of the votes with 73.22%, leaving Petro Poroshenko with only 24.45% of the vote. The most interesting thing about this campaign is that while Volodymyr Zelensky obtained the vast majority of support in all regions of Ukraine, excluding the Lvivska region located in the west, the Ukrainian Diaspora abroad who voted in foreign electoral districts favoured Petro Poroshenko and his campaign motto ‘The Army, The Language, and The Faith’.

Take the example of the Republic of Korea's voting district. The Republic of Korea is a place with a comparatively small number of Ukrainian residents. There were only 220 registered voters for the presidential elections that took place in 2019. Among those who took part in the voting this year, nearly 39% expressed support towards the incumbent president Petro Poroshenko during the first round of voting, while no more than 27% supported Volodymyr Zelensky. During the second round of voting, Ukrainians residing in the Republic of Korea demonstrated their loyalty to Poroshenko again by distributing their votes between Poroshenko and Zelensky in the proportion of 1.3: 1. In other foreign voting districts, Poroshenko was reported to have even bigger support among voters.

When it comes to Ukrainians who reside in the Republic of Korea, around 50% of the registered residents took part in the elections, which expresses their deep concern for the future of Ukraine. However, Ukraine's Foreign Minister, Pavlo Klimkin, noted most of the diaspora remains apolitical with only slightly more than 1% of those residing abroad having participated in the 2019 presidential elections. In response to this low voter turnout, Pavlo Klimkin called for an improvement in the voting process for Ukrainian people living abroad.

2021 - Volume 15 Issue 2