Ukraine elections: who will prevail?

The Ukrainians will elect a new president on Sunday. Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky is leading the polls, ahead of current president Petro Poroshenko and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. A second round of voting seems likely. Commentators explain the role of the war with Russia in the election and what people see in Zelensky.

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Financial Times (GB) /

Ukrainians have turned their backs on Kremlin

The election campaign has shown that the Ukrainians are almost unanimous on wanting to move closer to the West, the Financial Times comments:

“This presidential election, too, is noteworthy for the lack of significant support for any pro-Russian candidate. Despite the hardships and soaring energy prices that followed the 2014 revolution and reforms, few Ukrainians show signs of turning back towards Moscow. Indeed, the still rumbling war Russia fomented in the Donbass has turned most Ukrainians decisively against the Kremlin. Far-right candidates also have little support - making a mockery of mendacious Russian propaganda portraying the 2014 uprising as a US-backed 'neo-Nazi coup'.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

No support from Moscow

Pro-Russian candidates don't stand a chance in this election, Gazeta Wyborcza comments:

“Today Moscow can't count on any of the candidates in Kiev. Yuriy Boyko, the deputy prime minister in Viktor Yanukovych's government and leader of the opposition block, has close ties to Moscow. The pro-Russian politician visited Moscow last week, accompanied by Victor Medvedchuk, a friend of Putin's. ... The two were received by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Gazprom chief Alexey Miller. They promised each other that if their countries reconciled the Ukrainians would pay 25 percent less for Russian gas. But this meeting can't be seen as Moscow supporting Boyko's candidacy. This would be a bad investment because the pro-Russian politician doesn't even stand a chance of making it to the second round.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

A new Beppe Grillo

Volodymyr Zelensky stands a good chance on Sunday of getting through to the second round of voting to be held on April 21. The comedian's profile is not entirely new in Europe's political cosmos, political scientist Cyrille Bret explains in Le Figaro:

“A rejection of the traditional elites, distrust of oligarchies, erosion of the usual political dividing lines and the emergence of unexpected figures - this is a trend that one can observe across Europe. The figure of Beppe Grillo is the most pertinent for understanding the Zelensky phenomenon: an entertainer with no prior political experience, the creator of a political movement that breaks with traditional parties and criticises the established elites. In view of his youth, Zelensky is also reminiscent of other new faces that have emerged in Spain with Pablo Iglesias, in Poland with Robert Biedron, and of course in France with Emmanuel Macron.”

Novoye Vremya (UA) /

Foreign policy capers not a good idea

All the candidates want major changes in foreign policy. Journalist Boris Bachteev warns in Novoye Vremya that radicalism could be dangerous:

“If it were to declare war on Russia Ukraine would become the aggressor. And even if everyone would understand that in this case it's different, that's how it would look from a legal point of view. That would mean any support for Ukraine from the West would be incompatible with international law. ... Because the West is obliged to condemn an aggression. And for Russia this would be a convenient excuse for escalation: 'in response' and 'in its own defence' Russia would allegedly have every right to launch a major offensive. Now is the time for wisdom, not radicalism. But radicalism is booming here in Ukraine.”

Izvestia (RU) /

It doesn't really matter who wins

There is no real difference between the programmes of the three favourites when it comes to dealing with Ukraine's biggest problem, namely the dire economic situation, Izvestia believes:

“They repeat like a mantra that there is no alternative to 'fruitful cooperation' with the IMF and extended trade relations with the EU. ... If you look at the official data on the Ukrainian economy, however, you can see that without radical structural changes and a new direction on the traditional markets in the next five years there can be no positive change - meaning that the country will remain a third world state. Against this background the choice between Zelensky, Poroshenko and Tymoshenko is not so decisive, because their views on the Ukrainian economy are known and don't provide for any radical change.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Poroshenko doesn't offer Ukrainians prospects

President Poroshenko is to blame for Ukraine's stagnation, Rzeczpospolita concludes:

“Poroshenko promised the Maidan supporters a new life. But in reality their living standards have deteriorated and corruption scandals are still a common occurrence. ... The average salary in Ukraine in January was a little over 9,000 hryvnia (just under 300 euros). Urkainians earned the same amount in 2013, before the Maidan revolution, the Russian annexation of Crimea and the aggression in Donbass. At the same time the price for a cubic metre of gas is eight times higher than it was in 2014 and the price for staple food products has at least tripled.”

Lietuvos žinios (LT) /

This election is different

The upcoming presidential election differs in one key aspect from all previous elections, Lietuvos žinios comments:

“Ever since the declaration of independence in 1991 every election has been a choice between two geopolitical directions. Between East and West. The country was always divided into two equal halves and a candidate could only win if he managed to attract voters from the other side. This often happened as a result of revelations about misconduct on the part of the rival. ... But since 2014, when Russia annexed pro-Russian Crimea and the hybrid war began in Donbass, pro-Russian candidates haven't stood a chance. Vladimir Putin wanted to bring Ukraine into Russia's orbit but he has achieved exactly the opposite. Even in the regions which used to be considered pro-Russian many people now see Putin as the aggressor.”