Can a Wartime Election Be Successful?
Ukraine is holding a vote amid so much unresolved conflict.
"The new parliament is likely to be dominated by old faces wearing new masks," The Economist wrote. "The odious Party of Regions is gone, but its spirit has been reconstituted in the Strong Ukraine and Opposition Bloc parties. Oligarchs including Rinat Akhmetov, Sergei Levochkin, and Dmitry Firtash, who has faced bribery charges from American officials, are said still to influence the make-up of party lists, including [Prime Minister Arseny] Yatseniuk’s People’s Front. Igor Kolomoisky, the most powerful oligarch and the governor of Dnepropetrovsk, stronghold of the anti-separatist resistance, has no party of his own but will control many votes."
Still, not all is lost. Poroshenko, who is widely trusted and democratically elected, set up his own bloc for the parliamentary election. This week, the BBC predicted that his bloc would garner 30 or more percent of the vote, the highest percentage of any party or bloc. "The new parliament may be more patriotic but, with so much influence from the old regime and the oligarchs, may prove unable to agree and drive forward the reform agenda the country so badly needs," the Ukraine expert Andrew Wilson has observed. "In which case, many predict that a 'new Maidan'—a new round of even more radical protests in Kiev—could be on the cards."
"There are a huge number of pro-Russia politicians and officials or corrupt ones in parliament and the defense ministry," explained Yevgen Shevchenko, a soldier in one of Ukraine's volunteer battalions who is running for parliament, in an interview with the BBC. "When I went to the front, my friends helped me to buy a uniform, flak jacket and helmet. Nothing was provided."
Dissatisfaction with Ukraine's leaders is coupled with concerns over Russia's actions and intentions in the region. While Ukrainians want Poroshenko to be their champion, they are regularly reminded of Vladimir Putin's strength and capacity to further destabilize the country: He tames wild animals, cavorts in Italian palaces, and blows off Germany's top politician.