This weekend, Ukraine will hold a parliamentary election, but only part of the nation will participate. Crimea has fallen to Russia and eastern Ukraine is still widely dominated by pro-Russian separatists, who consider the territory they control a sovereign nation. As a result, 30 out of 450 parliamentary seats will remain vacant.
Born in Kiev but raised in the United States, I have never been able to cast a ballot in an American presidential election, nor did I ever feel, given rampant corruption, that my vote would be counted if I bothered to vote in Ukrainian elections from overseas. When Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ran in May, just months after a mass uprising had toppled pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, I felt a sense of national pride I hadn't felt for my birth country before. I read the news constantly, calling family several times a day while checking pro-Ukrainian blogs, all to feel a connection. I wanted, for the first time, to vote. When Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was struck down over eastern Ukraine, presumably by pro-Russian forces, my feelings for Ukraine deepened. Yet today, just days before the October 26 election, I feel disenchanted. Many of my fellow countrymen seem to agree.
War has taken an extreme toll on the people of Ukraine, claiming roughly 3,600 lives and turning villages and cities into war zones. And the conflict will be at the forefront of the election. As the BBC's Steve Rosenberg notes, "Many of the parties have included military figures on their party lists, hoping to benefit from a wave of patriotism. Among the candidates are leaders of some of the Ukrainian volunteer battalions."