Since 2004, every election in Ukraine used to be crucial. Every time politicians convince people that they make a decisive choice between good and evil, Russia and Europe, a dark past and a bright future. Next year everything will be repeated again, and the loop will close again. In the role of “closing element” may be quite unexpected figure, and here’s why.
The Country Is Still In Crisis
The people who came to power in 2014 failed to offer adequate responses to public demands. Today it is improper to remember it, but the main demand of Maidan in 2013 was justice, getting rid of corruption in power and change for the better, but not a war in the Donbas, hryvnia collapse, even greater corruption and rising crime.
After five years, Ukraine is extremely far from the goals of the “Revolution of Dignity”. Recently, EU Ambassador Hugues Mongarelli said that Ukrainian corruption worries Brussels and potential investors even more than the conflict in the Donbas. EY stated that Ukraine ranked first in the world in terms of corruption.
The economy, instead of the promised growth following the association with the EU, is experiencing deindustrialization. Due to the recession of 2014–2015 and the 60 percent hryvnia devaluation, the national debt now stands at 81% of GDP, up from 40% in 2013. There are countries in the world where this number is even greater, but the trend itself is important: in order to pay bills and patch holes in the budget, Kiev again has to borrow money, and the national debt increases.
Getting out of this vicious circle will not be easy. Soon Kiev will have to repay almost USD 10 billion in debt obligations. The government does not have such money, and it will again have to borrow on unfavourable conditions: in order to receive a new IMF tranche, the government agreed to increase gas prices. Utilities will grow, and the population will get poorer.
No One To Vote For
Recent polls record a consistently low rating of all politicians – from 4 to 13%. Experts call the growing mistrust of the authorities the main problem of Ukraine. Sociology claims that almost a third of population does not plan to vote in the upcoming elections, since they do not believe that their vote will affect the outcome of the election race. Moreover, almost 60% of the respondents were undecided with the candidate, and the undecided are often ready to support the “against all” option. 70% of respondents believe that the country is moving in the wrong direction.
People are so tired of politicians that they are more likely to vote for a comedian or singer – the political rating of Svyatoslav Vakarchuk and Vladimir Zelensky is constantly growing and has already exceeded the popularity of the current president Poroshenko.
Experts estimated that two dozen candidates can potentially declare presidential ambitions, but no one has any serious electoral support. Closer to the elections, 4-5 candidates will have realistic chances to lead the country, and the main struggle is expected between the leader of Batkivshchyna, Yulia Tymoshenko, and the current president.
And if at least minimal predictions are associated with the presidential race, but the parliamentary elections scheduled for autumn are covered with a veil of uncertainty. According to surveys, the rating of any political party in Ukraine does not exceed 14%. This means that there are simply no popular political forces in Ukraine.
Need For Alternative
A certain explanation for a low rating and a low level of trust for politicians and parties is that for the last five years, none of them offered a realistic program for overcoming the crisis and did not show how to solve the country’s systemic problems. It seems no one was going to do it. The main resource of the candidates remains obsessive populism and criticism of each other. Therefore, elections-2019 can become unprecedented in terms of mutual recriminations, ingenuity of compromising and cynicism of populism.
For example, Yulia Tymoshenko promised not to raise tariffs, start gas production, return the Donbass and abandon the Minsk Agreements. The former prime minister of Ukraine is actively using citizens’ discontent with the current head of state and does not miss the opportunity to accuse Petro Poroshenko of “crimes against the Ukrainian people”.
Tymoshenko means the decision of the government of Vladimir Groysman to raise gas prices in return for the IMF tranche offering nothing in return. Groysman himself calls the price increase a victory, because the cost of gas will increase by 23.1% instead of 60% as demanded by the IMF and the government succeeded in this by “incredible efforts”.
The economy remains the weakest point of the government of Petro Poroshenko, but this is also true for other political forces, which also have nothing to offer the population. The current president is trying to write into his account the next tranche of credit assistance, which will enter the country soon, but it carries new debts and is designed only to prevent a premature collapse of the economy.
Experts have long noted that the assistance of international donors to Ukraine looks like supportive therapy. The former partners of Kiev fundamentally refuse to invest in the current government, rightly believing that the heirs of Maidan fulfilled their mission. In the light of predictions about the future “big deal” of Moscow and Washington, Ukraine needs a new generation of elites, not smeared with corruption and war and ready for reasonable compromises with all centres of power.
It is possible that this is why people like Kolomoisky, Akhmetov, Pinchuk and Firtash, who are capable of “pumping” with resources any candidate, have not yet made their bets. Big capital holders expect the appearance of new figures, supported in Brussels, and maybe in other centres of Ukrainian solitaire. Ukraine needs an alternative, and the next post-election “dead end” could become a springboard for new names and a new course. Of course, unless it will lead to the next Maidan.
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