Can presidential elections save Kiev from deep woes?

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/3/31 21:20:03

Ukraine held the first round of its presidential elections on Sunday. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian without any political experience but only once played a school teacher that unexpectedly became the president, was way ahead of incumbent President Petro Poroshenko and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. But Zelenskiy received less than 30 percent vote in the first round, it is highly possible there will be a second round. 

Ukraine used to be the most developed republic in industry and agriculture in the Soviet Union. But now it's Europe's poorest country following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Poroshenko, Ukraine's chocolate baron, received high support when he assumed office in 2014. But Zelenskiy steals the show. This shows Ukrainian society is anxious and confused about the country's long-time crisis. People always hope for some kind of miracle.

Ukraine is in deep crisis. Its tremendous strength in the heavy and war industries used to be part of the Soviet Union's production and market chain. Fixing the broken chain has already been a huge challenge, but Ukraine failed to properly deal with its strategic relations with Russia and Europe. Historical problems surfaced, and the whole country fell into political upheaval.

A democratic system or a change in leadership cannot resolve Ukraine's problem. New leaders always have good promises, but they lack real solutions. A few fundamental problems are hindering the country.

First, Ukraine has been dragged into a serious geopolitical dispute between Russia and the West. Both sides valued Ukraine at first, but Kiev chose to completely lean on the West, which triggered Russia's strong countermeasures. Ukraine's governance is paralyzed. It has become a place for the West and Russia to dump antagonism and political garbage. Neither side cares about the negative influence on Europe brought by Ukraine's decline.

Second, Ukraine has no resources. It previously relied on a good internal and international order. But Russia has cut preferential energy supply, the West's aid has become inadequate, and the original production and market chain that heavy industry relied on is broken. Ukraine lacks an economic breakthrough. Its worsening economy and political upheaval coexist.

Third, Ukraine has 42 million people, but it lacks political and economic independence. It always has illusions about external support, and is now looking at Western support. But the country is too large, and Western aid is perfunctory. With the aid, the West wants Ukraine to block Russia's influence for Europe. It's impossible for Western countries to be responsible for Ukraine's prosperity.

Fourth, Ukraine should unite the country's political forces, but the country's system has decentralized political authority. To promote large-scale reforms, a leader must first fix the economy. But without a governance readjustment, which could be politically painful, it's almost impossible to achieve economic recovery.

After nearly 30 years since the Soviet Union was dissolved, Ukraine still hasn't shown any signs of a successful readjustment. The country should be an important textbook case in international politics. 

Ukraine had color revolutions twice. In the Commonwealth of Independent States, Ukraine is the most democratized, but is also seriously losing direction. The world can draw many lessons from Ukraine.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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