Posted on Apr 22, 2019
Following his defeat at the polls on Sunday April 21st, sitting President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko made a gracious and reassuring speech to the people.
Acknowledging the free, fair, and democratic nature of the elections and accepting the “will of the people” he stated that Ukraine had achieved new high standards in the democratic process.
He stated that he will not be retiring from politics, and will continue to work towards the key government objectives of decentralisation, anti-corruption reforms. With his stated aim of ensuring that Ukraine does not change political course, Poroshenko intends to continue to help progress the country’s ambitions for further integration into the European Union and NATO. Indeed, he has pledged to reclaim the presidency and told his supporters: “Together we will go to parliamentary elections.”
These assurances will be most welcome in the capitals of the EU member states, and in Washington D.C., where world leaders are known to have previously expressed concerns for the ongoing stability of Ukraine following any change of leadership.
Consistency is viewed as paramount, and the populist Volodymyr Zelensky, who took a spectacular 73% of the vote, is viewed as something of an enigma in the west, having no previous political experience, and having revealed very little information about his objectives beyond vague populist policy suggestions that would appear to most observers to be somewhat naive and, in any case, very unlikely to be achievable.
Poroshenko referred to undisguised pleasure in the Kremlin following the outcome of Sunday’s vote. Any destabilisation in Ukraine, any wavering, any sudden change of direction, will suit Russia’s geopolitical ambitions perfectly.
Russia, which backs separatists in eastern Ukraine, says it wants Zelensky, who has said that he would "reboot" peace talks with the separatists fighting Ukrainian forces in the east, to show "sound judgement", "honesty" and "pragmatism" in order that relations can improve.
“There is a chance to improve relations with our country…”, said Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Poroshenko previously told voters that Zelensky is too inexperienced to stand up to Russia effectively. Several pundits have speculated that the incoming President might be prepared to negotiate with Russia over its illegal annexation of Crimea in return for Russian withdrawal from the Donbass region.
They believe that with a new inexperienced Ukrainian President, Ukraine could be quickly returned to Russia’s orbit of influence… Therefore, I call on the international community to help Ukraine to secure all the recent achievements and the strategic choice of the nation for integration to the European Union and the NATO... Please, stay with Ukraine no matter what!.. Support Ukrainians and be with them!.. We must keep strong solidarity and unity with Ukraine and continue countering ongoing Russian aggression, including strengthening the sanctions regime.
Poroshenko outlined key principles to be preserved:
• Ukraine is a stronghold of democracy and the key to security of the continent!
• Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine!
• Crimea is Ukraine!
• Russia must stop its aggression against Ukraine and leave Ukrainian Donbas!
• Russia must release all Ukrainian citizens!
He closed his remarks with a call to the Ukrainian people themselves “With your help, the Ukrainian nation will make it. We will be stronger together!”
The nature of Poroshenko’s speech, and the mostly orderly and competitive election campaign shows how far Ukraine has advanced since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The OSCE election monitoring mission said in a statement issued on Monday that the country’s runoff election on Sunday was “competitive and held with respect for fundamental freedoms.” This was echoed by Ukrainian election watchdog Opora on April 22nd: . “Systematic violations that could have influenced the electoral results were not found,” said Olha Aivazovska, head of the organisation,
This is in stark contrast to Russia, where elections offer no real opposition to the regime and have served only to keep Vladimir Putin in power for 20 years.
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