Ukraine goes to the polls

Ukrainians go to the polls today in a  parliamentary election on Sunday that could consolidate the power of new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and hand the novice politician a stronger mandate for driving change in the war-scarred nation, Reuters reports

A comedian with no prior policymaking experience, Zelenskiy won a landslide presidential election victory in April, by casting himself as an everyman outsider who would tackle corruption and raise living standards in one of Europe’s poorest countries. 

Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, named after the TV comedy where he played a fictional president, has consistently led the opinion polls for the parliamentary vote but might fall short of a majority. 

At present, the 41-year-old leader shares power with a cabinet and lawmakers who are mostly loyal to his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko. 

Whoever wins the election will inherit a country at the centre of the West’s standoff with Moscow following Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 and its ongoing role in a separatist conflict in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine that has killed as many as 13,000 people in the past five years. 

The new government will also need to implement reforms agreed with international donors in order to secure billions of dollars of new loans to keep the economy stable. Zelenskiy announced today's snap election on the day he was inaugurated in May. 

“By calling an early election, the new president hoped to keep the momentum of his presidential victory going. He is backed in this attempt by a majority of Ukrainians who view parliament as inherently corrupt and have given Mr Zelenskiy a mandate to ‘clean up’ the political class,” said Agnese Ortolani of the Economist Intelligence Unit. 

“We expect Mr Zelenskiy to be given a broad mandate from the Ukrainian people to move forwards with the set of ambitious reforms that he laid out in the first weeks of his presidency.” 

Beyond his everyman image, Zelenskiy has faced scrutiny over his business connections to one of Ukraine’s most powerful tycoons, Ihor Kolomoisky. 

Kolomoisky has fought a protracted legal battle with the state over control of Ukraine’s largest lender, PrivatBank, which was nationalized by then President Poroshenko against Kolomoisky's wishes in 2016. 

Zelenskiy insists he is not beholden to Kolomoisky and will not take his side. 

A rollback of PrivatBank’s nationalisation would likely lead to foreign creditors freezing aid. 

Read also: Ukraine’s Zelensky has plenty of form, but little substance: Voters hoping for change risk being disappointed by the frontrunner comedian

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