Between drops: What tasks lie ahead for President Poroshenko

Cunning and readiness to burn his own rating. Obviously, these are the main qualities politician Petro Poroshenko will need in the coming years. 

One can only imagine what new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is feeling after his victory in the first round of elections. On the one hand, success, which he could not have dreamed of several months ago, or even thought about. On the other, the expectations for new Head of State’s actions are too high to begin with, and the challenges are too great. Therefore, every month of Poroshenko’s term as President of Ukraine will count for a year.

Poroshenko needs to return lost stability to the country. The majority of voters gave him their votes with stability in mind, and the candidate himself talked about stability when calling to end the elections in one round. Meanwhile the return of stability does not depend solely on Poroshenko. Or rather, not on him at all.

Stability is first and foremost the end of the destabilization of the Ukrainian Southeast by Russian saboteurs and hired mercenaries. And it is absolutely fundamental for the Kremlin to show that after the presidential elections, little has changed in Ukraine. Even if Moscow deems it possible to recognize the legitimacy of the new head of the Ukrainian state and starts talking to him, it does not mean that sending mercenaries and weapon supplies to separatists will stop. On the contrary, the Russian capital may decide that destabilization can become an additional ace to play in negotiations with Poroshenko—you see, Petro Olexiyovich, you were not supported in the Southeast, and there are many supporters of unity with Russia there still. And they will specifically encourage various Gubarevs and Pushilins.

Stability is solving the Crimean problem. But in Moscow, nobody at all intends to talk about this with Ukraine. Moreover, those surrounding Vladimir Putin firmly believe that within a few months Kyiv and the European capitals will be forced to accept Crimea belonging to Russia as a fait accompli. To the Russian political establishment, looking reality in the face is tantamount to treason. If in Moscow they will talk with Poroshenko about Crimea, it will only be about recognizing the peninsula as Russian.

Stability is solving the economic crisis which hit the country due the systematic thievery of the Yanukovich family and the incompetence of the Azarov-Arbuzov government. But in order to exit the crisis and launch economic growth, it is necessary to carry out a series of reforms which may prove painful for society. And this is the choice before the new president—either he backs up the government with his own authority (which would cost him his popularity), or he prefers to distance himself from the Cabinet of Ministers and play the people’s protector, with the absence of money and resources for populism. Neither option will bolster stability or the popularity of the head of state.

Stability is removing oligarchs from the economy. If the oligarchs continue to exert a decisive influence on the economy of the country, it will never rise again. Real economics is economics of equal opportunity, not access to the budget and privileges for one’s own. But, on the other hand, the retention of stability in the east depends on the oligarchs—if not on Akhmetov and Taruta, then on Kolomoyskiy for sure. It is not yet clear how ready Poroshenko will be for confrontation with his former allies, who are obviously interested in his victory in the presidential election.

Stability is changes in the government. And, obviously, the early parliamentary elections which have already been promised by the new President and which can actually be appointed – at least if it decided that there is no coalition in the current Verkhovna Rada. But, on the other hand, the results of the presidential elections have demonstrated that the post-revolutionary Parliament may become an easy prey for populists and machinators of all sorts. No democratic revolution can save us from this. In Russia after October 1993, in the first elections of the Duma, it was not ‘Russia’s Choice’ Yegor Gaidar who won, but the Liberal Democratic Party’s evil clown Zhirinovskiy. The words “Russia, have you gone crazy?”, which became a foreboding of the degradation of Russian democracy, were said by Yuriy Kariakin at the time. Nobody can guarantee that we will not hear something similar after the early parliamentary elections in Ukraine. And considering that our country is a parliamentary-presidential republic, the head of state will have difficulties with such a Verkhovna Rada.

Stability is decentralization, which everyone has been talking about lately. But it is possible that under the present conditions the transfer of power to the regions will only strengthen Moscow’s chances to destroy Ukrainian statehood. And the honestly elected governors and regional councils may turn out to be a legitimate focus of anti-state activity.

Finally, stability is European integration, the rejection of which, in fact, was the beginning of Maidan. I have no doubt that the Association Agreement will be signed by the new President. But I have doubts that association with the EU will give quick results. What is more, after its signing many of our compatriots will see that we have not entered the EU, and we have years of hard work ahead of us. And not all are ready for it. But these ‘not all’ will blame the lack of results of ‘joining Europe’ on the new president. See, Yanukovych warned you…

Overall, in order not to end up in the role of biggest disappointment to Maidan and Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko will have to remember how another winner of the first round of presidential elections in Ukraine acted in a similar situation—Leonid Kravchuk. He walked, so to speak, “between drops.” Such a difficult journey lies before Poroshenko.

Vitaliy Portnikov, journalist


Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina

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2 thoughts on “Between drops: What tasks lie ahead for President Poroshenko

  1. Pingback: Between Drops. What Tasks Lie Ahead of President Poroshenko - Israel Foreign Affairs

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