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Ukraine: Knocking on “Ratio’s” Rather Than “Emotio’s” Door (Expert’s Exclusive From Ukraine) Sergey Shturkhetsky, President of Ukraine’s Trade-Union’s Independent Media

Mr Shturkhetsky, how do you assess polls results in Ukraine? To what extent were they predictable?

- Yesterday many in Ukraine were shocked at the exit-polls results, which are already confirmed by most electronic protocols from polling stations. Though, sociologists have been speaking about Vladimir Zelensky’s increasing rating since the beginning of the year.  At the beginning of this year, also acting president Petro Poroshenko’s rating tended to rise and to overshadow that of oppositionist Yulia Tymoshenko, who had started her campaign too early. Suffice to say that early in the year sociologists were giving fragile hope to Poroshenko for making it to the second round. Now his team can enjoy victory, even though intermediary. The “overtaking” by the president of her “eternal” opponent Tymoshenko (they had a public conflict that led to the reformatting of the executive branch in 2005) was taken for granted due to the last eventful half of the current guarantor of the Constitution. But actor Zelensky’s making it to the top, and even almost with a double margin, was not expected by many experts.

It should be noted that the presidential elections in Ukraine will be followed by parliamentary elections this fall. This accounts for the whopper bulletin (39 candidates), because every minor political leader perceived the presidential election as an opportunity to mobilize his voters and make his party to parliament. Therefore, we witnessed the “war of all against all,” but now the time has come for negotiations and consolidation. They talk about a possible coalition of Tymoshenko and Zelensky, although the latter rather sharply rejected any agreement and declared his readiness to win the elections independently.

The situational alliance of “all against Poroshenko,” which was shaped during the elections, poses a difficult task for the acting president. In fact, he found himself without allies. Therefore, in his yesterday’s (very emotional) statement, Petro Poroshenko addressed directly to the voters of his opponents, as if “bypassing” politicians. “I heard you,” he turned to Zelensky’s voters. “Now hear me, too,” meaning, probably, that he understands the request of the majority of voters to replace political elites.

Will Vladimir Zelensky succeed in gathering a coalition that guarantees victory, or will lack of political experience and excessive self-reliance after the results of the first round play a cruel trick on the comedian? Will the incumbent president be able to “reach out” to “ratio”, and not “emotio” of voters, demonstrate an understanding of the need for even more radical changes, “catch” in the direct debate his “elusive” competitor, who avoids live broadcasts and direct questions? The answer to these questions depends on the future election result. 

To what extent were the elections free? Is there information regarding violations of transparency?

- In Ukraine political contest is underway now.  Yes, many people convict politicians of ties with oligarchs, but there are few of these oligarchs (and, accordingly, points of influence). Strong political projects ensured competition and overall “clearness” of the electoral process. The administrative resource practically does not work, the police works practically without complaints. That’s why the 2000 notices of possible violations the police checks are on the whole an index of transparency and fairness (in 30,000 voting stations). And violations such as “one voter decided to eat his bulletin,” “two observers had a fight over recording a possible violations…” For the whole country – 6 reports over lack of journalists in the polling stations… this is of course unacceptable. But compared to what happened 7-10 years ago ... Most likely, it was possible to avoid grounds for invalidating the elections or any other excesses have already been avoided. A massive information attack on this occasion turned out to be unfriendly propaganda. 

Not only Ukraine but the whole world expects a second round. What are the moods and predictions in Ukraine? What do you expect as an expert and civilian?

- So, the announcement of the second round of elections with Vladimir Zelensky and Petro Poroshenko is almost a fait accompli. The results show that in the overwhelming majority of regions Zelensky won almost neck and neck. Before him, this was demonstrated in 2014 by Petro Poroshenko, having received support in almost all regions. This is very important for a country that has long been split... As the election results show, “old” political projects are leaving, new ones are emerging.

Let me remind you that Ukraine is a parliamentary-presidential country, that is, almost all power belongs to the government, which is formed by a parliamentary majority. The functions of the president are in many respects rituals (except for the post of commander in chief and foreign policy). Petro Poroshenko managed to keep power at home, creating a powerful faction in parliament and practically controlling the government. But it was in the past. Most likely, even with the victory of Poroshenko, and even more so with the victory of Zelensky, the situation will change, the parliament will become the main center of political life of the country.

And therefore changes await us. Their nature, at large depends on whether the voters will listen to the politicians, and more importantly, whether the politicians will listen to the voters.

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