Ukraine’s 2019 Elections. A Challenge for Both Ukraine and Europe?

The Ukrainian presidential elections will take place at the end of March and in a few months, in autumn the members of parliaments will be elected. How will the results of the future elections affect Ukrainian-European relations? This was the topic of the participants of the panel session: Ukraine’s 2019 Elections. A Challenge for Both Ukraine and Europe? held at the second day of the 12th Europe-Ukraine Forum.


Galyna Zelenko, representing the Ukrainian National Academy of  Science who has chaired this session has pointed out that in the first time in the contemporary history of Ukraine, the pro-Russian candidates do not have any chance to win the elections. Referring to the results of survey of the Razumkov Center, she stated that “Nowadays, 47% of Ukrainians would vote for entering the UE, whereas the Customs Union support reaches near 11%. For several years the number of NATO supporters is higher than number of the opponents.”.

Deputy Director of the Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding from Poland, Łukasz Adamski has forecasted who will meet each other on the 2nd round of presidential elections. It is former Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko and current president Petro Poroshenko and the victory of any of them means for Poland both, chances and threats. “Julia Tymoshenko, added Adamski, has never had one-person power in Ukraine, therefore her presidency would bring a lot of surprises. Julia’s populistic promises may be a threat for the process of state reforms, which is a threat for Poland as well”, he continued. “Timoshenko’s team is not very much interested in the historical policy, which might be very useful for the Polish-Ukrainian relations. The choice of Poroshenko would be a guarantee for the continuation of reforms, but, on the other hand his electorate represents mostly Western Ukraine and this is an obstacle for any change in the historical policy of Ukraine towards Poland.”, argued Adamski. 

Editor of “Więź” quarterly, Bogumila Berdychowska-Szostakowska claimed that nowadays the participants of the presidential campaign in Ukraine may be divided into two groups: those, who place the social aspects in the first round and those for whom politics is the most important. The pauperization of the society as a result of war and economic crisis fosters Timoshenko, which has reorganized her political image very efficiently. Poroshenko, although he has many political successes, he actually needs a “super idea” to gain the undecided electorate. “The Poroshenko team hoped that thank to the recently signed tomos, i.e. a decree securing independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from Russia, Poroshenko popularity will raise, this idea has failed”, Ms Berdychowska summed up.

Oleksandr Doniy, Head of the Center for the Study of Political Values has pointed out that the positive aspect of the political campaign in Ukraine is that the influence of Kremlin has been limited the interest of citizens in political life has grown. On the other hand the big number of candidates, usage of political administration and not clear situation with the voting in the occupied Donbas regions may pose high risk for manipulation and fraud. “A potential political after the elections creates a certain risk for Europe as well”, argued Mr Doniy. “If one of the key candidates does not accept the victory of the opponent, it will make Kiev weaker, and the probability of the Russian influence is higher. That is why Brussels shall push the Ukrainian government and civil society institutions in order to prevent the possible counterfeiting  and open dialogue with potential winners in order to secure the security of President Poroshenko in case he will lose the elections”.

Yuriy Romanenko representing the Ukrainian Institute for the Future said that whoever become the President of Ukraine has to face a difficult task to modernize the Ukrainian economy. In his opinion Ukraine has used all available resources carried over the Soviet Union. In the situation of stabile international milieu, the consequences of this situation have been less noticeable. In the time of international turbulences, Ukraine needs dynamic changes and the institutions dependent from the oligarch cannot secure their interests. The best illustration of the common crisis of the Ukrainian public institutions is the massive emigration from the country, claimed Romanenko. “Only within the last 10 years 4 million Ukrainians have left Ukraine. If nothing changes, next 2-3 million will emigrate in the nearest future. The slowdown of the emigration shall be one of the targets of each candidates”.

The first elections round will take place on 31 March 2019. The list of candidates running for the highest presidential office is long and may include nearly 30 candidates. The biggest chances have president Petro Poroshenko, former prime minister Timoshenko and showman Volodymyr Zelenskyi, apparently linked by an oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi.