War may have ended the era when Ukrainians traded their votes for some cooking oil and flour. “I took the buckwheat but voted my heart,” reads an Internet meme of an elderly lady displaying a rude gesture on Twitter and Facebook from an Internet group called Our Guard. It’s urging voters not to exchange ballots for food before tomorrow’s general election. Parties have abandoned the pop concerts and pomp that accompanied past campaigns after more than 3,800 deaths in Ukraine’s battle against pro-Russian separatists and earlier protests in Kiev. President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and other contenders have instead signed military heroes and anti-graft activists to their voter lists. They’re trying to counter the electorate’s increasing frustration with the conflict, an outlook for a 10 percent economic contraction this year and corruption that’s worse than Russia’s and tied with Nigeria’s, according to Transparency International’s corruption perception index.
Facing angry mobs who’ve beaten politicians, dumped others in garbage bins and defaced campaign posters, candidates now boast of donations to front-line troops fighting the rebels. For their part, voters are using the Internet to verify the pledges and scrutinize the histories of politicians who’ve failed to overhaul the former Soviet republic’s economy since the fall of the Iron Curtain.
“War and peace are dominating the Ukrainian agenda, as well as the economic situation and it’s making people depressed and angry,” said Volodymyr Zastava, an analyst at the Gorshenin Institute in Kiev, which focuses on democratic processes. “Ukrainians are turning into a political nation now. People are more demanding from politicians and will press them.”