The local elections held in Ukraine on the weekend “generally showed respect for the democratic process,” international monitors said on Monday. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called the elections “competitive” and “well-organized,” while acknowledging that they took place in “a challenging political, economic, humanitarian and security environment,” according to a statement on the organization’s website.
Since Petro Poroshenko assumed the presidency of Ukraine, the majority of discussions about the future of Ukrainian democracy have been consumed by external factors. This has been for good reason. Russian troops invaded, then annexed Crimea in early 2014; at the same time, Russia initiated another war front in eastern Ukraine, which claimed over 6,000 thousand lives and has displaced over one million Ukrainians. In addition to a severe human cost, the Russian war carried a huge economic cost by bringing to a halt various industrial enterprises in the Donbas region. However, the political fate of the country is equally dependent on internal factors particularly the improvement of procedural democracy. Ukrainian local elections, scheduled for October 25th 2015, are another important step for the development of Ukraine’s democratic politics. First, local elections will be held according to their regular five-year election cycle; the elections are an important step in the decentralisation process being discussed by President Poroshenko. Second, they will be conducted according to a new set of electoral laws that look to increase representativeness and strengthen the role of political parties. However, this latest round of elections is unlikely to introduce higher levels of transparency into the electoral process or bolster the role or function of political parties in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Sunday stressed the need for legitimate elections in the country’s separatist regions in order to eventually re-integrate the pro-Moscow strongholds. Poroshenko said in a televised address that “without elections in these occupied territories, a political solution will be in a deadlock”. The so-called Minsk peace deal between government troops and pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine foresees the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the battlefield and calls for a vote to be held in the separatist regions under international auspices.
A decision by rebels in eastern Ukraine to hold elections poses a “great danger” to the peace process, President Petro Poroshenko has warned. He also announced sanctions on over 400 people and 90 legal entities held responsible for Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the east. The leader of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic earlier confirmed the elections would be held on 18 October. The neighbouring Luhansk rebel region wants to stage elections on 1 November. The government in Kiev – backed by the EU and the US – says such votes would be in violation of the peace deal signed in Minsk, Belarus, in February.
Ukraine: France and Germany Warn Vladimir Putin About Ukraine Separatist Elections | Wall Street Journal
The leaders of France and Germany told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday that rebel-run elections conducted in the separatist-controlled regions of Ukraine would endanger the so-called Minsk peace process for the country, a German government spokesman said. Ukraine is obliged to hold local elections by the end of this year in the east under the cease-fire deal agreed between Kiev, Moscow, Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in Minsk, Belarus, on Feb. 12. The country will hold local elections on Oct. 25 but has said it won’t run elections in rebel-held areas in the east because of continued violence there. The separatists have said they will hold their own ballots in mid October and early November.
Ukraine: Separatist Rebels Announce Elections In October, Draw Reaction From Kiev | International Business Times
Pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine will hold their own elections in October, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said Thursday. The announcement drew a rebuke from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who said any election that did not occur with oversight from Kiev could violate last February’s Minsk peace accord. Slated for October 18, the elections will occur “on the basis of Ukrainian law … in the parts where it does not contradict the constitution and law” established in separatist-held eastern Ukraine, said Alexander Zakharchenko, self-styled prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine, according to Agence France-Presse. Zakharchenko did not provide further details on how the elections would occur or whether rebels would be in contact with the Ukrainian government in Kiev.
Ukraine: Merkel, Juncker Say EU’s Russia Sanctions to Stay After Eastern Ukraine Elections | Wall Street Journal
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the new European Commission president said there was no prospect in sight of scaling back sanctions on Russia, maintaining a tough stance after Moscow embraced the results of a separatist election in eastern Ukraine. Ms. Merkel said in Berlin on Wednesday that the European Union should consider expanding its sanctions list to include the winners of Sunday’s local voting. The EU, Kiev and the U.S. have refused to recognize the elections and said that Russia’s refusal to condemn them are a breach of a September cease-fire. “We should also have another look at the list of specific individuals who now have responsibility in eastern Ukraine due to these illegitimate elections,” Ms. Merkel told reporters. “Otherwise I think we should maintain the sanctions we have.”
Rebel commander Alexander Zakharchenko smiled only slightly on hearing that he had won this weekend’s elections in Donetsk, Ukraine (pictured). The results were never in doubt: Mr Zakharchenko’s nominal opponents openly supported him, and his face was the only one on campaign billboards. Nonetheless, eastern Ukraine’s separatist republics went through the motions of democracy, including inviting international election observers. Those proved hard to find: while Russia has said it will respect the vote, America, the European Union, and the United Nations have all condemned it. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe refused to monitor the elections. The European politicians who did show up to observe were drawn from a smattering of far-right parties, including Hungary’s Jobbik, France’s National Front, and Italy’s Forza, as well as a few far-left ones. While they may not have done much to legitimise the vote, their presence was significant as a marker of Russia’s growing relationship with Europe’s political fringes. The elections in the breakaway pro-Russian regions were marked by armed men standing next to ballot boxes and a disturbing absence of voter rolls. This did not bother the European observers, who pronounced the voting free and fair. Many of them had arrived in Donetsk with luggage bearing “ROV” airline tags, code for the Russian city of Rostov, where they had flown in before crossing the border by car into separatist-held territory. Russia has been courting European fringe parties for years, part of a multi-pronged strategy aimed at “undermining the EU project”, argues Thomas Gomart, a Russia scholar at the French Institute of International Relations.
Alexander Zakharchenko, a 38-year-old mining electrician, won an illegitimate election in pro-Russian separatist controlled Ukraine this weekend. The election was held to determine a leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, however, the militant separatist group is not recognized as a legitimate power by the Ukrainian government. President Petro Poroshenko refers to them primarily as a terrorist group. In addition to being carried out by an unrecognized rebel organization, the election violated a September 5th ceasefire agreement that was signed by not only Ukraine and the separatists, but also by Russia. Though the separatists believe the election will allow them to break eastern Ukraine away from the west, and exert political control over the area, officials in Kiev will not recognize the election or Zakharchenko’s reign. The Ukrainian government referred to the vote as “rogue” and believes it was encouraged by Russian officials, who have long been accused of funding and controlling separatist actions in Ukraine. Poroshenko said the election was a “farce that is being conducted under the threat of tanks and guns.”
TO ALL appearances, Ukraine’s parliamentary election on October 26th was a triumph. Reformists mostly won and voters rebuked the far right and far left. Western allies heaped praise on the pro-European, pro-democratic results. Yet Ukraine remains troubled and deeply divided. In an upset, the People’s Front party of Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the prime minister, narrowly beat President Petro Poroshenko’s bloc by 22.2% to 21.8%. This means that Ukraine will keep two power centres, as Mr Yatsenyuk seems sure to stay in office. Mr Poroshenko had hoped to win a majority and install a loyalist instead. Now the People’s Front and the Poroshenko Bloc must form a coalition, probably with the third-placed Samopomich (self-help) party, led by the mayor of Lviv. The six parties that reached a 5% threshold will fill half of the 450-seat parliament (Rada) from their party lists. The rest will come from districts where deputies are elected directly and only later join party factions.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone that elections planned for Sunday in eastern Ukraine were illegitimate and would not be recognised by European leaders, a Berlin government spokesman said on Friday. Ms Merkel and Mr Putin held a joint telephone conversation with French President Francois Hollande and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Ms Merkel’s spokesman Georg Streiter said at a government news conference. He said in the call there were diverging opinions on Sunday’s “so-called elections” in the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. “Merkel and Hollande underlined that there can only be a ballot in line with Ukrainian law,” he said, adding that the vote would violate an agreement endorsed by Russia and further complicate efforts to end the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Sunday’s separatist poll is aimed at electing leaders and a parliament in a self-proclaimed autonomous republic.
Exit polls in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections suggested that Sunday’s vote would cement the country’s new political course, seven months after the revolution that toppled former president Viktor Yanukovych. Forces loyal to President Petro Poroshenko and the government more broadly looked set to dominate the parliament, but there were also votes for more radical parties and those made up of former activists from the Maidan revolution. A new party mainly made up of Yanukovych’s defunct Party of the Regions polled in single figures, according to exit surveys. The vote came with parts of eastern Ukraine remaining under the de facto control of pro-Russia separatists, and with an increasingly radical mood taking hold in much of the rest of the country, impatient for reforms from a new government led by Poroshenko, a billionaire chocolate magnate.
Pro-Western parties won an overwhelming majority in Ukraine’s Parliament, President Petro O. Poroshenko declared on Sunday, citing exit polls. With the country still on a war-footing with Russian separatists in the east, Mr. Poroshenko hailed Sunday’s vote as a resounding endorsement of his government’s efforts to break free of Kremlin influence and shift hard toward Europe. “I asked you to vote for a democratic, reformist, pro-Ukrainian and pro-European majority,” he said in a statement posted on his website after polls closed. “Thank you for having heard and supported this appeal.” Mr. Poroshenko said more than three-quarters of those who voted “powerfully and permanently supported Ukraine’s course toward Europe.” He called the result “a landslide vote of confidence from the people.”
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.
Ukraine on Sunday will hold its first legislative elections since clashes erupted last April between government forces and pro-Russia separatists, who will boycott the vote in the eastern provinces they hold. Kiev has said the boycott in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk will not affect the legitimacy of the process. Before the conflict started, around 6.5 million people lived in the region, around 15 percent of the total population. An estimated one million people have fled the area and sought refuge in neighboring Russia or other Ukrainian regions because of the fighting. “Here, there will be no elections,” said Andrei Purguin, deputy Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Donetsk and Lugansk are scheduled to choose their own parliaments and leaders in a separate election scheduled for November 2. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has stressed the importance of full transparency in the October 26 elections in areas controlled by Kiev in the two rebel regions.
October in Kiev has brought a gorgeous Indian summer. The reprieve from autumn’s slow creep towards winter gives the city a feeling of hope as it prepares for parliamentary elections on 26 October. Ubiquitous political advertisements for the 29 parties running appear to indicate that change is coming. However, a deeper look at the socio-political environment in Kiev suggests that this picture of progress may be a façade. For most Ukrainians, the optimistic political advertisements (which were almost completely absent during the presidential election in May) contrast sharply with their own experiences. The war in Donbass and the worsening economic and social situation are likely to bring more people to parliament with no appetite for dialogue. Rather, many will want to fight — literally — for what they believe is right. Petro Poroshenko’s bloc “party of peace” is the darling of pre-election polls. Ukraine’s president has designed the bloc, which has been campaigning in the name of unity, to include civil activists, soldiers fighting in Donbass, oligarchs’ proxies, traditional regional power brokers and former Party of Regions lawmakers.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has denounced elections which are due to be held in the east of Ukraine in November by rebels. Under a new law signed by the president earlier this week, parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions have been given ‘special status’ with three-year self-rule and can hold elections on 7 December. The separatists have ignored this and set their own date a month earlier for 2 November. Poroshenko has just returned from Milan where he met with EU leaders and Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Russian officials are throwing their support behind Ukrainian separatist rebels’ planned elections for their own parliaments after warnings from Ukrainian leaders in Kiev that no power in the world will recognize the proclaimed independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics.” “It is necessary to create conditions for the elections rather than to dissuade people from them,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich. He was responding to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin’s appeal Thursday for the Kremlin to dissuade its eastern Ukraine proxies from going through with the divisive vote. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko disbanded the Supreme Council in late August and set early nationwide elections for Oct. 26 so that Ukrainians could elect representatives whose political leanings reflect the dramatically changed situation in the country over the last year.
Ukraine’s tenuous truce and troop withdrawal deal lay in tatters on Tuesday after the deadliest wave of attacks by pro-Russian insurgents in more than a month killed nine government soldiers. The surge in clashes across the separatist rust belt spelled an ominous start to campaigning for parties that make the ballot for October 26 parliamentary polls once the registration deadline passes on Tuesday night. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told German Chancellor Angela Merkel — his closest and most powerful European ally — on Monday that Russia was ignoring the terms of a September 5 peace pact the sides sealed in the Belarussian capital Minsk. Poroshenko “stressed that he expected Russia to fulfil its Minsk Protocol obligations: to withdraw forces, ensure the border’s closure, and establish a buffer zone,” the presidency said in a statement.
Ukraine’s newly inaugurated president dissolved the contentious parliament Monday and set early elections for Oct. 26 in a move that will probably put further pressure on the country’s east-west divide. President Petro Poroshenko had promised during his spring electoral campaign to resolve the standoff between parliamentary deputies of his coalition and the loyalists of former President Viktor Yanukovich, who was deposed by a pro-Western rebellion in late February. The act of dissolving the Supreme Council was announced by Poroshenko on the presidential website late Monday and reported by the Ukrinform news agency. Poroshenko said in a statement that the parliament was riven by conflict because many of the deputies were “direct sponsors or accomplices” of the separatists who have seized goverment and security buildings in the Russian-speaking eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Ukraine’s prime minister tendered his resignation on Thursday, berating parliament for failing to pass legislation to take control over an increasingly precarious energy situation and to increase army financing. Earlier on Thursday, two parties quit the government coalition, forcing new elections to a parliament whose make-up has not changed since before the toppling of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich in February. His successor, President Petro Poroshenko, supported the move, which one politician said would clear “Moscow agents” from the chamber. Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk’s resignation could leave a hole at the heart of decision-making as Ukraine struggles to fund a war with pro-Russian rebels in its east and deals with the aftermath of a plane crash that killed 298 people.
Ukraine’s prime minister has launched what promises to be a bitter election campaign that could divide pro-Western parties and complicate their efforts to fight pro-Russian rebels in the country’s east. Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, a key interlocutor of the West during months of turmoil, announced on Thursday he would quit, saying parliament was betraying Ukraine’s army and people by blocking reforms supported by Western backers. His move, following the exit of two parties from the ruling coalition, amounted to the start of a campaign for seats in a legislature still packed with former allies of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich, ousted by protests in February. “History will not forgive us,” Yatseniuk told parliament on Thursday, in what analysts said was the first campaign speech for the party led by Yulia Tymoshenko, a rival of President Petro Poroshenko, who was elected to replace Yanukovich in May. Pro-Western political forces in Ukraine have been bitterly divided almost continuously since the country won independence with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
“AS I set off on a spring journey into the world, my mother embroidered my shirt with two colours: red for love and black for sorrow,” goes a popular Ukrainian song. On May 25th, as Ukrainians went to the polls to elect Petro Poroshenko as their new president, many sported the traditional shirts embroidered with red and black threads. Held in the middle of a war stoked by Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and three months after a revolution in Kiev’s Maidan that led to more than 100 deaths—and cost the country Crimea, which Mr Putin annexed—Ukraine’s presidential election was an act of defiance as much as an expression of political preferences.
Ukraine: Another OSCE election-monitoring team reported missing in eastern Ukraine | The Washington Post
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Friday that another one of its election-monitoring teams is missing in eastern Ukraine after a fierce escalation of violence between pro-Russian separatists and government forces over the past few days since the country’s presidential and mayoral elections. The OSCE said it lost contact with a five-member team of monitors in the Luhansk region Thursday evening. The organization said the five were in addition to four others being held by separatists in the Donetsk region since Monday. Both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions were declared “sovereign” republics by separatists after a disputed May 11 vote on self-rule. The OSCE said it lost contact with the Luhansk monitors, who were traveling in two vehicles, after they were stopped by armed men.
U.N. Security Council members have overwhelmingly praised Sunday’s election in Ukraine, and urged an end to violence and the restoration of calm and national dialogue. Nearly all 15 Council members welcomed President-elect Petro Poroshenko’s election victory and his pledge to reach out to all regions as well as Moscow to restore calm. But Russia’s ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, was more reserved, saying the election was not a “panacea.” U.N. political chief Jeffrey Feltman told the Council that about 60 percent of eligible voters participated in the election. He said international monitors concluded the vote was credible, despite hostilities in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the country. Elections were not held at all in the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula.
It is risky to see hopeful trends in the Ukrainian crisis. But a degree of calm seems to have settled over the rebellious southeast, which may bode well for the presidential election scheduled for Sunday. There are many things Moscow and its minions in Ukraine can still do to derail the election, of course, but President Vladimir Putin of Russia has refrained from publicly endorsing the “people’s republics” proclaimed by secessionists. His spokesman said on Monday that he had ordered Russian troops to pull back from the Ukrainian border, though NATO has not seen any change yet. It is crucial for the vote to be accepted by all sides so Moscow can stop referring to the interim administration as the “illegitimate regime in Kiev,” and the elected president can begin to repair the enormous economic and social damage suffered by Ukraine in recent months. But the election itself will not solve Ukraine’s problems unless a new president can also address the deep corruption and cronyism that have been a hallmark of Ukrainian government since independence in 1991. The front-runner in the presidential race is Petro Poroshenko, a 48-year-old tycoon known as the Chocolate King for his candy empire.
The European Parliament elections and the vote for a new president in Ukraine dominate the agenda this week. Voters in The Netherlands and the UK begin the EP election process on Thursday (22 May), followed by the Czech Republic and Ireland on Friday, four more countries (Italy, Malta, Slovakia, and Lithuania) on Saturday and the rest on Sunday. The results are due at 11pm Brussels time on Sunday. The latest poll, by TNS, indicates the centre-right EPP will slightly increase its lead over the centre-left S&D and that the Liberal group will shrink. Polls also indicate that the number of populist, anti-EU MEPs of various stripes will grow, with the eurosceptic Ukip and the far-right National Front set to become the leading EU parties in the UK and France, respectively. Also on Sunday, Ukrainians will vote for their new president under the eyes of more than 1,000 OSCE monitors, the largest ever election mission by the Vienna-based multilateral body.
After a winter of lightning-fast changes – a president ousted and a peninsula apparently lost to Russia — Ukrainians are beginning to look ahead to elections on May 25 to replace Viktor Yanukovych. The opposition leader who seemed to have the inside track a few weeks ago, ex-world champion heavyweight Vitali Klitschko, has taken himself out of the running. Klitschko will stand for mayor of Kiev and throw his support behind billionaire Petro Poroshenko, who made his fortune in the candy business. Although not widely known in the West, Poroshenko has relatively broad appeal in this deeply divided country. He was a prominent backer of both the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the recent pro-European demonstrations in Kiev’s Independence Square.