Strategic observation

News Analysis: Ukraine's upcoming presidential elections expected to be fierce

2018-12-05 13:33:31 (Beijing Time)         English.news.cn

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KIEV, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- The Ukrainian parliament issued a decree last week, saying the next presidential elections in Ukraine will be held on March 31, 2019. This means that the electoral campaign will start at the end of this month.

Faced with low voter enthusiasm and no clear winner among the candidates, local analysts expect a fierce battle for power in the election.

ATMOSPHERE OF DISTRUST

Nov. 26 was an uneasy day for Ukraine as the country's parliament approved a bill to impose martial law in the country's 10 regions mainly bordering Russia for 30 days.

Initially, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko proposed imposition of the law for 60 days, triggering speculations that it may lead to a postponement of the presidential elections, which were preliminarily slated for March 31, 2019.

Poroshenko amended the period of the law after consultations with the parliament.

"It is important that Poroshenko finally offered to introduce the martial law for 30 days instead of 60 days in order to hold the elections on the scheduled date," Natalya Belitser, an analyst at Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy, told Xinhua.

Unlike the 2014 presidential race, when Ukrainians were full of hopes that the political newcomers will bring positive changes to the country, now people have fewer expectations for the upcoming elections, according to local media reports and analysts.

"Currently, the atmosphere of frustration and total distrust of the all potential candidates reigns in Ukraine. None of the candidates has a high rating," Mykhailo Svystovych, an expert at the non-government organization Vidsich, said.

With weak approval ratings of all presidential candidates, the 2019 presidential vote is likely to see a record low voter turnout.

According to the latest opinion poll, conducted by the sociological group "Rating," only 34 percent of Ukrainians are firmly determined to cast their ballots in next year's elections.

In the 2014 presidential elections, the voter turnout was 59.5 percent, while it stood at about 67 percent in 2010.

Some local analysts believe that the low voter enthusiasm would be one of the main challenges for the election process.

POTENTIAL WINNERS

Although Ukraine's incumbent president has not officially announced his intention to run for a second term, local analysts have no doubts he would participate in the elections.

"Currently, Poroshenko is taking steps that indicate his firm intention to run for president. For example, he has finalized the sale of his businesses and began a number of strategic projects regarding church, cooperation with NATO and the European Union," Igor Solovey, an international observer with local online media outlet LB.ua, said.

Opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko, who is widely viewed as a frontrunner in the presidential race, is now actively carrying out her campaign.

Tymoshenko promised her voters to adopt a new Ukrainian Constitution, in a bid to "de-monopolize power," cut utility tariffs, raise salaries and end the conflict in Ukraine's eastern region of Donbas, which started in April 2014 after government forces launched offensives to regain control of the cities and towns seized by independence-seeking armed groups.

According to various opinion polls, Poroshenko and Tymoshenko have the highest approval ratings among potential voters. However, neither of them is expected to bypass the 50-percent threshold needed to avoid a run-off.

"I think that the 2019 elections are likely to be held in two rounds. At least at the moment, there is no sign that any of the potential candidates has a chance to win in the first round," Oleksandr Musienko, head of the Center for Military and Law Research, said.

A recent survey conducted by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology showed that Tymoshenko would receive 12.7 percent of voter support if the elections take place in the near future, while 6.3 percent of the respondents would vote for Poroshenko.