Espreso. Global

Zelenskyy goes to elections. Why you can sympathize with him

2 September, 2023 Saturday

What everyone has been expecting for a long time has happened. Volodymyr Zelenskyy has confirmed that he will run for the second term, if elections are held in 2024. So it remains to think seriously if they are possible amid an intense war

The first thing that should be noted is that Ukraine's key foreign partners are increasingly asking about elections. The latest is the American Republican politician Lindsey Graham. And no, he should not be thoughtlessly labeled a Trumpist. He is a colonel in the US Army, a veteran of the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also a consistent friend of Ukraine and a lobbyist for Ukrainian issues in the Republican Party.

During his recent visit to Ukraine, he stated that "the elections should take place even despite the Russian invasion to show the changes that have taken place in the country in recent years."

"I want free and fair elections to take place in this country, even while it is under attack. The American people need to know that Ukraine has changed. In the past, it was a very corrupt country," emphasized Lindsey Graham.

On the one hand, such a statement is useful for US domestic policy ahead of its own elections. As of now, it is not entirely clear whether Trump and Biden will fight for the White House again. And to the extent that the Republicans strengthen their presence in power, it will have an important impact on the supply of weapons, money to Ukraine and sanctions policy against Russia. 

Secondly, Volodymyr Zelenskyy was reminded that US intelligence and the government are closely monitoring the weapons and funds that are being transferred to Ukraine amid ongoing procurement and nepotism scandals in the Servants of the People.

"We follow every dollar, every piece of weaponry. We continue to make our contribution. And I am pleased that Ukrainians are not profiting from the American people. They are helping the American people. And I think it's time for Ukraine to take the next step in its democracy, which is to hold elections in 2024," the influential U.S. senator said very clearly. This was the rhetoric of a professional who understands military logistics. And he knows the current prices for various types of weapons, the purchase of which in Ukraine is classified as "secret."

How does this relate to the election and Zelenskyy's presidential intentions? Directly. The spring elections of 2019 were a cakewalk and a search for bright hopes and new faces from the common people. These times call for clear plans, decisive action, and a minimum of comedy and entertainment series. 

If Zelenskyy's 2019 election program was based on fun walks around Kyiv and gym videos, this is not the case anymore. Now, it's about sweat, blood, tears, and answers to very difficult questions: from "Why does Yermak have so much power?" to "Was it possible to reliably mine Chonhar?"

Bankova Street (president’s office - ed.) regularly measures the current ratings of its own political force and those who may become competitors for parliamentary seats. Now, it is not enough to say "I will not abandon my country" - show what you have done for it. And excuse me, in the second year of the war of destruction, for trying to destroy the Ukrainian people and nullify its sovereignty, it is not enough to say that your greatest achievement is that you did not run away. With a second term, Zelenskyy is unlikely to have a mono-majority in the Verkhovna Rada, which means he will face difficult times, like late Yushchenko, pre-Maidan Yanukovych, and Petro Poroshenko in 2017-2019.

The second thing is how to conduct these elections. The Presidential Office would like to hold the elections through Diia app, and this is what bloggers friendly to Bankova have been promoting for some time. However, Ukraine's Western partners are against it, and frankly, the Internet can be used to make Mykola Tyshchenko and Mariana Bezuhla look like sinless angels.

Live elections require solving a number of problems, such as safe voting places and protection of election commissioners. And finally, will the most trustworthy people, the military of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, be eligible for election? These people were half the force in the 2014 elections and graced the lists of literally every party. It would be unfair if TV generals, pilots-actors from the Mukhtar TV series, and God forgive Povorozniuk, were to enter politics under the guise of soldiers.

Next, a very important issue that needs to be resolved right now is how to divide the map of Ukraine into electoral districts. Because Transcarpathia will be safer than voting in the border and frontline Kharkiv. Where should safe voting places be organized? Because in Kharkiv, you can arrange several polling stations in the subway. But there are serious issues with Sumy and Chernihiv - and the recent hit of the Iskander missile at the drama theater showed this very well.

A separate issue is the voting of Ukrainian citizens abroad. As of now, we are talking about 5.2 million people. If we count only adults with the right to vote, it is still several million voters. Ukrainian consulates do not have the physical capacity to accept such a number of voters, so the question arises as to whom to hire, at least in the largest cities. And a separate issue is how to protect the elections from the direct and indirect influence of Russian agents, who would gladly take the opportunity to get their people into parliament.

Zelenskyy and his mono-majority must address these issues now. Because their fate will directly depend on the outcome of the war and the maintenance of democracy. 

I do not envy Zelenskyy. Because you can see how much this tired man differs from the TV star of 2019. Being a candidate who wins an election on the hype of expectation of change and being the president of the darkest wartime are different things.

"In 15 minutes after the end of martial law, people will come to ask for everything," says Yuriy Nikolov, a well-known investigative journalist. And this is the sincere truth. Zelenskyy will not even have a chance to get a job as an ambassador somewhere else.

Specially for Espreso

About the author: Maryna Danyliuk-Yarmolaieva, journalist

The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the authors of blogs.

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