Ukraine holds snap parliament election today
President Volodymyr Zelensky's Servant of the People party in spotlight, as he looks to consolidate his powerEuropost
Polls have opened in Ukraine today, with voters electing a new parliament that could consolidate the power of country's new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and hand the former comedy star a stronger mandate for driving change in the war-scarred nation.
A political novice, Zelenskiy caused a political earthquake in April by winning a landslide presidential election victory. He cast himself as an everyman outsider who would tackle corruption and raise living standards in one of Europe’s poorest countries. Yet, he has so far been unable to appoint the ministers he wants as the cabinet and lawmakers he shares power with are mostly loyal to his predecessor Petro Poroshenko.
Hence, the ballot today is of great importance. Whoever wins the election will inherit a country at the center of the West’s standoff with Moscow following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 and its role in a separatist conflict in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine that has killed 13,000 people in the past five years. The new government will also need to implement reforms agreed with international donors, like the EU in order to secure billions of dollars of new loans to keep the economy stable.
So far, Ukrainians appear willing to give Zelenskiy the chance to sweep aside the old guard and bring in fresh blood in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament. Servant of the People has held a commanding opinion poll lead over the Russian-friendly Opposition Platform in second place. However, Zelensky has ruled out working with it in case he needs to form a coalition. Instead he would rather partner with Holos (The Voice) - another new party led by rock star Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, the lead singer of the popular band Okean Elzy.
“By calling an early election, the new president hoped to keep the momentum of his presidential victory going. He is backed in this attempt by a majority of Ukrainians who view parliament as inherently corrupt and have given Mr Zelenskiy a mandate to ‘clean up’ the political class,” Agnese Ortolani of the Economist Intelligence Unit told Reuters.
“We expect Mr Zelenskiy to be given a broad mandate from the Ukrainian people to move forwards with the set of ambitious reforms that he laid out in the first weeks of his presidency,” she added.
In another good news for the president, his predecessor Poroshenko's party - rebranded European Solidarity - is currently polling at about 8%, a little over the 5% threshold needed to enter parliament. This could be particularly humiliating for the former president who, having been trounced by Zelensky in April, is refusing to go quietly from the political scene.