No enthusiasm, in support of strong power
On Saturday, Ukraine’s new President, a businessman and a politician, Petro Poroshenko, will take his oath. He was elected in the first round of voting, with a vast majority over his competitors.
One cannot observe a festival of joy in the streets of Ukraine though. People are tired. The comments of voters varied, depending who was asked.
“Maybe this one will not be stealing so much, because he has managed to accumulate wealth elsewhere”, I hear from a Ukrainian colleague of mine studying in Poland. “It’s good that it was the transient government which signed the Association Agreement with the Union because this President might initiate some geopolitical twists, as Yanukovych did”, Natalia adds.
Lack of trust and close vigilance of the President-elect dominate. “I have never supported Poroshenko so I am not objective, but even the followers of Tyahnybok I know have voted for Poroshenko because we quickly need legitimised power, comments Petro, a middle aged man, resident of Kiev.
This perhaps explains the vestigial numbers of votes cast for candidates other than Yulia Tymoshenko, who received 12.8%. Voters did not want to make the mistake of many young democracies and scatter their support in the elections, especially as they were held under an atmosphere of continuous fear of the separatists, with fallen victims, on both sides daily.
“Now people are expecting even firmer actions aimed towards the separatists, they do not want the east to become another Somalia, and Ukraine to be a fallen state, even Akhmetovov does not like it any more” – says Alex, a resident of Kramatorsk. In his first speech, the freshly elected President carefully considered these social expectations and now intends to decisively fight pro-Russian armed groups, the first effects of which are already noticeable.
All this is going on in the presence of incessant Russian media propaganda which is attempting to persuade, on the one hand, that the current changes are not effects of the Maidan, that Poroshenko has won as a result of an accord with Angela Merkel, that he in fact made a deal with Yanukovych, and that everything happens according to one grand scheme. Regrettably, some of my interlocutors are beginning to believe similar theories.
Apart from the anti-terrorist operation run in the east, the new President is facing a lot of challenges. If he does not listen to the social outcry to fight corruption, then he himself may have to confront a Maidan one day. Another challenge is effective decentralisation of power which will make citizens believe that they can determine their fates and the affairs of their communities at the local level. How can one explain to them that it is something completely different from federalisation? How can residents of eastern Ukraine be persuaded that Kiev is not that frightful, that life in a common state is possible?
“If this President does not manage that, several years from now, the nationalists will be back in power”, Natalia concludes.