Brian Mefford

  • Three Predictions for Ukraine’s Presidential Run-off

    Voters knew the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election on March 31 was a freebie, but they will make their vote count in the run-off on April 21. It was clear to the public that there would be no candidate who would receive 50 percent in round one, so Ukrainians were able to vote their conscience as well as send a message to the political establishment. The message was one of disappointment and anger directed toward incumbent President Petro Poroshenko. The incumbent received 16 percent, enough to make the runoff. Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy scored 30 percent, which slightly exceeded expectations. Now that the run-off will produce the next president, voters may be more circumspect this time.  

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  • What to Expect from Ukraine’s Completely Unpredictable Presidential Election

    On March 31, Ukrainians will select their sixth president. The election is seen a referendum on the incumbent Poroshenko administration and his record since the watershed Euromaidan Revolution that decisively moved Ukraine onto a pro-Western path. Polls put political newcomer Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the lead, with Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko fighting for second place. The top two candidates will face off in an April 21 runoff. Here are five predictions about the first round.

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  • Ukraine’s 2019 Elections May Be Completely Unpredictable but Five Things Are Certain

    2019 is election year in Ukraine. Ukrainians will select a new president this spring and a new parliament in the fall. Even though the outcome of the presidential race is unpredictable, there are five things about this political cycle that are not.

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  • Three Things Ukraine Must Do Now If It Wants Clean Elections Next Year

    The parliament renewed Ukraine’s highest election body, the Central Election Commission, ahead of the crucial 2019 general elections.
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  • Q&A: What’s Behind Moldova’s Massive Protests?

    Protesters are taking to the streets of Moldova’s capital of Chisinau again.

    On June 3, Andrei Nastase was elected mayor of Chisinau with 52.5% of the vote. Nastase, a pro-European prosecutor and anti-corruption activist, defeated Socialist Ion Ceban who favors closer ties to Moscow. On June 19, a Chisinau court struck down the election results, and the Moldovan Appeals Court upheld the decision on June 22. The case now rests with the Supreme Court of Justice.

    Nastase claims that the decision to cancel the results is politically motivated. He was one of the organizers behind Moldova’s large protests in 2015 after $1 billion vanished from the banking system.

    Why is an ostensibly pro-Western government in Moldova allowing a court to invalidate these election results? Are the court decisions politically...

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  • Pragmatism Prevails over Populism in Ukraine

    Successful politics is about getting things done. By that standard, October was a successful month. Not only did the government pass sweeping healthcare reform, pension reform, and judiciary reform, it also staved off populist protests. In short, pragmatism prevailed over populism.

    Each of the reforms passed was significant, but healthcare reform was the most far-reaching. This legislation will provide state insurance for all citizens and free medicine to those with chronic diseases; it also promotes the prevention of disease through healthy lifestyles, grants subsidies for internally displaced persons due to the war in the Donbas, and establishes patient-doctor contracts. The overall effect will be substantial: patients will receive better healthcare, the state will provide a safety net, and medical professionals will be able to earn a normal salary based on the number of patients they treat rather than receive a fixed subsistence salary from the state.


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  • Now Is the Time for Electoral Reform in Ukraine

    Ukraine’s parliament has a busy agenda this autumn. Not only is a sweeping healthcare reform package needed to fix the country’s broken system, judicial reform, the creation of a special anticorruption court, and land reform are also pending. In spite of these burning priorities, now is also the best time for parliament to pass electoral reform.

    The next general election is not until 2019, but now is the time to tackle this thorny issue. Ukraine needs electoral reform for the simple reason that the political environment will become progressively more heated in 2018. Every day that passes without electoral reform will make approving those reforms more difficult. Historically, Ukraine has waited until shortly before elections to pass changes. These intentional delays only strengthen corruption and produce self-serving politicians who anger the public. This negative cycle reinforces public cynicism and fuels support for extreme politics—something Ukraine most certainly does...

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  • From Fake News to Fake Opinion

    A few weeks ago, a colleague asked why I was a part of an organization called the Center for Global Strategic Monitoring (also known as the CGS Monitor). Despite working in foreign policy for seventeen years, I had never heard of this organization. Imagine my surprise when I discovered my photograph and biography listed on the CGS Monitor website as one of their “experts.”

    I immediately began searching the website for contact information to request that my name be removed. However, it became clear that there was something fishy about this website. Not only was no mailing address given; the only email contact to be found was a ubiquitous “info@” address. My email requesting that my name be removed has never been answered and the website continues to list me as one of their experts.

    As a political consultant in Kyiv and a senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, I follow politics in Eastern Europe...

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  • Tymoshenko and Kolomoyskyi Score Wins in Ukraine’s Special Elections

    Populism is on the rise in Ukraine, so it’s little surprise that Fatherland party leader Yulia Tymoshenko and oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi gained the most seats in Ukraine’s special parliamentary elections on July 17. Elections were held in seven districts across the country. Fatherland candidates won in Kherson and Poltava, while Kolomoyskyi's candidate won in Volyn and was leading narrowly in Ivano-Frankivsk. While no Poroshenko bloc candidates won, two independent candidates are likely to join the faction.

    Sunday’s results will increase the ranks of both Tymoshenko’s and Kolomoyskyi's factions in parliament. Kolomoyskyi's Renaissance faction will increase to twenty-five members and Tymoshenko's Fatherland will grow to twenty-one members. The Poroshenko bloc lost three seats. While some ballots are still being counted, the one clear signal is that competitive elections are alive and well in Ukraine.

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  • The Savchenko Effect

    The release from a Russian prison and return of helicopter pilot Nadiya Savchenko to Ukraine has ignited speculation about her future political plans. Elected as the first candidate on the party list of Yulia Tymoshenko’s bloc in the October 2014 parliamentary elections, Savchenko immediately entered politics upon her return to Ukraine.

    Savchenko’s initial speeches focused primarily on the war in the Donbas. About her personal ambitions, she went as far as to state, “Ukrainians, if you want me to be president—well, I’ll do it.” She appeared at a press conference at the Fatherland Party headquarters soon after returning, and promptly joined the Fatherland faction in parliament.

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