Ukraine 2019

  • If Zelenskyy’s Serious about Reform, He’ll Ditch the Cronies

    Recent polls forecast that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s political party, Servant of the People, may take 43 percent in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, or 30 percent less than he won in the April presidential race.

    There are more competitors than in the presidential race but another reason has to do with Ihor Kolomoisky.

    Read More
  • Rise of the Zelennials: Ukraine’s Parliamentary Elections Signal Generational Shift

    Ukrainians are set to vote out the vast majority of current MPs on July 21 in parliamentary elections that will mark a generational shift in the country’s political landscape and hand unprecedented power to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The election is a continuation of the ballot box revolution that began earlier this year when almost three-quarters of Ukrainian voters backed forty-one-year-old political novice Zelenskyy for the presidency over his experienced but tainted rival. The message is unmistakable: after almost three decades of chronic corruption and repeated false starts, voters want fundamental change and are willing to gamble with the country’s future in order to get it.

    Polls predict Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party will secure around 45 percent of votes. Much like Zelenskyy himself, most of the future MPs poised to represent his party in the Rada are unknown, with the list of candidates containing a mix


    Read More
  • Ukraine’s Most Important Election Is Sunday. Here's What to Expect

    On July 21, Ukrainians go back to the ballot box to choose a new parliament. In April, voters made comedian and political novice Volodymyr Zelenskyy president. The outcome of Sunday’s parliamentary elections will determine Ukraine’s geopolitical course and policy choices over the next five years. As a long-time Ukraine hand, I offer seven predictions:

    First, Zelenskyy’s popularity is strong and his Servant of the People party will take a near majority. I expect it to win about 120 party-list seats and up to 100 seats in single-mandate districts. (A party needs 226 seats to form a majority.) The Servant of the People brand is lifting many of the party’s candidates in districts and putting them close to victory. The Party of Regions won a record 111 single-mandate seats in 2012. If Servant of the People matches that number, it’ll likely result in an outright majority in the next parliament.

    Read More
  • The Politics of Revenge

    The contest for control of Ukraine’s parliament has been just as bitter and divisive as the recent acrimonious presidential race that resulted in a landslide victory for political novice Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Ominously, beneath the surface, the parliamentary battle has been as much about revenge as about transformation.

    This preoccupation with settling scores and seeking to influence the pace and direction of change is an inevitable feature of the major reconfiguration of political forces underway. But there is a danger that if vengeance is allowed to fester, the need for unity and cooperation in the name of the general good will be obscured.

    Read More
  • Who Will Be Ukraine’s Next Prime Minister?

    In less than two weeks, Ukraine will hold its most important election of the year. On July 21, Ukrainians will elect a new parliament, which will form a new government. Much rides on the outcome of the race. It will determine whether Ukraine continues down a pro-Western and reform-oriented path or remains mired in the post-Soviet swamp that has held it back since 1991.

    Ukraine is now the poorest country in Europe, even poorer than Moldova; one-fifth of its workforce has gone abroad in search of higher wages and its birthrates are declining. Russia occupies parts of eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and there’s no obvious diplomatic fix to compel Russia to leave. Meanwhile, the country needs a new IMF program focusing on structural reforms as its massive Yanukovych-era debt comes due. The last five years brought some reform but lackluster economic performance, and Ukrainians are justifiably angry; they expect their novice president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to improve their bottom line


    Read More
  • Will Zelenskyy Succeed?

    Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been president of Ukraine for more than a month now. He has met the leaders of Canada, France, and Germany, and made a number of moves, from dismissing the parliament and calling for early elections to rebuffing Vladimir Putin’s talk of giving Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens.

    In less than two weeks, Zelenskyy’s new political party is likely to sweep the July 21 parliamentary elections, giving Zelenskyy and his party unprecedented control of the presidency and the next government. 

    While Zelenskyy and his party look terrifically strong after trouncing the incumbent by a nearly three to one margin, the new president’s political position remains extremely fragile as he faces more challenges and pressure than his predecessors did.   

    Read More
  • Finally a New Window of Investment Opportunity in Ukraine?

    For many years, Ukraine’s leaders recognized that the country needed more foreign investment to achieve robust economic growth, and its various governments attempted to promote investment. These efforts mostly involved trade outreach conferences where investment opportunities were presented to Western business audiences. The emphasis was invariably on Ukraine’s highly educated population, its tremendous natural resources, the country’s high level of under-investment, and the opportunities provided by its strategic European location.

    Unfortunately, these efforts had a low level of success, and the inflow of foreign direct investment in Ukraine languished. Over the post-Maidan period, the average investment inflow averaged around $2.5 billion, representing only 2.3 percent of GDP. In comparison, Poland, a neighboring country with roughly the same number of people, has investment inflows of almost $16 billion; Canada, which is


    Read More
  • What Ukraine's New Parties Bring to the Table

    June has been challenging month to keep up with Ukraine’s vibrant politics. Numerous new political parties—Servant of the People, Holos, Might and Honor, Ukrainian Strategy, and others—held party conventions and presented their candidates and programs for snap parliamentary elections slated for July 21.

    Let’s take a look at the three most important newcomers to the race.

    Read More
  • Zelenskyy Starts Off on the Right Foot with the Business Community

    “I obviously mistook the dress code,” confessed Viacheslav Klymov standing tieless onstage where Ukraine’s president sat clad in his Sunday-best in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 20. The newly-elected president replied to the head of the Union of Ukrainian Entrepreneurs not to fret and instantly removed his own tie in front of the audience of seven hundred business leaders. As the president next welcomed me on stage, I inquired whether I should also detach my neckwear. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy teasingly replied: “It’s OK. Your tie is green.”  

    Zeleny in Ukrainian means green. It was the color of the extremely successful election campaign that brought the new president to power one month ago with a whopping 73 percent of the vote.

    Read More
  • One Month into the Zelenskyy Presidency and Ukraine’s Still Here

    Volodymyr Zelenskyy became Ukraine’s sixth president on May 20. The political neophyte’s election raised a host of questions about lack of governing experience, connections to oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, the composition of his inner circle, and his priorities once in office. One month into Zelenskyy’s presidency, those questions still require answers, and we have yet to see much in the way of policies as the political focus has turned to the parliamentary elections. However, his pronouncements largely have been reassuring. The US government appears cautiously optimistic and has invited him to visit Washington.

    Read More