The second round of the Ukrainian elections are this Sunday.
* Zelensky is almost certainly going to win (PredictIt has had him at ~95% for weeks now). It looks like he is going to blow Poroshenko out, probably something like Zelensky 67% vs. Poroshenko 30%.
* Unless plans change I’ll be discussing the Ukrainian elections live on Prosvirnin’s stream on Sunday evening (Moscow time).
* Two things that can save Poroshenko: (1) Last minute disqualification of Zelensky; (2) Еlectoral fraud on a scale that puts anything Putin/United Russia has done to shame.
The first will very likely lead to another Maidan, though in the eastern cities, not Kiev. There is currently a last minute court case to disquality Zelensky as a candidate based on alleged vote buying. It seems to be the private initiative of a svidomy lawyer and its unclear whether it would even have the appropriate jurisdictional strength.
The second will have the same result, but it is even more impractical, because Poroshenko looks like a loser, and the bureaucrats at the Central Electoral Commissions and the teachers/government workers manning the counting booths are not going to stick their necks out for someone who will almost certainly be gone soon.
* DEBATE. I watched the Poroshenko vs. Zelensky debate in Kiev’s main football stadium on April 19.
Main takeaway from Ukrainian debates is the very low level of political culture there. Even US prez. debates look cerebral in comparison. It’s how I imagine such debates go in Third World tinpot democracies.
There was precisely *zero* discussion of policy.
Just insults and mudslinging over who stole more money and dumb theatrics like kneeling to display respect to Donbass veterans (for anyone interested in the details: Poroshenko knelt to the vets in his team on one knee, Zelensky knelt before the assembled crowd on both knees).
Since Poroshenko is an oligarch as opposed to just being sponsored by one, and was in power these past five years, fights over who stole more was not a “debate” that he could win.
For his part, Zelensky said he will continue Poroshenko’s program – he specifically praised the Army reforms, the abortive creation of the Ukrainian Church, the bezviz, etc. – but he would do it better and will less corruption.
He would also end the war, but also somehow return not just the Donbass but even Crimea. How he would accomplish any of that was not specified. These are germane questions, since just like Poroshenko, he has also said he will not abide by Minsk II.
I think these were pretty much the only soundbytes that actually touched on policy however tangentially. All the rest was slights and insults, grandstanding, and veiled (and not so veiled) threats to imprison the other guy.
There were some deluded people on Twitter who thought that these Ukrainian debates would influence or “inspire” Russians, get them to start asking why they can’t also have such performances. First, there are plenty of circuses in Russia, so that’s a factually incorrect premise from the very start. Second, Russia even has political debates during elections. They are nothing to write home about either, but even so, the typical debate between the commie, LDPR, and liberal representative actually has significantly more substance than this Ukrainian zoo. Yes, Putin doesn’t participate in these debates. But he is not legally required to. And there is no point for an incumbent President with vastly higher approval ratings than any of his competitors to engage in debates. If Poroshenko’s and Zelensky’s approval ratings were reversed, it is extremely unlikely that Poroshenko would have debated him either. As it was, that was Poroshenko’s only chance – however far-fetched – of reversing the awning disparity in ratings between them, and he failed.
* Real Junta When? Ukrainian military is not happy with Zelensky for calling LDNR separatists “rebels” during his debate with Poroshenko, as opposed to “terrorists.” This really triggered the svidomy, even though Internet sleuths have since uncovered plenty of occasions on which Poro has called them “rebels” himself. Anyhow, I will be genuinely impressed with the Ukraine if they go ahead and do a military coup, but I’m sure they’ll disappoint as usual.
«We do not have «rebels». We have Russian aggression» – reminder of the President of Ukraine – Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Armed Forces of Ukraine will not forget and will not forgive about that. Never!!! pic.twitter.com/YvrNIumoxZ
— Генеральний штаб ЗСУ (@GeneralStaffUA) April 19, 2019
Anyhow, on a more serious note, with political capital in the form of 70% of the vote, I don’t see Zelensky getting seriously challenged in the near future.
* As I wrote in my previous post, this summer-autumn will likely see Russia begin to give out Russian passports to LDNR residents on a massive scale, creating a Transnistria situation.
Possibly Zelensky can prevent this by recomitting to Minsk II – autonomy within the Ukraine, and amnesty for rebel fighters – but I don’t think he’ll be able to do this even if he wanted to. Like Trump, he has been painted as a Russian stooge even though he is nothing of the sort, so there’s a chance that – if anything – he will have to take a harder line on the Donbass than Poroshenko, who has barked a lot but hasn’t bit much since 2015. Accepting Russian citizenship implies losing Ukrainian citizenship, paving the way for nominally legal mass deportations of Ukraine’s problematic Donbass citizens into Russia in the wake of any future Operation Storm. This is not something that Russia could politically accept. So – five years after the initial optimism and referenda on joining Russia in May 2014 – it looks like we might finally get a timeline for the Donbass’ journey home.