Billionaire Petro Poroshenko won his bid for Ukraine’s presidency in elections held on May 25 that adhered to international standards for fairness and transparency, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Known as the “chocolate king” for his confectionary business, analysts describe Poroshenko’s views as pro-Western. Poroshenko reiterated his commitment to European integration at a recent press conference.
Ukraine held presidential elections after citizens ousted the pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych when he reneged on his promise to sign an association agreement with the European Union. Pro-European integration protests ensued in the country and turned violent.
Since then, Russian President Vladimir Putin has annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula following a referendum widely described as a sham in the West and Ukraine. Violence began to spread in Ukraine, fueled by pro-Russian factions, especially in the southeast regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
International election observers noted voter intimidation and an overall difficult security situation in Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea, which prevented some voters from participating in the elections on May 25.
However, observers said the election was an overall success. According to Ukraine’s central elections commission, about 60 percent of Ukraine's 35.5 million eligible voters participated in the election.
“The United States congratulates the people of Ukraine and the Ukrainian government for their historic elections on May 25,” said Secretary of State John Kerry in an official statement. “Ukrainians united to express their political will freely and to choose their own future together. The large turnout sends a clear message: the Ukrainian people want to live in a united, democratic, and peaceful Ukraine anchored in European institutions.”
However, many deputies in Russia’s parliament and other Russian politicians refused to publically comment on the elections the day after it was held, according to Russian BBC.
“We are ready for dialogue with Kiev representatives, ready to dialogue with Peter Poroshenko,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. “The only thing I would really not want, is that the declared-by them readiness for dialogue was preconditioned by internal reservations, such as in particular, he mentioned that he will ready for dialogue with the mediation of the European Union and the United States.”
One author opined in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Kremlin’s official newspaper, that the Ukrainians had no choice in the election and the West had pre-determined the election’s results.
“They [the Ukrainians] were denied the right to independently, without assistance, elect the head of government,” wrote author Evgeniy Shestakov. “Not one of the 21 candidates remaining on the lists could boast having conducted a full campaign. Not one had the ‘luck’ to pass through the southeast of the country to meet with voters. Not one was able to willing to offer at least a minimally coherent recipe for ending the civil war.”
Russian experts highlighted two features of the presidential campaign in Ukraine according to Shestakov: “The first is the small budgets spent on advertising, which was understandable: why spend money when the West has already named the winner. And the second is the appeals from the leaders of the race to the voters not to vote for outsiders, to end the elections with the first round. At the same time, Europe and the U.S. threatened Russia with sanctions if it were to question the integrity of such a vote and not recognize the Western stooge installed by the Kiev principality.”
Putin’s former economic adviser and his vocal critic Andrei Illarionov expressed a different view, according to the Kiev Times.
“The most important result of the Ukrainian presidential election is not that Poroshenko was elected president … [it]is the formal-legal death of Putin’s myth about the so-called ‘split’ of Ukraine into the western-central and southeastern parts, of ‘westerners’ and Russian speakers,” Illarionov said.
“For the first time in two decades of elections in independent Ukraine, the head of state was elected not by residents of Ukraine’s East against votes of residents in its West, and not the votes of residents in the West against the votes of residents in the East,” he said. “For the first time, Ukraine’s president was chosen with all the voices of Ukraine and the votes from residents of all of Ukraine’s major macro regions.”