Volodymyr Zelensky has been elected President of Ukraine in crushing defeat to incumbent Petro Poroshenko
Now it is official. The comedian Volodymyr Zelensky is the next President of Ukraine. While many observers and foreign experts are still astonished about the political experiment and public courage to put an unexperienced TV Star into the highest and most powerful political office in the country, it is first and foremost a demonstration of a powerful, energetic and lively democracy. That is good news. Neither the money, nor the political power or the control of the media, nor the patriotic staging could stop the crushing and deserved defeat of Petro Poroshenko. It is a message of great hope for a country who deserves a better leadership and future. Zelensky was right when he turned to other former Soviet Republics after the victory yesterday by telling them that indeed everything is possible. Accordingly, this election could turn into a harbinger for other countries alike.
As is with all dreams, the morning after a transformation of blurring pictures of hope and glory into purpose and hard work needs to start. And it will crucially depend on the next months, whether the dreams of so many supporters can be turned into a better reality of their lives. By appointing a truly forward-looking Government, by preparing elections to turn Parliament into an arena of trust and commitment and to dis-own it from oligarchs, and by selecting people for key positions in the country gifted and willing to energetically move the country forward.
After the Maidan protests and the ousting of President Yanukovich, Poroschenko had five years to prove that he understood what the people of Ukraine needed and were longing for and to act accordingly. He did not. As a result of his and his Government’s failure, the country today and its inhabitants are poorer, the territory is smaller, the conflict in the East has not ended, the Oligarchy is still in full power, and a selected group of people have amassed more wealth on foreign bank accounts. Another loss of time and betrayal of simple Ukrainians. Zelensky’s rise to power is the shameful sentence of complete failure on Poroschenko’s term.
The US, the European Union, and the international institutions would do well to listen carefully to the messages of the people, too. It is not wise nor efficient to only aim at stabilizing a counterpole and political bulwark against Russia. It is not the artificial language topic that keeps the Ukrainians awake at night, in a country where Russian is a dear mother tongue to many. It is also not the creation of an independent church that advances a country, where many have a decade long relation to their priests and parishes and the proximity to the Russian church is a century-long tradition. It is not even the fighting in the East and the annexation of Crimea by Russia or the demonization of President Putin and the Russian people in a country, where most have family ties to Russia and the Russian culture and traditions are embedded in everyday life. It is also not the accession to the EU or NATO that can rally people behind a common purpose or keep the young and energetic in the country.
No. It is like so often the economy, stupid. The harsh reality of money in the pocket and sheer survival at the end of the month. To get closer to European living standards is what people are dreaming about, and that students and young workers can stay in Ukraine with a perspective of development and modest wealth, and do not have to leave the country in millions to Poland, Canada or other countries to realize a decent life. The things that need to be done, are clear for thirty years, and it will depend on the political will of Zelensky and his key management team of Ukraine, whether they finally take the necessary steps and transform a country of endless potential into a country with a better future for the many and not bigger cash stacks for the few:
- Bring in politicians who think first about their country
- Simplify rules and regulations in all areas of society
- Reduce state administration and bureaucracy on all levels
- Build an independent judiciary
- Ensure property rights
- Stop corruption
- Break up Oligarchy
- Clawback unjust profits from corruption and bring criminals to justice
- Normalize relations with Russia
- Build the economic and societal foundation prior to a discussion of EU or NATO membership
The first twelve months for Zelensky will be crucial and he will need to be brutal to bring this change to his country against enormous, powerful, well organized and wealthy resistance. The necessary political will and perseverance for such an undertaking cannot and should not be underestimated, as well as the necessary luck and foresight he will need to choose the right people for his team from the many advisors who will come forward now. As a reward and result, Ukraine has the prospect to become more European, with young Ukrainians wanting to build their personal future in this country, and separatists in the East getting under pressure to reunite with a booming Ukraine. In that case, Ukraine can turn into one of the hottest global investment locations for many years to come, and the coming Easter week a herald for the resurrection of the country.