On Sunday, Ukrainians go to the polls to elect a new president, three months after the previous one was deposed in an armed coup. There some are finer details to the poll, making it not something one expects while electing head of a state.
RT takes a look at the underbelly of the Ukrainian presidential campaign, and the people competing for the country’s once-so-coveted highest office.
Presidential powers were considerably reduced in favor of the parliament right after the coup in Kiev. Oligarch Petr Poroshenko is likely to win office, according to public opinion polls. But after swearing an oath he, lacking his own party in the parliament, may find himself deadlocked on governmental decisions with Batkivschina (Fatherland) Party. Batkivshchina has strong contingent of MPs and is headed by Poroshenko’s main competitor, Yulia Tymoshenko.
At one point during the campaign, Tymoshenko threatened to start a new wave of street protests if Poroshenko wins. The barricades erected in central Kiev during the previous round of anti-government protest have not yet been dismantled, so all the necessary facilities for Maidan Round 3 are in place.
Poroshenko and Tymoshenko are just two of 21 candidates whose names made their way on to the ballots. Twenty-three others were barred from running, including Sith Lord Darth Vader. Seven candidates announced they were dropping out of the race during the campaign, notably Vitaly Klitschko, one of the three key opposition figures during the recent public uprising who now wants to be elected mayor of Kiev.
The campaigning in Ukraine was marred by attacks on some candidates, including Oleg Tsarev, a politician with strong ties with the unruly east, who was beaten by alleged nationalist activists. Tsarev is another of those who announced they no longer have presidential ambitions.
Kiev’s troops intensified their assault on the defiant Donetsk and Lugansk Regions on Thursday in the run-up for the election. Acting president Aleksandr Turchinov said the authorities want to “bring peace and serenity” there. The day proved to be one of the bloodiest in Kiev’s confrontation with local armed militias.
The self-proclaimed governments of Donetsk and Lugansk said they would derail the election in their respective regions. But it will be considered valid anyway by Kiev. Actually, it will be considered valid even if it takes place in one constituency only. The new authorities amended the election bill to remove the minimum turnout requirement.
The people, who are branded “separatists” by Kiev, are not the only ones in Ukraine planning to reject the results of the election. The Ukrainian Communist Party is considering a similar move, according to one of its MPs. This may be connected with the fact that the new authorities are considering outlawing it “for separatist actions” – namely criticizing the military campaign in the east – and even kicked all of its MPs out of a parliamentary hearing, where a classified report on the campaign was delivered. Communist leader Petr Simonyenko announced dropping out of the presidential race.
Ukraine routinely bars Russian journalists from entering the country to cover the upcoming election. Accreditation from the Central Election Commission doesn’t help to prove to border control that press or TV crews should be allowed in. RT’s own Spanish and Arabic-language crews were kicked out, as were the crew of VGTRK television, Kommersant daily and an Echo pf Moscow radio correspondent to name a few. The OSCE and human rights organizations have been criticizing Ukraine for oppressing the freedom of speech after the coup.
More than 3,600 foreign observers from 19 countries and 19 international organizations will be monitoring the election. It is unclear how many of them, if any, will be observing the voting in the east, considering Kiev's ongoing military action there. For the first time in modern Ukraine’s history Russia did not send any observers, although some Russia-based human rights groups announced they were monitoring the presidential campaign remotely.
Russian leaders said they would respect the will of the Ukrainian people voiced at the election and would work with whoever is elected just like Moscow is working with the current Ukrainian authorities. Earlier Russian President Putin said that most of the authorities in Kiev are illegitimate or partially legitimate.