Exhausted by corruption, suffering from the war with Russian-backed militants, dependent on aid from international organizations worth billions of dollars, Ukraine puts hard problems before their next President, writes the New York Times and the Associated Press.
Sunday’s elections, which will require a second round if none of the 39 candidates obtains an absolute majority, will take place five years after massive protests forced Pro-Russian President to flee the country. These shocks led to the fact that Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, to the separatist conflict in Eastern Ukraine, which killed more than 13,000 people, and to the economic downturn.
Newspaper and Agency represent some of at stake when Ukraine elects a new President:
Endemic corruption was one of the key complaints about the President, deposed in 2014, and remains under his successor, Petro Poroshenko. The corruption perception index of Transparency International shows that Ukraine is on 120 place among 188 countries, which has a clean government, little improvement in recent years, but still in the neighborhood with such strange countries as Niger and Mali.
Poroshenko has initiated some anti-corruption measures demanded by the international monetary Fund for loans worth billions of dollars. But this month the efforts of experts was dealt a significant blow when the main anti-corruption law was declared unconstitutional. State defense companies, meanwhile, are embroiled in a corruption scandal.
Candidates have promised various stringent measures against corruption, including mandatory life imprisonment for fraud in the defense industry, lifetime bans on public office and a one-time tax Amnesty for hidden assets. But corruption is so widespread that such measures can give a small effect, while the growing public discontent requires more decisive action.
All the leading candidates have promised that they will seek Ukraine’s membership in the European Union, but the EU seems to not want to see in their ranks a country that cannot or will not fight corruption.
Key candidates also advocate that Ukraine has sought NATO membership, which would be anathema to Russia and could impede attempts to resolve other tensions such as the war in Eastern Ukraine and Russia’s seizure of 24 Ukrainian sailors, in the past year.
The prospects for any resolution of the conflict in the East is unclear, though the key candidates of different approaches to solving problems.
Poroshenko, who wants a second term, in favor of the so-called negotiations in the Normandy format in Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, although these negotiations were practically fruitless. Yulia Tymoshenko wants to hold negotiations between the signatories of the Budapest Memorandum, which calls to respect the territorial integrity of former Soviet republics that have abandoned their nuclear weapons, even though Russia has violated the Treaty when it annexed Crimea.
Upstart Vladimir Zelensky said that the issue can be resolved only through direct negotiations with Russia. This idea was positively covered in Russia, which suggests that Moscow is seeking a way out of the conflict, which is costly by international sanctions against Russia.
QUALITY OF LIFE
Daily life for many Ukrainians poor and bleak – the average wage is only $ 350 per month. Thus, a 25 percent increase in the price of natural gas last year was a serious blow for many households.
Tymoshenko compared it to “genocide” and promised to reduce gas prices by 50 percent or more. But it may lead to disapproval from the international financial institutions that Ukraine aid; higher prices meets the requirements of the rationalization of the gas market.
The Ukrainian health care system is mostly unchanged from the Soviet era were notoriously poor, especially outside major cities. Reforms are ongoing, but some candidates say that the changes are inadequate and impede access to General practitioners. Tymoshenko and Zelensky propose to introduce insurance medicine.
Ukraine’s economy is recovering after a severe recession which it experienced after the turmoil of 2014, but GDP is still significantly below the 2013 level. The willingness of the next President to reform – the composition of the new Parliament elected in September – likely to help or hinder investors. In front of the presidential vote economists had forecast a modest growth of about 2.5% per year, which complicates the projected inflation at around 10%.
Poroshenko may indicate economic improvement during his term, including the growth of foreign direct investment. Zelensky calls to simplify the tax code and eliminate obstacles for new businesses that “you could open a business in an hour”. Tymoshenko promised to halve the tax on employers and redirect the Ukrainian economy from dependence on raw materials to manufacture finished products.
Regardless of who wins, the election will be an important test of Ukraine’s commitment to an orderly democracy, influencing the trust of citizens to authorities and international partners.