Ukraine’s Presidential Election Won’t Mend Fences

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Ukrainians have elected Petro Poroshenko as their next president with 56% of the vote according to exit polls. The West quickly recognized his victory, but Moscow remains cautious. Today Russian Duma members were hesitant to recognize the vote opting to wait for the official results. Nevertheless, Russian Foreign Minister told reporters that Moscow is “open to dialogue” with the Poroshenko but reiterated that military action against separatists in the east must cease.

Which way Ukraine? It’s hard to say. Poroshenko promises to step up the “anti-terrorist operation” and vows to have results “in hours.” “I am not going to hold any dialogues with the criminals. You don’t talk to terrorists,” he said during a victory press conference. “The anti-terrorist operation will not and cannot last for months, it will last just for hours.”

This, of course, is wishful thinking. If anyone thinks the deep divisions that split Ukraine will be solved with Poroshenko’s election or with the violent crushing of separatism is naive. According to a survey by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, released just before the presidential election, Ukraine remains deeply divided. The polls results paint a picture of a Ukrainian east that is drifting father and father away from the rest of the country.

The survey predicted support for Poroshenko and voter turnout waning as you moved east.

Pre-election forecast of support for Petr Poroshenko
Pre-election forecast of support for Petr Poroshenko


Turnout forecast for presidential election
Turnout forecast for presidential election


KIIS prediction was quite close. Here’s the results of voter turnout:


Turnout for Ukrainian presidential election.
Turnout for Ukrainian presidential election.


On this issue of joining the EU or the Customs Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, a slim majority (52.3%) favors joining the EU.



On the status of the Russian language, the majority (65.5%) favors Ukrainian as the official language with Russian allowed as a kitchen language or given some official status in certain regions. However, the people in the east (74.4%) strongly support Russia having official status on par with Ukrainian.



On the question of Ukraine being an unitary or a federal state, the vast majority of those polled (73.4%) favor a unitary state. It’s only in the east were a sizable number (43.8%) want a federal state.



Finally, perception of the situation in the east is divided between east and west. About 42.9% think that the separatists are merely Russian tools, while 22.9% are clearly swayed by Ukrainian state propaganda and think they are terrorists. The belief that Russia is behind it all is highest in the west (69.8%) and northwest (67.7%) In the east, a majority (55.8%) and 37% in Kharkiv view the seizing of government buildings and police stations as a “popular uprising.”



Given these numbers, it’s clear that regardless of the Poroshenko’s victory, it will be hard to mend the divisions in Ukraine. There’s a lot of fences to mend.