What to expect from Zelensky, Ukraine’s comedian likely next president?
The first round of the Ukrainian presidential elections has taken place on the last day of March with Volodymyr Zelensky taking over 30 percent of the vote and the incumbent Petro Poroshenko trailing at 16 percent. Zelensky, a TV comedian, has become the favorite for the second round later this month, triggering debates over the seriousness and maturity of Ukrainian politics.
Propelling a candidate, with a program that does not contain many details and was likely unknown to many voters, to the second round might seem as immature. On the other hand, the first round was considered to be more open and fairer than any previous presidential election.
Pro-Russian candidates Yuriy Boyko and Oleksandr Vilkul, advocating rapprochement with Russia, received only 16 percent of the vote combined. Unlike in the previous presidential elections, the race was not between a pro-Western and pro-Russian candidate. Both Zelensky and Poroshenko have pledged to continue the country’s pro-Western orientation. Zelensky’s anti-corruption campaign did not generate the traditional east-west divide along the Dnieper river. He has a rather evenly distributed support across the country, except for the pro-Poroshenko western regions and pro-Boyko eastern regions.
Today, Zelensky is the overwhelming favourite going into the second round which will take place on 21 April. It is unclear what to expect from the political newcomer. His policy positions are quite scarce in the campaign so far. He is promising a corruption purge and solving the conflict with Russia-backed separatists in Donbas but offering little detail. Many are worried that Zelensky will be a puppet of Igor Kolomoisky, an oligarch in conflict with Petro Poroshenko.
Local elections show cracks in Erdogan’s support
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s public support experienced a considerable blow in the local elections that took place in Turkey on 31 March. Despite its overall victory with over 42 percent, Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost control of the major cities.
Statement @TimmermansEU on need for Pres. Erdogan to respect election results in Ankara & Istanbul.
— Kati Piri (@KatiPiri) April 6, 2019
Seven out of twelve biggest cities, including Ankara, Izmir or Antalya, fell to the hands of the opposition, namely the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Both AKP and CHP initially claimed victory in Istanbul after very close election results. After claiming several violations of electoral conduct, the AKP requested recounting of votes.
From the results available so far, CHP claimed victory in Istanbul. However, AKP has already applied for cancellation of the elections in the city. Losing Istanbul would be an economically painful and symbolic defeat for Erdoğan and his party since the president started his political career as a mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s.
While the local elections, appointing members of city councils and mayors, have little effect on the general course of Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy, these elections were watched with great interest in Turkey as well as around the world. They were considered by many to be a sort of referendum about Erdoğan and the way he has been running the country since becoming president in 2014.
Erdoğan is often criticized for the economic hardships that Turkey has been experiencing, especially in the last months, as well as for his autocratic and Islamic tendencies undermining the democratic and secular foundations of the country. He is accused of straying the country away from the vision of the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal.
Escalation in Tripoli threatens peace in Libya
Libya has seen an escalation of violence as Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) are trying to capture Tripoli and regain military control of the country. Since Thursday, Haftar’s forces have been attacking the capital from the south and west. Reports say that clashes between Haftar’s rebels and pro-government groups are taking place in three suburbs of the city and the rebels insist on having captured Tripoli’s international airport. U.S. forces were ordered to evacuate from Libya`s capital on Sunday.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres came to Tripoli last week to conclude arrangements for a two-day UN conference. It was scheduled on April 14 to outline a way for new elections that are planned later in 2019. However, the conference was officially postponed due to fighting in the area. Guterres urged to avoid bloody confrontation around the capital.
The UN insisted that the peace talks continue. However, the ongoing clashes could threaten efforts to achieve a compromise. The UN Security Council has warned Haftar from the escalation of violence, claiming such a situation would have consequences.
New #ChartOfTheWeek: As violence flares in #Libya, European and Libyan search and rescue #SAR activities shrank to a minimum following Italy’s decision to refuse the disembarkation of vessels carrying rescued #migrants. By @Lurasche pic.twitter.com/zSB5JWaUWt
— Delors Institut Berlin (@DelorsBerlin) April 10, 2019
Graphic image source: WikimediaCommons
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a bi-weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into a broader context.
Responsible editor Ondřej Zacha
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Authors: Jan Fridrichovský, Ivan Iliev & Luboš Přikryl
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