Putin is Pleased
Ukrainians Head to the Polls

Ukrainian elections are this weekend, and they look like they will bring bad news for President Petro Poroshenko. Poroshenko isn’t on the ballot himself, as the elections are local, but any hopes he may have had of consolidating power look dim. AFP:

The public’s frustration at the West’s refusal to arm Ukrainian forces and only provide financial help, with tough austerity strings attached, has bolstered the odds of the far right and the pro-Russian groups gaining ground.

Such an outcome could prompt Poroshenko’s loosely-knit coalition to splinter which would in turn imperil his pledge to apply for EU membership by 2020 and to make the shrivelled Soviet-era economy transparent and streamlined.

“With poverty growing, people may come out running to vote for the populist parties,” Anatoliy Oktysyuk of Kiev’s International Centre for Policy Studies told AFP.

It’s unclear how pro-Russian groups will fare in the election, but whatever the specific results, the general theme is likely to be a splintering of power. This will make Poroshenko’s job much harder; to push through his reforms and stand up to Russia, Poroshenko needs as much political backing as he can get. With 142 parties competing in 25 elections and 209, 914 candidates running for 869 seats, it’s hard to imagine Poroshenko emerging with an organized base of support.

As we’ve said, instability is good for Putin—indeed, fomenting it is his primary goal in Ukraine. A more fractious Ukraine makes the development of a modern, stable economy more difficult.

Drawing connections between domestic politics and the behavior of foreign actors is a fraught business, but it seems worth mentioning that Western leaders’ half-hearted support of Poroshenko can’t be helping him. Perhaps, had German Chancellor Angela Merkel given him more material assistance, Poroshenko and his allies would have a better campaign platform.

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