In two and a half months Ukraine will hold a presidential election. Voters will go to the polls and decide if Petro Poroshenko will remain in office for another term, or if one of the many public figures challenging him will be chosen to succeed him. Judging from the most recent polling data, Poroshenko should be concerned. His popularity has dropped below ten percent and shows no sign of reversing itself anytime soon. Poroshenko’s failure to curb the rampant corruption in government is the main contributing factor to his anemic approval ratings. Most Ukrainians view the government as being no less corrupt than it was before the 2014 revolution, not a good sign for the incumbent president. There are other issues holding Poroshenko down. The war in the east is a major one. It continues on with no end in sight, and the current president has been ineffective when it comes to rallying the West around Ukraine’s cause.
To be fair, Poroshenko has not performed incompetently on the foreign stage, or when comes to the War in Donbass. However, his leadership has not enabled Ukraine to build a strong network of international diplomatic support. Nor has it helped to bring about a favorable permanent conclusion to the conflict in the eastern part of the country. Instead, Ukraine remains mired in a stalemate on the frontlines, and in diplomatic circles abroad. There’s a very good chance that Ukrainians will hold Poroshenko responsible for these setbacks when they go to vote on 31 March. But if they decide that he is not the right man to lead the country into the future, it brings about two critical questions to which there really are no answers for: Who will be selected to replace Poroshenko, and how will Russia respond to a new leader at the helm in Kiev?
The second question is the more crucial of the two. In all likelihood, the candidate who wins March is not going to tilt the balance of influence back in Russia’s favor. Therefore, he or she is going to have to find a way to contend with a more assertive Russia, and do so in a manner that neither compromises Ukraine’s position or escalates the situation. Russia’s actions in the past three months appear to be designed to place and keep Kiev at a disadvantage in the time leading up to the election, and in the period immediately following.
There is still plenty of time remaining between now and the election. Events in Ukraine and the Black Sea should be watched closely and with luck a clue of Russia’s future intentions could pop up.