Controversies Persist in Wake of Ukrainian Elections

Ukrainian business magnate Petro Poroshenko took an overwhelming share of the country’s vote in this past weekend’s election, coming away with more than 55% of all votes. The to-be fifth president of Ukraine was previously Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs (2009-2010) and the Minister of Trade and Economic Development in 2012. Close ties to the Ukrainian government notwithstanding, Poroshenko is perhaps best known as the self-styled “Chocolate King” of Ukraine, a nickname that was bestowed upon him due to the billions he made in the Ukrainian chocolate business.

Reactions to Poroshenko’s election have come as expected. The United States has congratulated the Ukrainian populace for “making their voices heard,” whereas responses from the Kremlin can be described as condemning, and promises to respect the results have already been broken. Each of these reactions has its own merit, with reports of the elections’ credibility decidedly mixed. A small portion of total polling stations were opened in eastern Ukraine, with an even fewer percentage of those remaining open. The total percentage of votes cast in the east, including regions in which violence is lesser, is still largely unknown, though the regions in which voting has taken place constitute a small minority of Ukraine’s east. Conversely, the overall turnout for the election has exceeded 60%, a figure that, while criticized by some, is a rate that exceeds that of election turnout in the United States, as well as a number of other nations. Reports of electoral fraud are yet to emerge from Kiev, and opposition candidates, such as Ukrainian opposition leader and Orange Revolution leader Yulia Tymoshenko, have not disputed the results.

For Poroshenko, stabilizing Ukraine is still far from a reality. The chocolate magnate has faced criticism for his ties to the recently-ousted government of Viktor Yanukovych, and his reputation as a billionaire businessman in a country where more than 24% of the population lives below the poverty line is sure to be a source of angst for many in the coming months. Poroshenko has shown himself willing to strengthen ties with the EU, but has also resisted the urging of pockets of the Ukrainian populace to join NATO and reduce ties to Russia. Similarly, violence in the east has not abated, and in some instances has become deeper and more entrenched.

News Briefs: 

  • President Barack Obama arrived on Sunday to Afghanistan to  pay a visit to the 32,800 American troops stationed there. He emphasized the continuing commitment of American foreign policy interests in Afhganistan, perhaps pointing to optimism that Karzai’s successor will in fact sign the Bilateral Security Agreement to keep American troops in the country post-2014, which both frontrunners Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have promised to do. Karzai, however, did not grant a meeting with President Obama, nor did he meet him when he arrived at Bagram Air Field. He instead prioritized the meetings with South Asia’s leaders in New Delhi for the swearing in of new Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.
  • Outgoing President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai additionally accused the Lashkar-i-Taiban, a Pakistan-based Kashmiri rebel group, for Thursday’s attack on the Indian consulate in the western city of Herat. With Karzai attempting to broker more cohesive relations with leaders throughout the region, especially by visiting new Prime Minister Modi on his inauguration, the attack could not have come at a worse time.
  • The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) issued a preliminary report on the Ukrainian elections that took place on Sunday, May 25. They found the elections were “characterized by high turnout and the clear resolve of authorities to hold what was a genuine election largely in line with international commitments and with a respect for fundamental freedoms in the vast majority of the country.” The group, however, did report problems in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, where government buildings have been taken over by pro-Russian militias and polling stations were closed. The report says that Ukraine’s Central Election Commission operated “impartially and collegially,” with total turnout estimated at 60%.
  • The White House unwittingly exposed the CIA’s Chief of Station in Afghanistan when his named was inadvertently included on a list provided to news organizations of senior officials that would be participating in President Obama’s visit over Memorial Day Weekend to Afghanistan, reports the Washington Post. The press is withholding the name of the officer in question at the request of the administration, who warned that the officer and his family could be at serious risk if the names were published. Other names on the list included US Ambassador to Afghanistan, James Cunningham, and Marine General Joseph Dunford, Jr.
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