Political and Economic Developments in Ukraine on the Eve of Presidential Elections in Spring 2019

28. March 2019

Ukraine has since Euromaidan revolution five years ago been going through difficult period of its development, as the Russian aggression against Ukraine continues. Nevertheless the twin shocks of the Euromaidan revolution and the Russian invasion have produced the Ukrainian government committed to liberal democracy and a market-based economy. Ukraine’s irreversible course toward European and Euro-Atlantic integration has now become written into Constitution along with the confirmation of European identity of the Ukrainian people.

The country is developing a functional state apparatus, both nationally and locally. Democracy and human rights have become more firmly established. Ukraine has further advanced in its reform process, which is closely connected to the implementation of the Association Agreement with EU. During the five years since Euromaidan revolution Ukraine has built up functioning public administration and strong armed forces. There has been number of reforms in the field of public administration, decentralizing local government and improving regulation of economic activities. As a result also the economic situation has significantly improved.

Significant challenges remain. The protracted conflict with Russia-backed forces in eastern Ukraine is still draining the economy. The promised structural reforms are not going smoothly. Especially in the field of fighting corruption there are for example delays in establishing Anti-Corruption Court and overturning critical provisions of Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Law by Constitutional Court. Also limiting undue influence of big business interests over political decision making remains a serious problem for Ukraine. Energy provision for country remains problematic due to dependency from Russian gas deliveries and Russian gas transit fees.

Coming presidential elections will probably feature three-way competition between political novice frontrunner Zelensky and veterans of Ukrainian politics, incumbent president Poroshenko and opposition leader Tymoshenko. Importantly all frontrunners in presidential race support strengthening relations with EU and NATO and pro-Russian alternative does not enjoy significant support.

In longer perspective however Ukraine’s future development remains heavily dependent on ending Russian aggression and restoring country’s territorial integrity in peaceful manner – a task Ukraine could hope to solve successfully if it is determined to find peaceful solution to conflict and if the support from the EU and USA remains forthcoming and the sanctions regime against Russia remains in place.

The full report by ECEAP Senior Research Fellow Mr Aap Neljas can be found here: Political and economic developments in Ukraine.