Elections in Ukraine: view from Germany
The German society ambiguously reacted at the big win of the comedian Volodymyr Zelensky in the presidential elections in Ukraine. It is quite understandable as Germans skeptically consider political experiments (after electing Donald Trump the U.S. President).
Petro Poroshenko was their “nice guy” despite his drawbacks, for instance, disputes between Kiev and Berlin about the Nord Stream 2. Volodymyr Zelensky is still a dark horse for politicians, journalists, and experts. He is a newcomer in politics and a populist without any program. General unclear statements of the next Ukrainian president can’t give a coherent picture of future developments in the country under his management (if he is going to rule the country independently).
It is notable that one of a few who was happy to see “the corrupted nationalist” Poroshenko defeated and to wish good luck to Zelensky was Sigmar Gabriel. Gabriel is thought to be one of the most experienced politicians in Germany: he was Vice-Chancellor of Germany from 2013 to 2018 and President of SPD from 2009 to 2017. Today Gabriel is an ordinary MP in Bundestag. However, a year ago, he played one of key roles in German politics and intensively dealt with the Ukrainian issue. At the same time, the former Vice-Chancellor is a social democrat and his party stands for a closer cooperation with Russia – thus, Poroshenko’s nationalist rhetoric obviously stirred up ill-feeling in them.
On the other hand, Chancellor Angela Merkel had a different position. Unlike French President Emmanuel Macron, she didn’t meet Zelensky ahead of the elections but held official talks with Poroshenko. Many commentators considered the step to be an obvious sign of Merkel’s political support of the current Ukrainian president. That’s why German major media negatively reacted at Volodymyr Zelensky’s win.
Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich)
Volodymyr Zelensky’s win in the presidential elections in Ukraine is primarily a resounding slap for Petro Poroshenko… At the same time, the meteoric rise of Zelensky is a result of the Ukrainian weak political system: that has been due to the control of the Ukrainian media by oligarchs who determine who is going to show up on their channels and who is not… Now the key question is how strong one of the most notorious oligarchs Kolomoysky’s influence is going to be. The other question is what the comedian is able and wants to do in the presidential capacity.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt)
Expectations for the president-to-be Volodymyr Zelensky to be a better leader than the previous one are low – even if we assume that he has good intentions. His political experience is limited by shooting in a political sitcom. The majority of his team had also dealt with politics only as experts and analysts. Moreover, oligarch Igor Kolomoisky will probably call in a marker as his TV-channel supported Zelensky. Kolomoysky’s return to the political life of the country will be bad news for Ukraine.
Fiction has turned into reality in Ukraine. A role in a TV-show became a choice of real voters. The comedian gained trust of the population as citizens were deeply disappointed by professional politicians and didn’t believe in their populist promises anymore. That’s all. Ukraine hasn’t turned into a new country – its problems, internal contradictions and external challenges haven’t disappeared. Zelensky evocated the society’s expectations those were difficult to turn into reality. Ukrainians expect new policies from the 41-year old president-to-be but the country simple has no other politicians who could act right now.
Stuttgarter Zeitung (Stuttgart)
Zelensky’s win is a risk factor for peace and stability in Eastern Europe. The variety of further developments is huge – from expectations of mistakes to intentional disturbing steps and intensification of the military confrontation in the East of Ukraine.
Straubinger Tagblatt (Straubing)
Five years since the revolution, there is nothing in common with euphoria in Ukraine. Anyone can be better than Poroshenko. The idea determined the elections. Zelensky has no real program to offer the society. It’s doubtful that the new president is able to manage the country efficiently and provide deep reforms as he has no majority in the parliament.
Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger (Cologne)
The key factor of Zelensky’s win in the presidential elections was his role of a strongman in a TV-show. The TV image seemed to be a fair enough proof of Zelensky’s professionalism for people and they elected him President of the country. American voters did the same thing electing a TV-show boss Donald Trump. It seems the line between fiction and reality has vanished.
Märkische Oderzeitung (Frankfurt [Ode])
The oligarch, the chocolate billionaire stayed too much dependant on the oligarch system. People didn’t forgive him for that. The gap between the political elite and the majority of other Ukrainians became so big that the population appeared to be ready to count on “a pig on a poke” hoping for any changes.
Die Welt (Berlin)
Zelensky still hasn’t said anything about the role of the Russian language and languages of minorities except for his vague criticism of Poroshenko’s draft on languages which was heavily criticized by Russia, Hungary, and the Council of Europe. Instead of this, Zelensky promised to preserve the Ukrainian language after his win. Apparently, any other steps would provoke a conflict with voters in the West of Ukraine. Let’s not forget about the Ukrainian parliament and MPs, powerful opponents of Zelensky. Poroshenko who lost the elections had already stated that he would stay in the politics. The next parliamentary elections take place in October. Poroshenko expects a high position in a new Rada. Despite the defeat in the second round of the elections, Poroshenko counts on the loyal electorate of right-wing conservatives. As for Zelensky, he has to build his own party as quick as possible. Zelensky should make it clear for Ukrainians, Russia, and the Western partners that he has a plan.