Policy Paper – Zelenskyy’s Ukraine One Year Later: A Western Perspective
New Eastern Europe together in co-operation with the Institute of Central Europe (IEŚ) have released a new policy paper aimed at examining the accomplishments and challenges of the first year of Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The authors of the papers include: Adam Reichardt (New Eastern Europe); Tomasz Stępniewski (Institute of Central Europe); Paul D’Anieri (University of California Riverside; Olga Onuch (University of Manchester); and Andrew Wilson (University College of London).
The huge success of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s presidential election in April 2019 and his Sluha Narodu (Servant of the People) party’s landslide victory in the early parliament elections in July 2019 brought high hopes and expectations to Ukrainians and observers alike. In analysing Zelenskyy’s first year in office, our experts have summed it up as mixed results – highlighting both accomplishments and challenges that remain or have emerged.
A series of domestic reforms that can be seen as a positive step for the country include: the removal of parliamentary immunity; criminalisation of illicit enrichment of state officials; a seminal land-reform bill; and the banking-sector reform.
In foreign policy, Zelenskyy and his team managed to negotiate a prisoner swap with Russia and separatist forces in Donbas.
Despite some scandals and setbacks, Zelenskyy’s support remains relatively high (higher than Petro Poroshenko’s after a similar time in office).
Developments and challenges
The March 2020 reshuffle of the Cabinet of Ministers has been poorly received; in particular his decision to replace Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka was strongly criticised.
Despite promises of achieving peace, the war in the occupied territories of Donbas continues to rage.
The Sluha Narodu has not been able to define a clear and consistent political programme. Many members are inexperienced and this has led to factionalism of the party.
Pandemic and uncertain future
The COVID-19 pandemic has tipped Ukraine into a serious recession, leaving it in desperate need of international assistance.
The economic recession will have a strong impact on Zelenskyy’s ability to develop his domestic programme further.
The October 2020 local elections will be crucial to build Zelenskyy’s power base. They will be seen as both a referendum on Zelenskyy’s performance and an indicator of his future influence.
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