(Point & Counterpoint) The frontrunner in the Ukrainian presidential campaign is someone who has never held a government position and has no record of political or civic activism. Rather, Volodymyr Zelenskiy has risen to prominence by ridiculing on stage the very politicians he is now running against. Zelenskiy’s popularity ultimately rests on supra-rational faith in him as a new type of post-ideological leader without any specific ideational or programmatic appeal. But he is still not a likely winner: access to the Ukrainian political arena is highly restricted and remains off limits for those without elite connections.
Five years after the Euromaidan revolution, Ukraine remains in the world media spotlight, due primarily to its ongoing conflict with Russia, incessant corruption scandals, and persistent internal instability. In December 2018, President Poroshenko introduced emergency rule in large parts of the country on the pretext of a heightened risk of external aggression. Donbas remains the site of Europe’s most serious armed conflict, with daily ceasefire violations and a growing death toll among Ukrainian soldiers and local civilians. Sluggish economic growth rates, weak investment inflows, and rising utility prices keep the country’s household incomes at the lowest levels in the region. The recent Credit Suisse report ranked Ukraine at the very bottom (123rd out of 140 countries) in terms of its citizens’ median wealth. […]