Ukraine presidential election could help unify badly divided country
Ukrainians vote today in an early presidential election that could be a crucial step toward resolving the country’s crisis. The election – which comes six months after the outbreak of protests that led to the president’s ouster and a deepening chasm between pro-Europe and pro-Russia Ukrainians – aims to unify the fiercely divided country or at least discourage further polarization.
Twenty-one candidates are running and about 35 million people are eligible to vote. Polls show billionaire candy-maker Petro Poroshenko with a commanding lead but falling short of the absolute majority needed to win in the first round. His nearest challenger is Yulia Tymoshenko, the divisive former prime minister, but her support is only 6 percent. If no one wins in the first round, a runoff will be held June 15 – polls suggest Poroshenko would win that contest.
Poroshenko is getting support for his pragmatism and an apparent willingness to compromise – unusual qualities in a political landscape dominated by vehemently inflexible figures. He supports Ukraine developing closer ties with the 28-nation European Union but also said he recognizes the importance of pursuing good relations with Russia.