Country Risk

Presidential election results likely to intensify policy gridlock in Ukraine and delay key IMF-mandated reforms

23 April 2019

Ukrainian presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskyi is seen following the announcement of an exit poll in a presidential election at his campaign headquarters in Kiev, Ukraine on 21 April 2019. Source: Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images #1138561828

On 21 April 2019, Ukraine held the second round of its presidential election; comedian/TV actor, Volodymyr Zelenskyi, won 73.23% of the vote. Incumbent President Petro Poroshenko, who was elected in May 2014, received only 24.26%. Zelenskyi is a political newcomer, who registered his Servant of the People (SoP) political party in December 2017 and announced his nomination in December 2018; he won in all regions of Ukraine, except for Lviv region in the west of the country. The president-elect's inauguration is expected before 3 June.

  • Disagreements between the new president and the cabinet are likely to intensify ahead of the next parliamentary election, delaying any implementation of International Monetary Fund (IMF) mandated reforms . Although Zelenskyi's team prefer an early election as they calculate that the incumbent parties are weakening, and SoP would capture a sizeable proportion of the vote, lack of procedural grounds significantly reduce the probability of such a scenario. The current cabinet of Volodymyr Groisman, which is allied with outgoing President Petro Poroshenko, will probably stay on until the October election, before losing office once a new government is formed. As the next election is likely to produce a fragmented parliament with between six and eight parties winning seats, coalition talks are likely to delay formation of the new cabinet.
  • Zelenskyi, who ran on a general, centrist populist platform, is likely to attempt to block some of the ruling coalition's initiatives, with the hope of improving his party's electoral chances, and also triggering some early dismissals by discrediting cabinet members. Poroshenko's allies are very likely to do the same against Zelenskyi's SoP party. Notably, all economic matters, including energy, are controlled by the cabinet; any major change in foreign or defence policy would also require a degree of political consensus, which is very unlikely ahead of the parliamentary elections, currently scheduled for 27 October 2019.

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