The 2019 presidential elections in Ukraine seem to be special. The peculiarity is that the current leader of the race (Volodymyr Zelensky, - ed.) is less interested in winning than his two closest rivals. Zelensky, in fact, does not lose anything if he does not win. He gets a number of bonuses, but losing is not critical for him. We cannot say the same about Yulia Tymoshenko and Petro Poroshenko. If we imagine that they go to the second round, the struggle will go fierce and irreconcilable.
Is the question "provocative" or "pro-Russian?"
We should specify an important nuance here. In 2004, during the presidential elections (Yushchenko vs. Yanukovych), the exit polls demonstrated Yushchenko's victory. Whereas the Central Election Commission (CEC), according to its own calculations, was going to announce Yanukovych as president of Ukraine. Such a precedent never happened again: for example, in the elections of 2010, Viktor Yanukovych defeated Yulia Tymoshenko by a three percent advantage, which roughly corresponded to sociological measurements. This, however, still did not prevent her from challenging the election results in court, but without a success.
Thus, vox populi was and remains the only comprehensive measure of the election integrity. You should wait for the results of the polls at the exit from the sites and compare them with the officially established results. The coincidence of the first and second will beat the trumps of the avid fighter for the presidential mace.
We asked MP of the previous convocations Yuriy Klyuchkovsky whether a second run-off is possible. In 2004, Klyuchkovsky was a trustee of Viktor Yushchenko, he appealed to the Supreme Court to appeal the election results. Klyuchkovsky called our question “provocative” and “pro-Russian” and refused to answer it.
Official Moscow is now really threatening to initiate the recognition of the Ukrainian elections illegitimate if its observers are not allowed to monitor the electoral process. Petro Poroshenko has already noted that, as commander in chief, he would give an order to the border guards to send Russian observers back home. This position has caused outrage in the OSCE, however, most of the Ukrainian experts are convinced that this does not mean anything and would in no way affect the legitimacy of the elections.
Thus, Russia can make any loud statements, but the fate of the elections would be decided by the key Ukrainian political players.
The runoff is not that easy
Andriy Mahera, the former member of the Central Election Commission, was one of those who played a key role in the fate of the 2004 elections. Together with his colleagues, Ruslan Knyazevych and Yaroslav Davydovich he refused to sign the protocol with the official election results, according to which Viktor Yanukovych was to be proclaimed head of state. It was this moment that gave a start to the "Yushchenko against the CEC" case, considered by the Supreme Court from November 25 to December 3, 2004. Recalling those events, Mahera notes that "back in 2004 there was no procedure for going to court regarding the actions of the CEC on the establishment of election results."
He adds that during the preparation of the document, the then team of lawyers referred to Articles 8 and 124 of the Constitution of Ukraine. Article 8 declares the principle of the rule of law and guarantees the protection of the rights of a citizen of Ukraine in court, and Article 124 says, in particular, that justice is administered exclusively by the courts, the decision of which is mandatory for implementation throughout Ukraine. In other words, 15 years ago, lawmakers who acted in the interests of candidate Yushchenko based their appeal on very general tenets.
If we look into the old documents, the Supreme Court ruling literally says: “The facts of a systematic and gross violation of the principles and fundamentals of the electoral process during the repeated voting on the elections of the President of Ukraine on November 21, 2004 are such as to make it impossible to reliably establish the results of the will of the voters in the single state election district for the elections of the President of Ukraine."
Therefore, now, experts say, the presidential candidates, who would like to repeat 2004 experience, should not talk about fraud but gather an evidence base of violations of electoral legislation.
“Appeals to the court might take place, but the chances of holding the so-called second round are now significantly lower than in 2004. This is possible only if systemic repeated violations of the electoral process are recorded. I emphasize: if they are systemic. Not in one or two polling stations or even several districts. If such violations do not affect the election results, then there will be no corresponding court decisions,” Mahera summarizes.
Is the Maidan factor decisive?
The presidential candidate, who is officially losing, is to make sure that the election results released by the CEC do not coincide with the exit poll data. Then he has to collect the "portfolio" of all legislative violations. The latter includes mass ballot stuffing in the ballot boxes, organized delivery of voters to the polling stations, bribing the voters, campaigning for one candidate or another, deliberately damaging the ballot box or documentation of the election commission, etc.
Meanwhile, if we return to 2004, it is quite obvious that the driving force behind the court decisions were the public moods behind the window of the Supreme Court and other government buildings. Imagine that there were no impressive rallies and the Orange revolution on Khreshchatyk and Independence Square, supporting Yushchenko.
“The Supreme Court of that time has made decisions under the public pressure, under the pressure of Maidan. I don’t think there would be any mass protests now. There are no weighty political grounds for this, although electoral grounds might appear – for example, illegal actions during elections. On the whole, the situation in the country is much more complicated and radically different than that which was in 2004. Because the Supreme Court was not only guided by the legal grounds but also took into account the political and geopolitical situation,” said Vadym Karasiov, Institute of Global Strategies head.
Recalling the geopolitical component, Karasiov means the solidarity that the West demonstrated to Ukraine in the days of the Orange Revolution. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Javier Solana, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, President of Poland Alexander Kwasniewski and others were among the Maidan supporters.
But apart from all-round Western support, the success of the Orange Revolution led to the well-known compromise between the government and the opposition, known as the "political reform of December 8." On this day, the Verkhovna Rada has voted for a number of historic votes – it has changed the CEC composition and introduced some changes to the law on the election of the president in order to avoid further fraud. It has adopted amendments to the Constitution, which limited the power of the president and transferred part of his powers to the Cabinet of Ministers and the Parliament.
Such transformations cannot be realistic today. There is no such radical separation between the authorities and the opposition, which determined the realities of 2004. There are many branches of the opposition now, and they are all engaged in a struggle with each other.
"If we talk about some potential Maidan, one can hardly expect that the next elections will lead to it. The level of public confidence in all candidates is too low, and the main competitors do not offer radically different directions for the development of the state,” Bohdan Petrenko, Deputy Director of the Ukrainian Institute for Extremism Studies, notes.
The lack of confidence in the establishment is indeed significant. Many of the sociologists associate the unexpected rise of Zelensky with this. But will a Maidan gather in his support? Or for Poroshenko and Tymoshenko? Very unlikely. And if the current leader manages to mobilize their supporters, their action will turn into theatricalness. And if the course of the Revolution of dignity was accompanied by tragedy, the conditional Maidan-2019 promises to be a comedy. Which is probably not bad. In any case, it is better than bloodshed.