One hundred days of Zelensky: Achievements and failures of Ukraine's new president

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelensky should be grateful either to Franklin Roosevelt or Napoleon for the tradition of analyzing the first hundred days of the presidency. Both managed to do so much in the first three-plus months at their post that historians are still arguing whose contribution to world history is more significant. Roosevelt at the beginning of the presidency managed to lobby a number of decisions that stopped the Great Depression. But Napoleon, whose hundred days are counted from his return from the island of Elba, did even more: he formed a bicameral parliament, organized a plebiscite and changes to the constitution, and conducted a Belgian military campaign
22:37, 27 August 2019

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukraine's Presidental Administration

Zelensky, of course, is not Napoleon, although he tried this image in the movie. And that’s good because the brilliant (at first) one hundred days of Napoleon ended with the Battle of Waterloo. At least Ukrainian president is now deprived of it. Perhaps his Waterloo is yet to come, but perhaps not. Talking with experts, we identified five key points that different speakers characterize differently. Where some of them see success, others - failure.

Conducted elections, but "usurped" power

In fact, Zelensky’s only project planned and brought to its logical conclusion today is early parliamentary elections. For those who believe that a hasty reset of the legislative power was necessary for Ukraine, this is an achievement. Skeptics point to the unpleasant consequences of such a reboot.

“If you give a mark for the first hundred days, then the president can be given ‘four with a minus’ on a five-point scale. I would attribute success to early parliamentary elections and the victory of his political power in these elections,” says Ruslan Bortnyk, director of the Ukrainian Institute for Analysis and Policy Management.

"Actually, only parliamentary elections have been implemented to date. It is difficult to say whether this is a victory or a defeat, but in any case, it is a demonstration of the strength of President Zelensky, which he has already shown," says Bohdan Petrenko, deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute for the Study of Extremism.

President Zelensky votes in snap parliamentary elections
Ukrainian President

"If we talk about the main instinct of the politician, I mean, to take all the power into his own hands, then Zelensky almost completed this task. Parliament is his, the majority is his, the Cabinet of Ministers will also be his. There’s an issue regarding the media. After September Zelensky’s team will think how to solve this issue as well,” says Vadym Karasiov, Institute for Global Strategies director.

The parliamentary majority is likely to be formed by only one faction - the Servant of the People, leading positions in the presidium of the Verkhovna Rada and in the committees are also likely to go to representatives of the Ze-team. With the government, the situation is similar. But did Zelensky calculate well the risks of mono-party power? Time will tell if the daring plus will turn into a depressive minus.

Maintains economic stability, but does not have a program

Some experts attributed the advantages of Zelensky’s hundred days to the preservation of economic stability in the country. On this point, we consulted with financial analyst Oleksiy Kushch. He noted the following: “Objectively in the economy, all current processes - both positive and negative - are connected with the activities of the previous government. But some analysts are already trying to link something (for example, the stability of the hryvnia exchange rate) with the presidency of Zelensky. However, in fact, it is not his success."

Related: Zelensky sums up negotiations with PM Netanyahu: 'It was a historic meeting'

“The point is that there are always positive trends at the beginning of a new political course. This was in 2005, 2010, and now. One cycle is completed, a new cycle has begun, and people have hopes and expectations, they begin to spend more and invest more -  retail trade is growing, and all this taken together contributes to the development of the economy," Kushch continues.

“But when the radio is turned on, people begin to realize that in the absence of a real economic program, a real reform roadmap, their basic living standards will continue to be at the same level. So far, a hundred days of Zelensky - it’s a harvest of positive consumer sentiment, but the rational grain is already ripening. And the longer the pause in the implementation of comprehensive economic reforms, the worse it will be for the new government,” the expert says.

Open source

"We still have not seen any systematic position on reforming the economy. We need to change the algorithm. If the previous government was thinking where to lend money, then a fundamentally different position should be in the search for how to make money. We have not seen this yet." - emphasizes the head of the Third Sector Center Andriy Zolotariov.

"So far, I would not want to criticize. For the sake of objectivity: Zelensky did not yet have those powers, or rather the parliamentary majority with which he could realize his intentions. For example, he did not open the land market, which, according to his calculations, should bring up to 3% GDP growth, "said political analyst Anton Kuchukhidze. “So, evaluating the work of the president, let's say this: fifty-fifty. But there are trends which development can lead to a positive result for the country,” he adds.

Maintains hope in people, but for how long?

Thanks to Zelensky, traditional Ukrainian pessimism was replaced by a rather stable (at least for now) state of expectation of good. Another thing is how long these new moods will last. Ruslan Bortnyk singles out as a separate paragraph “the preservation of hopes for positive changes in the future. Although society has not felt them yet, society continues to hope for the best,” he says.

Related: What should Zelensky's team consider if they want reform?

Bortnyk adds: “But if we talk about organizational issues, then the undoubted minus is the unstructured team of the president and the randomness in his decision-making. We also have not yet seen the president’s program of activity, despite the fact that the first hundred days passed.”

“Surveys show that for almost the first time in recent years, Ukrainians believed that the country is moving in the right direction. The question is whether they will believe in this two hundred days after the election of Zelensky. It will be interesting to compare the indicators,” Bohdan Petrenko notes.

In some ways, the expert is right: indeed, according to the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, the vast majority of Ukrainians - 60.5% - believed that the reforms in Ukraine were successful. Of these, 16.5% are convinced of the success, another 44% believe in general, although there are some doubts. Today much less do not believe in the success of reforms - 34%, while only 11% do not believe at all, and 23% still have hope. “This belief in the success of reforms appeared for the first time: in 2015, 30% believed in the successful reforms, 62% did not believe, in 2016 - 29% and 65%, respectively, in 2017 - 27% and 67%, in 2018 - 35% and 60%, "commented the sociologists.

Volodymyr Zelensky and Kurt Volker

But there is other evidence. According to the Kyiv International Sociology Institute survey, conducted from June 25 to July 7, the majority of Ukrainians in the first hundred days of Zelensky’s reign were interested in the issue of tariff reduction. Further, in order of relevance, the following points were indicated: bills on the removal immunity of MPs, judges, the president; direct negotiations with Donetsk, Luhansk, and Moscow on a peaceful settlement and cessation of hostilities in eastern Ukraine; investigation of the most resonant corruption crimes; salaries reduction for top officials.

In fact, none of the above Zelensky embodied. “I’ll say the negative is the lack of results of the anti-corruption struggle, the lack of an algorithm for reducing tariffs and the lack of a program for the Donbas,” says Ruslan Bortnyk.

"The first hundred days of Zelensky bear the imprint of the situation that existed even before his presidency. On the one hand, we see economic growth - so far statistical. On the other - we see minus changes in the international arena, where Russia suddenly becomes a "friend ", and Ukraine gets problems. But all this is actually not a direct result of Zelensky’s activity, but an echo of the conditions he entered," says Bogdan Petrenko.

Organizes hostage exchange, but suffers from foreign policy defeat conducted a survey of experts during a half-secret visit by the Russian Ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova to Kyiv. Since the Ukrainian authorities did not comment on this visit, and Moskalkova herself only spoke general phrases about the “big and serious work” that she would be doing in the Ukrainian capital, it remained only to build versions around the true purpose of the visit. It would seem that the “deciphering” is simple: most likely, she will focus on preparing for the exchange of hostages and/or political prisoners. Our speakers said that such an exchange and liberation of Ukrainians will be the best result of the President Zelensky hundred days.

“The first hundred days were not as bad as they could be, and not as good as they seemed to many people. It is important that the situation in Donbas began to move from a dead point. Perhaps, an exchange of hostages will take place,” said Andriy Zolotariov. And his colleague Anton Kuchukhidze added that, in his conviction, “Zelensky is doing everything possible on the diplomatic front.”

"Zelensky did not surrender pro-Ukrainian positions, which Poroshenko’s supporters spoke about so much before the election. Even more: de facto, he continues the line that Poroshenko led. That is, the new president still has patriotism," says Bogdan Petrenko.

But Taras Berezovets sharply criticized the foreign policy of Ukraine’s president. “I can’t say that these hundred days were successful and that the president fulfilled at least some of his obligations. If we take one of the main areas of responsibility - national security and foreign policy, then we are witnessing this trend. Ukraine is losing its subjectivity in the international arena - they start talking about Ukraine without Ukraine. Putin speaks with Merkel, meets with Macron and talks with them about Ukraine, pushing through the Russian plan for the de-occupation of Donbas, and also declares that Zelensky’s actions give him a reason for optimism, and we understand that when Putin praises somebody, this is a negative sign."

“There are started talks on reducing the armed forces during the military conflict, on the reduction of government orders in the defense sector,” adds Berezovets. “There is no worthy rebuff to the exacerbation of the Russian threat that takes place in Donbas. Moreover, there is no articulation of this exacerbation, there are no clear statements. It sounds something like "Vladimir, stop shooting in Donbas."

The "Ukrainian issue" is indeed becoming the subject of discussion, in which, paradoxically, Ukraine is not always involved. So, on August 22, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the presidents of Russia and France, Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron, during the talks mentioned Russian-Ukrainian relations. It is also important that the discussion involved, in particular, the exchange of “held persons”, although specific names were not mentioned here.

Related: Zelensky to offer parliament to appoint Honcharuk as new prime minister

It is likely that President Zelensky is not in vain has yellow bracelets on his wrists. On them, as the head of state explained, "are the names of our captured sailors." “I will wear them until we return the guys home,” Zelensky said. The release of captured sailors or political prisoners Balukh, Klykh, Kolchenko, Gryb, Karpyuk, Suschenko, Panov, Syzonovych can really become one of the main achievements of the current president.

He takes anti-corruption measures, but supports nepotism

Andriy Zolotarev underlines the "first steps in the fight against corruption." As an example, Zolotarev cites Zelensky's “purge” of the customs leadership and all his attempts to clean up the existing energy schemes.

Related: Trump-Zelensky meeting to take place in Warsaw, - Bolton

The National Interest wrote that if President Zelensky’s administration really intends to overcome corruption in Ukraine, it needs to completely rethink the entire system, and it’s unlikely that without political players of the “old school” it will succeed. In a word, the president of Ukraine should be merciless to criminal manifestations, but also interested in finding like-minded people, without which transformations are impossible.

However, Zelensky’s team is not in the mood to take common responsibility with other political forces - it has already been said about the "mono-power" that can be established in Ukraine. However, one of the new “advocates” of Zelensky - first president of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk - explains this line of behavior by saying that “the old government, which leaves its posts, does it very aggressively,” and therefore does not motivate the current administration to build any partnerships.

"The new government takes office in very difficult conditions, there were no such difficulties in the history of Ukraine. First: President Zelensky has been fulfilling his powers for almost a hundred days without the Verkhovna Rada, the government, or even those leaders whom he has the right to choose. I think these are extreme conditions," says Kravchuk.

In any case, Zelensky himself wished these "extreme conditions", having decided to run for president of Ukraine at the beginning of this year. Do not forget that he went for this quite voluntarily. The downside of Zelensky’s position is that one way or another, but he is already inscribed in the history of the state. The advantage is in the fact that this story is still a blank or almost blank page. How it will be filled will depend solely on the president.



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