Ukraine’s choice: The election offers a chance to end the confrontation
May 28, 2014 12:00 AM
By the Editorial Board
Even though the electoral process was rocky, it is likely that the choice Sunday of chocolate king Petro Poroshenko as president of Ukraine is a step in the right direction for a country that’s been in upheaval for more than three months.
Mr. Poroshenko, one of the region’s oligarchs who is estimated to be a billionaire, received 56 percent of the votes, well over the 50 percent mark required to avoid a runoff. Second-place finisher former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who had been jailed by President Viktor F. Yanukovych before he was driven out of power by Kiev mobs in February, received only 13 percent. Other candidates, including those of right-wing parties Svoboda and Right Sector, received small numbers of votes.
Unfortunately, only 20 percent of the voters in eastern Ukraine, the region of Russian-sponsored turmoil in recent months, found their polling stations open. Epicenters of election interference sponsored by Russian supporters were the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk. President-elect Poroshenko, 48, has promised to visit the coal-mining region of Donbass soon to try to win over the people of that region to his new government.
Another favorable sign, for what it is worth, is that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has promised to respect the results of Sunday’s election. He has also promised — several times, apparently without implementation — to withdraw Russian troops from near the Russian-Ukrainian border. Mr. Putin is still engaged in a contest of who should withdraw first with NATO troops that were placed in neighboring countries to deter Russian forces from becoming more actively involved in eastern Ukraine.
That said, Mr. Putin, most Ukrainians, most Russians and the other Europeans, as well as the United States, probably welcome the cool-down in the confrontation that is represented by the Ukrainian presidential election. The painful part still to come is that Mr. Poroshenko will undoubtedly expect the United States, other Western countries and the International Monetary Fund to provide Ukraine with money to pay its debts and reknit the country. The provisional government was seeking $70 billion, the amount that the Yanukovych government is estimated to have stolen on the way out the door.
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