“Neither a miracle nor a disaster – President Zelensky’s first year in office” by the OSW

20th May marked the end of Volodymyr Zelensky first year as President of Ukraine. Thanks to the clear victory of his Servant of the People party in the snap parliamentary election held in July 2019 and the establishment of the government of Oleksiy Honcharuk the following month, Zelensky swiftly gained full power. The plan for the declared repair of the country and an end to the war in the Donbas involved the appointment of apolitical specialists for key positions in the government to immediately process legislation in the parliament and to conduct informal diplomacy. This strategy brought about certain successes. Partial organisational changes were introduced in the prosecutor’s office and courts; the constitution was amended in the area of the rights of the members of the Verkhovna Rada and the president, and a meeting – the first in three years – in the Normandy Format was held in Paris. Already before the end of 2019 a new election law was passed, a key reform in the gas sector (the unbundling of Naftogaz) was completed and in March 2019, and a breakthrough law regarding the lifting of the moratorium on the sale of agricultural land was passed.

However, increasing conflicts of interests inside the parliamentary group of the Servant of the People limited the comfort of governing the country, exposing the most important weaknesses of Zelensky’s bloc: its lack of ideological cohesion, the lack of a clear action plan and, above all, the lack of a professional and independent staff base. The remaining powerful influence of the oligarchs on the state has impeded the work on important laws and Ukraine’s co-operation with the International Monetary Fund, which has also contributed to sustained negative phenomena in the electricity sector.

As a result, Zelensky’s first year in office can be considered to be a time of tough learning about how politics, both domestic and international, functions in practice. The scope of power the president has gained thanks to the slogans of removing ‘old’ politicians has become a source of weakness in itself – the below-par effectiveness of ruling the country. It appears that Zelensky is beginning to understand this interdependency. He has entered his second year in office with approval rating in society still high (45% of support in the election survey, 57% of support in the confidence survey). Nevertheless, he will have to face a much more difficult economic situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

– The failure of a great experiment

– The rule of law – institutional challenges

– The economy: from ambitious plans to crisis management

– No breakthrough in the case of the Donbas

Tadeusz Iwański, Sławomir Matuszak, Krzysztof Nieczypor, Piotr Żochowski

Read the full article here: https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/eksperci/piotr-zochowski

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