Petro Poroshenko's Nationalism Cost Him the Presidency

Nicolai N. Petro
Reuters

Nicolai N. Petro

Politics, Eurasia

This is one of the lessons that Western policymakers can learn from Poroshenko's crushing defeat.

Petro Poroshenko's Nationalism Cost Him the Presidency

Petro Poroshenko lost the Ukrainian presidential elections by a larger margin than any candidate in the history of Ukraine. He won in only one region of the country. His opponent, a comedian with no political experience, received more votes than any candidate in Ukrainian history. Why, after five years of policies that had the full political and financial backing of the West, did the Ukrainian people reject him by a three-to-one margin?

The answer lies in the anti-Russian policies that he and the Ukrainian parliament have pursued these past five years. These include restrictions on the usage of the Russian language, on travel to Russia, on trade with Russia, on any social contact with Russians, even those who clearly oppose Putin and support Ukraine. That there would be political blowback for this was entirely predictable, given that city dwellers in Ukraine more commonly speak Russian, and half of the country has relatives across the border. The writing was on the wall for Poroshenko when an annual poll earlier this year showed that popular sympathies for Russia among Ukrainians were now higher than at any point since May 2014.

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