Day of silence begins in Ukraine ahead of crucial presidential vote
The seventh presidential campaign in the history of Ukraine came to the end at midnight local time on Friday.
After three months of heated electoral struggle, rich in scandals and mutual accusations, the country’s political life will stand still to give voters an opportunity to make a balanced decision on who will be in charge of Ukraine for the next five years.
Starting from 00:00 on Friday Kiev time (01:00 Saturday Moscow time), all campaigning was prohibited, and utility service workers began to remove banners and posters from public places. Ivan Varchenko, an advisor to the country’s interior minister, said that Ukrainian legislation does not view social networks as media, and, therefore, electioneering there is not formally punishable by the law. However, he warned that the country has no standard court policy regarding such incidents and it would be impossible to predict what stance a judge will take while passing a verdict.
One of the frontrunners in the case, comedian Vladimir Zelensky, will still have a chance to tip the scale in his favor. One of the country’s TV channels, 1+1, will be airing his TV shows and films all day long. According to the broadcaster, Ukrainian laws will not be violated, because Zelensky will appear on TV screens as an actor, not as a presidential candidate. The same applies to the country’s incumbent President Pyotr Poroshenko, if some of his meetings or activities receive media coverage: "This will not be viewed as campaigning, because the president just fulfills his official duties," Zelensky said.
According to Ukrainian political experts, the current day of silence may become crucial for the outcome of the vote, because more than half of Ukrainians still remain undecided on whom to support. Head of the Ukrainian Institute for Analysis and Political Management Ruslan Bortnik said that "everything will be decided at the very last moment, and the margin between the candidates will possibly be measured in dozens of thousands of votes, or even thousands of votes."
A record number of candidates - 39 people - will take part in Ukraine’s presidential election set for March 31, 2019. The country’s election authority initially registered 44 candidates, but five withdrew in support of other, more promising, candidates. According to latest opinion polls, comedian Vladimir Zelensky leads the race (26%-28%), followed by the head of the Batkivshchina (or Fatherland) party Yulia Timoshenko (13%-17%) and trailing behind her is incumbent President Pyotr Poroshenko (16.5%-18%). Also in the top five are opposition candidate Yuri Boyko (9.5%-11%) and leader of the Civil Position party Anatoly Gritsenko (8.4% and 9.8%).
Experts forecast that only the top three candidates have the real chance to compete for the presidential post. Although all opinion polls demonstrate that Zelensky has a solid lead over his election rivals and the support of nearly one third of the country’s population, political experts do not rush to declare him the most likely winner.