In Ukraine, a sitcom is turning into reality as Volodymyr Zelensky becomes the sixth president in the country’s post-Soviet history.
Before running in this year’s election, Zelensky starred in the political comedy Servant of the People, where he portrayed an ordinary teacher who had become president of Ukraine. His character’s attempts to fix the country run into strong opposition from corrupt oligarchs.
As president, Zelensky’s challenge will be much the same: defeating the oligarchs who have so far blocked reform in addition to managing Ukraine’s relations with Russia and building a political support base of his own. Read more
Ukraine Might Be Better Off If “Little Russia” Did Secede
Separatists in the southeast of Ukraine have declared a new country: “Little Russia”.
The announcement by Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, amounts to little, argues Gwendolyn Sasse of Carnegie Europe.
She points out that leaders in Luhansk, Ukraine’s other breakaway region, have distanced themselves from it. Russia, which otherwise backs the Donbas uprising, hasn’t voiced support either. And the local population doesn’t want independence. A survey conducted earlier this year found a majority in favor of remaining in Ukraine. Only a third want to join Russia.
Yet it might be better for Ukraine if the region does secede. Read more
Despite Historical Ties, Moldova Unlikely to Follow Romania’s Path
Unlike my colleague and friend Irina Staver, my culture and native language are not Romanian. I am an expatriate living in the neighboring Republic of Moldova, a country with close cultural and historical ties to Romania.
Yet I have observed with great interest the parallel evolutions of these two countries. A number of similarities thus spring to mind, so that I might be able to draw from the current Romanian context a few lessons for Moldova. Read more
Watching from Across the Border as Romania Awakens
As an active political journalist in the Republic of Moldova, I have been closely following the street protests in neighboring Romania, which are the largest of its kind since the fall of communism.
I was born after the Revolution of 1989, so I can’t know what that movement must have felt like. What I do know is that Romanians united then to bring down the totalitarian regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu and they are rallying now to rid themselves of another “red plague”, namely the Social Democratic Party.
The largest in the country, the party currently rules in coalition with the center-right liberals. One of the first acts of this new government when it came to power in January was to pardon non-violent offenders and decriminalize low-level abuses of office in cases where the damages were less than 200,000 leu, or €44,000.
The measures would have made a mockery of anti-corruption efforts in the EU member state. Read more
The tale of 2016-17 has been of anti-neoliberal populists hijacking great parties and great states, forcing policy change down the throats of elites who believed they had arrived at a permanent consensus. They have largely been the harbinger of an uglier form of politics, giving breath to nationalists, racists and irrational bigotry that are a strain on the powers of their states.
Romania is not immune to the winds of populism. But unlike the rest of the European Union, here the rising is by those who are demanding more rational, more efficient government. It is still populism, but without the ugliness.
Since February 1, Romanians have been braving frigid winter temperatures to call for the resignation of their two-months old government. For their new government is up to the tricks of their old one and for many Romanians that is a bridge too far. Read more