Ukraine Elections

On Wednesday, TV viewers in Ukraine enjoyed the premier episode of Season Three of "Servant of the People," a situation comedy about an ordinary man who becomes president of Ukraine. Season four is very much in doubt, because the actor who plays Ukraine's president on the show may soon be elected Ukraine's real-life president.


On Sunday, voters will see the name of Volodymyr Zelenskiy alongside those of 38 other candidates during the first round of voting in Ukraine's presidential election. Assuming no one wins a majority, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff on April 21.

Zelenskiy currently leads in the polls with one-quarter to one-third of the vote. Current President Petro Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko are running in second and third place respectively.

The Big Issue: Frustration with stagnation and foreign policy paralysis. Many Ukrainians have grown frustrated with rampant official corruption and an economy enfeebled by the combination of confrontational relations with Russia and an inability to build closer ties with the European Union. Zelenskiy hasn't offered detailed solutions to these problems, but having never served in government (except on TV), he can't be blamed for them either.

The Wildcard Risk: Will thugs disrupt the vote? Ukrainian Ultranationalists – who fiercely oppose Poroshenko say they'll be present in uniform outside polling stations to "monitor" the election. If they provoke violence and disrupt voting, will police intervene? Will their presence delegitimize the election results?

Irony Alert: Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine in 2014 and to back separatism in its eastern provinces has actually weakened Russia's hand in the country's electoral politics. The ethnic Russian population of Ukraine is concentrated heavily in Crimea, which Moscow claims as part of Russia, and in the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, which have vowed to boycott the election. Remove millions of pro-Russian votes and you're much less likely to get a Russia-friendly election result.

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It looks like China's leadership has finally had enough of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement.

In a speech on Thursday to the national people's congress, a symbolic confab of the country's ruling elite, Premier Li Keqiang announced a new national security law that would outlaw secessionist activity and criminalize foreign influence in Hong Kong. The measure, an explicit response to recent pro-democracy protests there, would also permit mainland China's security agencies to operate openly in the city.

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Indonesia becomes an epicenter: Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, is now considered an epicenter of the pandemic, after it suffered its biggest daily surge in cases Thursday with over 900 new infections. The country of 260 million has the largest outbreak in Southeast Asia, recording about 20,000 cases and 1,300 deaths, though a recent study suggested that as few as 2 percent of the country's coronavirus infections may have been reported. When pressed on why Indonesia is experiencing a surge in cases while the curve appears to be flattening in neighboring countries, Indonesian health authorities blamed the public's flouting of social distancing guidelines. But critics say the government has sent wishy-washy messages on how to stop the disease's spread, as demonstrated by the fact that only four of Indonesia's 34 provinces have applied widespread social-distancing restrictions. Meanwhile, as the country's 225 million Muslims prepare to celebrate the end of Ramadan this weekend, popular markets have been overwhelmed by shoppers buying food and clothing, with little guidance or enforcement of large-scale social distancing measures. Indonesia's public health system is grossly underfunded, and experts warn that given the shortage of hospital beds, medical equipment and staff, the situation could deteriorate fast in the coming weeks.

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This is not the 2020 that Vladimir Putin had in mind.

As the year started, Russia's president was crafting plans for changes to the constitution that would permit him to stay in power for (at least) another 16 years. A rubber stamp public referendum was to be held in April. Then, in May, he was to welcome foreign leaders to Moscow for a grand celebration (parades, concerts, fireworks, and a reviewing stand atop Lenin's Mausoleum) marking the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union's triumph over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War.

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Have you ever read a major op-ed and thought to yourself, "no! no! no! That's just not right!" Us too. This week, Ian Bremmer is joined by analysts Kelsey Broderick and Jeffrey Wright to take the Red Pen to former World Bank president Robert B. Zoellick's Wall Street Journal op-ed.

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