Presidential election in Ukraine in 2019: what needs to be known

Presidential election in Ukraine in 2019: what needs to be known

The day is coming when voters in Ukraine will be able to give the incumbent head of state a mandate for the next five years or replace him. There are three weeks left.

According to the Constitution, the regular election of the president of Ukraine is held on the last Sunday of March of the fifth year of office of the president of Ukraine. That is, the vote will take place on March 31, 2019.

Citizens who have reached the age of 35, who have lived in Ukraine for the past ten years and are fluent in the Ukrainian language have the right to run for the presidency. Candidates can be nominated from political parties or participate in the election as self-nominees. Each presidential candidate must provide a passport, autobiography, election program, application, asset declaration and post a deposit of UAH 2.5 million (about $90,000 at the current exchange rate). The National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption verifies the candidates' asset declarations.

The current presidential election campaign began on December 31 last year. On February 8, the Central Election Commission (CEC) completed the process of registration of candidates for the post of the head of state. In all, 92 applications were submitted and 44 candidates were registered - the largest number in Ukraine's history. A person cannot hold the post of the head of state for more than two terms, but incumbent President Petro Poroshenko is finishing only his first term so he is running for a second term and is among the candidates.

March 7 is the deadline for a candidate to withdraw from the presidential race and take the deposit back. One candidate used this right on March 6. Another one stated such an intention but a respective application has not yet been submitted to the CEC.

The Central Election Commission also registers official representatives of candidates and Ukrainian and foreign official observers.

On February 18, the CEC formed 199 district election commissions consisting of representatives from registered candidates.

A polling station, no later than five days before the election day, that is before March 24, sends an invitation to each voter, announcing that he or she has been included in the voter list, as well as stating the address of the polling station, the time and place of voting. Voters who cannot move independently report that they should be given an opportunity to vote at their place of residence. Each voter can independently check the availability of his or her data in the electoral lists, using the online service "Personal Voter Cabinet" in the State Register of Voters.

Until March 29 inclusive, candidates have an opportunity to campaign and distribute their election programs. The last day before the election is a "day of silence" when any campaigning is prohibited.

It is prohibited to conduct pre-election campaigning, which is accompanied by the provision of voters with money or goods, services, works, securities, loans, and lotteries free of charge or on preferential terms. It is also prohibited to distribute deliberately untrue information about a candidate. It is illegal to distribute materials containing calls for the liquidation of Ukraine's independence, the violent change of the constitutional order, violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state, undermining its security, propagating war, violence and inciting interethnic, racial, religious hatred, as well as encroaching on human rights and freedoms.

The current election is taking place amid Russian aggression, due to which about 7% of Ukraine's territory was occupied and about 1.5 million people were forced to change their place of residence. The CEC simplified the procedure for changing the place of voting for those living in temporarily occupied territories. This can be done on any day but no later than five days before the election day. It is necessary to come with a passport to the nearest point of the State Register of Voters and write an application asking for a temporary change in the place of voting.

The war caused the cancellation of the vote for Ukrainian citizens living on the territory of Russia, which Ukraine recognized at the legislative level as an aggressor state. Ukraine's Central Election Commission closed polling stations in Russia and relocated them to foreign polling stations located on the territory of the Embassies of Ukraine in Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Finland. Citizens of Ukraine temporarily staying in Russia may also exercise their right to vote at their place of residence in Ukraine.

The first round of the election will be held on March 31. About 30 million Ukrainian citizens will be able to vote at 29,824 polling stations.

The results of the first round should be announced before April 10 inclusive, and, if necessary, the second round will be announced the same day if none of the candidates gains 50% plus one vote. The results of the first round should be published in the official newspapers Holos Ukrainy and Uriadovy Kurier before April 13. The presidential run-off will see two candidates who receive the highest number of votes during the March 31 vote.

The election debate between them will be held on April 19. April 20 is again a "day of silence" before the vote so appeals and statements made by candidates during the debate will be the latest information for voters.

The second round of the election will take place on April 21. The CEC should publish the results of the run-off before May 1, 2019 (official results will be published on May 4).

The inauguration will take place by June 3 (under the Constitution, "no later than 30 days after the official announcement of election results"). A new head of state will assume office after a swearing-in ceremony in the Verkhovna Rada.

For the first time in the election there is no competition between two major candidates. Previously, two presidential election favorites were always predictable. Now, the competition for winning through to the second round is very high. According to surveys, the best chances of reaching the second round are enjoyed by incumbent President Petro Poroshenko, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and a candidate who represents those disappointed with professional politicians – comedian and showman Volodymyr Zelensky. Their ratings have changed dynamically in recent months in the range from 15 to 25 percent of supporters.

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