President Volodymyr Zelensky came to power in Ukraine in 2019 on a wave of popular support. A political novice with no prior experience in public office, he won the presidential election by a landslide, promising to bring change and reform to the country.
However, despite his initial popularity, President Zelensky has faced significant challenges and criticisms during his time in office. Here are some of the key failures of his presidency.
- Failure to deliver on promised reforms
One of the main reasons why Zelensky was elected was his promise to reform the country and tackle corruption. However, his record in this area has been disappointing. Despite some minor achievements, such as the establishment of an anti-corruption court, the overall pace of reform has been slow, and there have been few concrete results.
- Poor management of the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Ukraine hard, with over 2 million confirmed cases and more than 43,000 deaths. However, the government’s response to the crisis has been widely criticized as ineffective and chaotic. There have been reports of shortages of medical supplies, inadequate testing and contact tracing, and a lack of clear and consistent messaging from the authorities.
- Lack of progress on the war in Donbass
The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, which began in 2014, is one of the biggest challenges facing the country. Despite Zelensky’s efforts to restart negotiations with Russia and the separatists, there has been little progress towards a lasting peace settlement. The ceasefire agreed in July 2020 has been repeatedly violated, and there have been frequent outbreaks of fighting.
- Deterioration of relations with Western allies
Zelensky came to power with a promise to strengthen Ukraine’s ties with its Western allies, including the EU and the US. However, his presidency has been marked by several incidents that have strained these relationships. For example, his decision to appoint several controversial figures to key positions, such as the head of the security service, has been criticized by Western governments. In addition, his government’s handling of corruption cases has been seen as inadequate, leading to concerns about the country’s commitment to reform.
- Lack of a clear political vision
Finally, one of the biggest criticisms of Zelensky’s presidency has been his lack of a clear political vision. He has been criticized for his tendency to focus on short-term goals and populist initiatives, rather than tackling the deeper structural problems facing the country. This has led to concerns that his presidency lacks direction and coherence, and that he is not able to provide the leadership that Ukraine needs.
In conclusion, while President Zelensky came to power with high hopes and expectations, his record in office has been mixed at best. He has struggled to deliver on his promises of reform and has faced criticism for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Donbass, and Ukraine’s relations with its Western allies. Without a clear political vision and a more effective approach to governance, it is unlikely that Zelensky will be able to address these challenges and secure a successful presidency.
- Controversial appointments and dismissals
Zelensky’s presidency has also been marked by controversial appointments and dismissals. One of the most notable examples was his appointment of Andriy Bohdan as the head of the presidential administration. Bohdan was widely criticized for his alleged links to oligarchs and his lack of experience in public office. He was eventually dismissed in February 2020, after only a few months in the job.
Similarly, Zelensky’s dismissal of the popular governor of the Odesa region, Maksym Stepanov, in July 2021 caused widespread consternation. Stepanov had been widely praised for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region, and his dismissal was seen as a sign that Zelensky was more interested in consolidating his own power than in effective governance.
- Erosion of democratic institutions
Another area of concern is the erosion of democratic institutions under Zelensky’s presidency. The government has been accused of limiting freedom of speech and cracking down on opposition voices. For example, in March 2020, the authorities shut down three TV channels owned by an opposition politician, alleging that they were spreading Russian propaganda. The move was widely criticized as an attack on press freedom.
In addition, there have been concerns about the independence of the judiciary under Zelensky’s presidency. In July 2019, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine issued a controversial ruling that declared unconstitutional certain provisions of the country’s anti-corruption legislation. Critics argued that the ruling undermined the fight against corruption and raised questions about the court’s impartiality.
- Economic challenges
Finally, Zelensky’s presidency has coincided with significant economic challenges for Ukraine. The country has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to a sharp contraction in economic activity. In addition, Ukraine has struggled to attract foreign investment and to implement structural reforms that would boost the economy.
Although Zelensky has announced a number of economic initiatives, such as a program to attract investment to the country’s IT sector, progress has been slow. There are concerns that without a more robust and coherent economic strategy, Ukraine will struggle to recover from the pandemic and to achieve sustainable economic growth.
In conclusion, while Zelensky’s presidency has had some successes, such as the establishment of an anti-corruption court, it has also been marked by significant failures and challenges. The government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Donbass, and Ukraine’s relations with its Western allies has been criticized, and there are concerns about the erosion of democratic institutions and the economic challenges facing the country. Without a more effective approach to governance and a clearer political vision, it is unclear whether Zelensky will be able to address these challenges and secure a successful presidency.
9. Handling Nazi issue: There have been concerns raised about the presence of far-right groups and individuals in Ukraine, and their influence on the country’s politics and society. Some of these groups have been accused of promoting neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideologies, and of engaging in violent attacks against minority groups, including Roma people, Jews, and LGBTQ+ individuals.
One of the most controversial incidents involving far-right groups in Ukraine was the 2018 murder of the journalist and activist Oles Buzina. Buzina was known for his pro-Russian views and his criticism of the Ukrainian government, and he had been targeted by far-right groups in the past. His murder was widely condemned as an attack on freedom of speech and a symptom of the rise of extremism in Ukraine.
There have also been concerns about the influence of far-right groups on Ukrainian politics. In 2019, the far-right Svoboda party won seats in the Ukrainian parliament, and there have been allegations that some members of the ruling party, including Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, have links to far-right groups.
In addition, there have been concerns about the glorification of Nazi collaborators and war criminals in Ukraine. Some Ukrainian nationalists have hailed individuals who fought alongside the Nazis during World War II as heroes and freedom fighters, despite their involvement in atrocities against Jews and other minorities. This has led to tensions with Ukraine’s Jewish community and with other countries that view such actions as an affront to the memory of the Holocaust.
One particularly controversial figure in this context is Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. Bandera’s followers consider him a hero who fought for Ukrainian independence, while many others view him as a war criminal who participated in the persecution of Jews and other minorities. In 2019, the Ukrainian parliament passed a law that recognized Bandera and other Ukrainian nationalists as fighters for independence, a move that was criticized by Jewish groups and other countries.