Ukraine has shut down five polling stations in Russia for the upcoming presidential elections, according to authorities. The decision was made for "security reasons", but this could exclude thousands of potential voters from voting.
Just in time for the end of the year on 31 December, the election campaign in Ukraine for the presidential elections on 31 March 2019 kicked off. On the same day, the Central Electoral Commission announced its decision to close five polling stations in Russia.
These are located in the embassy in Moscow as well as in consulates in Saint-Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Ekaterinburg and Novosibirsk. These five polling stations will now be merged to three polling stations in the neighboring countries of Georgia, Finland and Kazakhstan.
After heavy criticism, in the Ukrainian media and on social networks, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin defended the decision in a newspaper article on Thursday. His rationale was “undoubtedly” a lack of security.
“We are concerned about the safety of Ukrainian citizens, who, despite administrative and propagandistic pressure, will sign up as members of electoral commissions or simply vote “, the minister wrote.
He also argued that there were only a handful of people who would actually vote in Russia . Out of just under 50 000 eligible voters, in 2014, in the last presidential election, only 1 142 Ukrainian citizens voted.
Nevertheless, according to his own statements, there are up to three million Ukrainian guest workers in Russia. Most of them are still registered in Ukraine.
In addition, most of the almost one million refugees from the contested regions of eastern Ukraine are still in possession of a Ukrainian passport, and it can not be completely ruled out that this year, due to the dissatisfaction with the current government, these votes may be crucial, the Ukrainian news portal strana.ua, argued.
While only a few guest workers are willing to travel longer distances to one of the five polling stations on a Sunday, many are realizing that the elections this year may be fateful with the diplomatic relations between Russia and Ukraine at an all-time low.
It is clear that the Ukrainian measure is primarily targeting Russian-speaking citizens from the south-east of Ukraine, those who advocate normalizing Russian-Ukrainian relations and disapprove of the politics of “predatory nationalism” and “tariff genocide,” according to opposition politician Victor Medvedchuk.
This decision directly violates the Constitution of Ukraine, including international standards, as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, said Medvedchuk in his statement and pointed to the absence of any criticism from the West.
Another opposition politician and Rada MP, Vadim Rabinovich, announced on January 1 on his Facebook profile that he would appeal against the violation of the constitutional rights of “hundreds of thousands of citizens”. Rabinowitsch added: “We must not keep silent!” He also ran for the last presidential elections.
On January 3, the Kiev Center for Social Monitoring and the Ukrainian Social Research Institute announced the results of their latest survey on electoral preferences in the run-up to the elections.
According to the poll, incumbent President Petro Poroshenko currently has the highest negative rating at 52 percent. Many people would never vote for him under any circumstances. The most promising candidate, Yulia Tymoshenko, is at 29 percent.
Among those who will participate in the elections, Poroshenko will only receive 10,7 percent of the vote. With this result he occupies the fifth place, lower than comedy actor Vladimir Selensky.
In this case, the incumbent president would be forced to resign in the first round of voting. Ukraine already faces a demographic “catastrophe”with more and more citizens leaving the country.