A rare moment of calm in the first round of Ukraine’s controversial presidential election

5 April 2019

On 31 March, Ukrainians went to the polls to elect a new president. Photographer Ira Yeroshko volunteered at her local polling station in her hometown of Lutsk, where she took this shot.

The figure in the photo is the election commissioner, responsible for counting the votes cast. The sun-drenched room and the subject’s laid-back disposition provide a welcome moment of calm in what has been a surprising and tense electoral race.

“The official presidential campaigns only start a month before the elections,” Yeroshko explains, “which is quite a short time compared to the elections in the US, for example. Even two weeks before the elections I could not believe that we were about to have a new president.”

“This year’s turnout for the first run-off was 63.48 per cent, 3.98 per cent more than at the last presidential elections in 2014,” the photographer adds. This election consisted of 39 candidates, though the main race has been between incumbent Petro Poroshenko, ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoschenko, and the most surprising candidate, actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Zelenskiy, who has no previous political experience and announced his candidacy unexpectedly on New Year’s Eve, is leading polls across the country, including the Volyn region of which Lutsk is the administrative centre.

“The second run-off will take place on 21 April and there is a lot of negativity both online and offline. People online are demanding debates,” Yeroshko notes. Yesterday, it was announced that Poroshenko and Zelenskiy had agreed to go head-to-head in a rare televised debate. The date is yet to be announced. Yeroshko says, “One can feel the tension in the air. I am curious to see what each of them will do to win over the voters.”

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