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In Ukraine, disenchantment undermines the Zelensky presidency

At the appointed hour, a crowd of fur hats and down jackets gathered in front of the town hall. The thermometer reads – 17 ° C on this Sunday in January in Kryvyi Rih, in central Ukraine. Protesters take turns speaking in front of the austere building. “We are very poor, the charges are increasing and the nation is threatened; we must oppose it ”, launches a woman at the microphone. “Zelensky sold our city to the oligarchs! “, connects another. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky grew up there, in this industrial city of 630,000 inhabitants bristling with slag heaps and factory chimneys, with a sky veiled by pollution.

Among the 300 or so people who came to protest against the increase in charges, many had voted for him in the presidential election in April 2019, won over by the anti-elite speech of this former actor, new to politics, who was not known so far only for his role as president in a television series.

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A year and a half later, his voters are disillusioned. “We have been betrayed! We thought he would be close to the people and rid us of the corruption, but he did nothing, annoys Irina Oumanska, a 33-year-old worker. I want him to go! “

Promising first months

The Zelensky presidency is showing definite signs of running out of steam. Its flagship promise, the eradication of corruption, threatens to remain a dead letter today, jeopardizing the support of international donors, vital, but also the efforts made after the pro-European revolution of Maidan, in 2014.

The first months were nevertheless promising. Reduction of parliamentary immunity, creation of the public investigation office, launch of the special anti-corruption court… Dozens of reforms have been carried out with full speed. The government even earned the nickname of “Turbo speed”.

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Carried by his historic presidential score (73%) and the absolute majority won in Parliament by his Servant of the People party – never seen before – Volodymyr Zelensky was convinced he could change everything quickly. Alas, he now comes up against a system bigger than himself.

The all-powerful Constitutional Court offers it fierce resistance. The most spectacular episode dates back to October 2020. Seized by about fifty pro-Russian deputies, it invalidated a series of anti-corruption measures in force for several years, deeming them too severe. In particular, it removed criminal liability for officials convicted of false income statements.

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