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Meet Ukraine’s Presidential Candidates

Ukraine’s presidential race is on, with a record-breaking 44 of at least 89 applicants green-lighted to run. The field is arguably the most diverse in the country’s independent history, with veteran politicians vying against a comedian, journalists, war veterans, career spies, accused criminals, and more. Each may now canvass an electorate that independent polls say is deeply divided or undecided about who can best steer Ukraine through much-needed reforms and out of a Russia-backed conflict that’s been bleeding the country since Kyiv adopted a more westward path in 2014. It’s a wide-open contest, although a handful of candidates appear to stand far better chances when ballots are cast in the first of two possible rounds of voting.

Key Dates

  • December 30

    Campaigning can begin

  • Dec. 31-Feb. 4

    Nominations

  • February 9

    End of candidate registration

  • March 7

    Last day to withdraw

  • March 31

    Election day

  • By April 10

    First-round results

  • April 21

    Second-round runoff (if needed)

  • By May 1

    Final results

  • June 3

    Inauguration

The winner will inherit a country that has made some strides in the past five years but largely failed to shake entrenched corruption and remains a target of Russian destabilization efforts. Potentially reliant on Western partners who have helped to keep Kyiv afloat through crisis and conflict, any Ukrainian president faces the difficult task of maintaining those ties while pursuing peace with Russia-backed separatists and making occasionally unpopular decisions that are sure to reflect in the polls. Just ask the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko, whose uphill battle is a testament to the fact that just one of his predecessors has won reelection since Ukrainian independence in 1991.

Who Can’t Vote

About 12 percent of Ukraine’s 44 million people are disenfranchised, including displaced persons from the war-torn Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are not under government control, as well as Russian-held Crimea. Historically, voters from those areas have backed candidates who promote closer ties to Russia. Polls show incumbent Poroshenko deeply unpopular there. Ukrainian nationals residing or working in Russia will be unable to vote there so must visit a consulate in a third country or return to Ukraine to cast their ballot.