Yesterday Ukraine voted. It was a hot day in Kyiv and I headed out to the end of one metro line to the Obolon (yes, there’s a beer with the same name) neighborhood. A professor and friend from Columbia lives in that neighborhood so she took me to her polling station located in a school. There was no A/C but Ukrainians calmly waited in line (dabbing themselves with handkerchiefs) and voted. In Kyiv they voted for both president and mayor. Voting moved at a normal pace and families came dressed up in traditional embroidered shirts. I was in a residential neighborhood surrounded by Soviet style block apartments. OSCE observers looked on at the polling station I visited. Some kids went in with their parents, others played outside in the school yard on an old Soviet tank that has since been turned into a statue. A neighborhood dog wandered in and out of the school. I stood for about two hours outside of the station and interviewed voters (I’ll post an analysis piece soon). My informal poll had Petro Poroshenko winning.
That evening, thanks to a fellow journo, I went to the press center for Poroshenko. The world’s media was there waiting to hear if a second round of voting would be necessary.
Poroshenko and Vitali Klitschko (former heavyweight boxing champ) took the stage together. Poroshenko, in a rather muted manner, announced that early exit polls had him with over 50% of the vote. Yulia Tymoshenko trailed a far second. After the typical remarks on free and fair voting and what he plans to do next, journalists immediately began asking about the situation in Ukraine’s east. Everyone is wondering what Mr. Putin is going to do next.
Klitschko was elected the mayor of Kyiv and he promised it to turn it into a European capital.
After enjoying some Roshen chocolates (Poroshenko is known as the Chocolate King for owning the company), we headed back out onto the streets of Kyiv. Out of nowhere the Imperial March from Star Wars started playing and Kyiv mayoral candidate (I kid you not this was a real thing) Darth Vader drove by. Just as soon as he appeared, Darth had already past by heading somewhere else on the nighttime roads of Kyiv.
Here’s what those giant ballot boxes look like. Everything is still done by paper. I asked my friend about this and she said that while in Ukraine’s major cities it would be fine to switch to a digital system, many older people in villages would have a hard time with the technology.
And here are some political billboard photos I snapped in the week before the election. Here is Petro Poroshenko heralding a new life for Ukrainians:
Anatoliy Hrytsenko was a former defense minister — can you tell from his ads? His slogan — “I guarantee safety.”
And the gas princess herself, with a new hairdo, came in a far second. Almost everyone I spoke with said they were tired of having Yulia in Ukrainian political life. Only one older woman told me she voted for Yulia. Her reasoning? Because all politicians are scared of her.
This was a crazy ad for a clothing store that I saw in Lviv. It reads, “Beauty will save the world.” I think it’s one of the most tasteless things I’ve seen in some time. There are people dying in Eastern Ukraine and you put up an ad with scantily clad women holding AKs? Really?
This final billboard is now the big question for Ukraine — unity. It translates as “Ukraine — it’s each of us.”