Ukraine’s Jewish leaders celebrate electoral defeat of far right
(JTA) — Jewish leaders in Ukraine expressed satisfaction with the poor showing of ultranationalist candidates in the country’s presidential elections and the victory by oligarch Petro Poroshenko.
Poroshenko, from Odessa, won 54.4 percent of Sunday’s vote, eliminating the need for a second round, the Ukrainian Central Elections Commission announced Tuesday after counting 94 percent of the votes cast.
“The resounding victory of Poroshenko in just about every region of Ukraine not only eliminated the need for a costly second round but also sends an important message of unity,” said Josef Zissels, chairman of the Vaad Association of Jewish Organization and Communities of Ukraine.
Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was second with 12.9 percent of the vote. Vadim Rabinovich, a Jewish community leader and businessman, finished seventh with 2.3 percent — more than the combined number of votes cast for Oleg Tyagnybok of the ultranationalist Svoboda party and for Dmytro Yarosh, leader of the Right Sector movement.
“The failure of the ultranationalists reflects a reality which we have been trying to represent all the time despite Russian propaganda’s attempt to portray Ukrainian society as intolerant,” Zissels told JTA.
Alexander Levin, president of the Jewish Community of Kiev, wrote on Facebook that Tyagnybok and Yarosh’s failure to match Rabinovich “showed that in Ukraine, there is no policy of-Semitism, period.”
Rabinovich called on Poroshenko to dissolve the parliament within 100 days and call a new parliamentary election.
Igor Shchupak, a prominent figure in the Jewish community of Dnipropetrovsk and director of the city’s Jewish museum, said he believed Porosheko was “certainly equipped to lead Ukraine at this critical time with his vast experience and set of skills that range from banking to foreign policy.”
The election followed the ouster in February of President Viktor Yanukovych in a revolution that began in November over his alleged corruption and perceived allegiance to Russia.
Russian-backed troops later captured the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed on March 18. Several locales in Ukraine are held by pro-Russian militiamen, including the eastern city of Donetsk, where some voters were prevented from reaching ballots amid fights between the separatists and government forces.