But, there is one big difference. In 2010, Viktor Yanukovych usurped the powers of the government. In 2019, the will of the people prevailed, and there was no flagrant usurpation of authority or outright change in the Constitution. In an overwhelming majority, Ukrainians did not vote for Sluha Narodu (Servant of the People) – such a party still does not exist – but for one person only – Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
This means that Ukrainians do not perceive the state as a mechanism of checks and balances when it comes to regional, political and social interests. They do not want to take an active part in the development of the state through their elected members of parliament. They do not want to know about contradictions and policies, which can only be solved through free parliamentary debate. They want to believe that all responsibility for solving these contradictions, for making decisions and changes in the country lies with one single person – the president. In this sense, the attitude of Ukrainians towards their government is much more reminiscent of the attitude of Russians or Belarusians than the attitude of Poles or Czechs.
However, the difference between the Ukrainian state model and the Russian and Belarusian model lies not only in the Constitution but in the very essence of how each of these three countries function. The Russians and Belarusians have preserved and regularly demonstrate long-lasting confidence in their leaders, no matter what they do or how they act. They identify the regime of these leaders with the state itself. Today, Ukrainians have expressed great confidence in Volodymyr Zelenskyy, hoping for a more efficient government and a better future. But in fact, Ukrainians do not need a parliament, do not want to engage in long political discussions, and do not want to participate in the country’s political life because they believe that this better future will come very soon.
The most important thing is not how the 2019 vote turned out. The most important thing will be the reaction of all Ukrainians when they realize a simple fact – there is no such thing as a better immediate future and no radical changes can be expected in the next few years.
This is where many paths diverge, where Ukrainians must decide what to do next. Either obediently close their eyes to what has happened, refusing to admit that it was all an illusion… which means that Ukraine will head towards a Belarusian form of authoritarianism, which will be administered by a small group of wealthy “servants” headed by the leader of the nation. Or, once again, Ukrainians will return to their traditional mindset that has prevailed for so many years – distrust of authority, conciliation of diverse interests, strengthening of the role of society and parliament.
At that point, Ukrainians will have to once again hurry to catch up with the opportunities that were lost during the period of one-man rule in Ukraine.