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How Ukrainians assess 5 years of Zelenskyy's presidency

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Anton Hrushetskyi, Executive Director of KIIS, spoke about the five years of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s presidency on Hromadske Radio.

«We, as sociologists at KIIS, talk about public opinion, the views of the population, how the public perceives politicians. We can’t say which decisions were definitely right or wrong, but we can say how they were reflected in the perception of the Ukrainian population».

According to Anton Hrushetskyi, there are two periods. Until 24 February 2022, the trends were typical for all Ukrainian presidents. Volodymyr Zelenskyy started with high trust but gradually lost it. Before the invasion, there were already more people who did not trust him.

«Now people mostly perceive him in the context of the period after the full-scale invasion. Many people’s memories of him before the invasion have already been erased. He is increasingly perceived as a wartime leader. In the beginning, this led to cohesion and an increase in trust to almost 90%. Now we see a gradual downward trend. Currently, the majority of Ukrainians trust him. Also, the majority of the population is now against the elections and considers him a legitimate president».

From 2019 to 24 February 2022, Volodymyr Zelenskyy started with a record 80-90% trust. These were abnormally high figures for Ukraine.

«At first, Ukrainians were not very disappointed in Zelenskyy. There were explanations such as ‘young team,’ ‘there are some inexperienced people,’ etc. But then there was the epidemic, certain ineffective decisions, cases of corruption, and the Big Construction, which was perceived ambiguously. People saw that the situation was not changing as quickly as they would have liked. Therefore, trust was gradually lost. By February 2022, less than 40% of Ukrainians trusted Zelenskyy».

One analysis says that Zelenskyy is trying to be what society wants him to be in his image. Is this true? Anton Hrushetskyi explains.

«This is, by the way, the president’s strong point—communication skills. But we see that there are failures in understanding public sentiment. This leads to the fact that some decisions look incomprehensible to the population and, accordingly, are converted into negative consequences.

The issue of communication is one of the most important. There are certain feelings that this communication is not fully understood by the population. In fact, there are objective reasons for this. We have to understand that the presidency now, in wartime, is an extremely demanding and exhausting job. But it is clear that the team lacks certain specialists who could help build better communication. The decline in trust is largely a result of the population’s lack of understanding of what is happening».

At the beginning of the full-scale invasion, when asked whether it was worth criticizing the authorities’ possibly wrong steps, 70% said it was important to maintain unity and that criticizing the authorities was not the right time. As of 2024, on the contrary, 70% say that it is necessary to criticize the government because it is the way to solve current problems.

About elections during martial law

In January 2024, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview with Channel 4 News that Ukraine needed to «think» about how to hold presidential elections, although the law prohibits it during martial law.

Zelenskyy added that even if elections were allowed, it was unclear what to «do with the temporarily occupied territories and how to hold legitimate elections so that they are recognized by the world.» According to him, more than six million Ukrainian citizens are currently abroad, and they need to create an infrastructure for voting.

As a reminder, back in November 2023, the President said that now is not the time to prepare for the elections, but rather to focus on the fight against the occupiers.

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