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Ukraine

Bitter agenda for a 'sweet' president

Chocolate billionaire Petro Poroshenko faces huge challenges as Ukraine's president-elect. Among them: easing tensions in the east, utilizing a fragile parliament and fending off insinuations of corruption.

"Slava Ukraina" ( Glory to Ukraine) is the greeting Tetyana used to salute her friends in front of a polling station in Irpin, a small town near Kyiv.

Although she's ethnically Russian, Tetyana, a 48-year-old accountant, wore a traditional Ukrainian shirt on election day in Ukraine. The same went for Eduard, a manager whose children accompanied him to the vote.

The polling stations where Tetyana and Eduard voted were supervised by four members of Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), who wanted to make sure that "essential elections for the future of Ukraine" were run in complete security.

Members of Ukraine's Right Sector dressed in black at night.

Pravy Sektor is consistently portrayed by Russian media as a "neo-Nazi" organization

Over 100 members of the controversial right-wing group, which had its own candidate for presidential elections, patrolled polling stations around Kyiv on Sunday, some dressed as civilians, others in khaki uniforms.

The leader of this particular group, 38-year-old lawyer Petro Maslenciuk, showed DW a document meant to demonstrate endorsement by Kyiv's government for the group to patrol poll stations. But only Pravy Sektor's own stamp was on the paper.

Despite these contradictions and voting difficulties in eastern Ukrainian regions controlled by pro-Russian secessionists, Sunday's elections were, according to Western diplomats, the most independent in the history of the country, with none of the candidates holding enough power to influence the counting process.

Political purge and a fragile majority

The winner and soon-to-be president of Ukraine is Petro Poroshenko of the left-of-center Solidarity party. In Kyiv, the 49-year-old businessman has nicknames like "the sweet oligarch" due to his successful businesses in the chocolate industry.

Although he previously worked in both Viktor Yushchenko's and Viktor Yanukovych's administrations, Poroshenko found new popularity as an early supporter of the Euromaiden protest movement.

Essential for Poroshenko's success was the support of Ukrainian boxing-star-turned politician Vitali Klitschko and the party he founded in 2010, the center-right Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR); Klitschko was elected mayor of Kyiv on Sunday as well.

President-elect Poroshenko shakes hand with Klitschko

Poroshenko (left) and Klitschko shake hands on election day

Media reports in Ukraine attribute the origins of the Solidarity-UDAR alliance to oligarch Dmytro Firtash, who was arrested in March in Vienna on accusations of bribery and released on bail after paying 125millioneuros ($170 million).

Vitaliy Kovalchuk, who headed Poroshenko's election campaign and is vice president of the UDAR, denied those allegations in an interview with DW.

Wanted: 'Supportive' parliamentarians

Poroshenko, although he received an overwhelming share of the vote, will be a less powerful president than Viktor Yanukovych.

He will face pressure to abide by Ukraine's 2004 constitution and, when advancing his own agenda, will likely have to engage in dialogue with representatives from across the entire political spectrum.

That's particularly true for his first goal: early parliamentary elections.

Viktor Yanukovych stands in front of three Ukrainian flags.

Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said he "respects" the result but doubts their legitimacy

The majority of the factions currently in parliament defected from the Party of Regions of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych. Without their votes, Poroshenko cannot call early elections.

One tool at his disposal is the threat of a post-election purge of Yanukovych-era officials still holding office.

"Supportive" parliamentarians, by contrast, might expect softer treatment from a future coalition in parliament.

Crimea's annexation in international court?

Still, the largest issue facing the new president remains the and Luhansk crises. Sunday elections showed that Kyiv has lost control over the regions.

Decentralization, a mantra for Kyiv politicians today, will become one of the most important negotiating points. How much autonomy should those regions have?

Poroshenko's team is also preparing further moves against Russia, one of which might bring the case of Crimea's annexation to international court, and

As for talks with pro-Russian secessionists, one of Poroshenko's closest advisors told DW that it's a non-starter.

"We would like to begin dialogue with the lawful leaders in the region, but the Kremlin is blocking this," he said.

The advisor also called on Western countries to do more.

"We are angry because the West isn't adopting tougher economic sanctions against Russia. These sanctions could replace our military actions and spare lots of lives," the advisor said.

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