May 25 Ukraine Presidential Elections

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This is a significant weekend in Ukraine.  Tomorrow, Sunday, May 25, will be the Presidential elections.  As Election Day approaches there have been billboards put up in support of candidates and tents set up in cities and towns giving information and promoting the candidates.  Ukraine has a long history of corrupt elections that are bought and rigged.  Hopefully with election observers and the amount of international attention this election is getting, it will be a fair vote.  We hope and pray that violence will not escalate in eastern Ukraine over the election weekend and that the Russians will not disrupt the process.

It has been a tumultuous past half year in Ukraine.  Riots and protests began in the late autumn followed by bloody weeks of violence and more protest throughout the winter.  In late February President Viktor Yanukovych, fled the country and escaped to Russia.  In the last couple months Oleksandr Turchynov, a member of the small Protestant minority in Ukraine and a reported Baptist lay pastor, has served as acting president.  In the past few months unrest has continued as Russia invaded and annexed the Crimea region of southern Ukraine.  Violence and unrest has erupted in recent weeks in both Eastern Ukraine and in Odessa.  Now the Ukrainian military is fighting an increasingly bloody campaign against Russian Special Forces and pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists in many border regions of eastern Ukraine.

Western Ukraine and our home base of Transcarpathia have remained very peaceful, despite the violence and upheaval in Kyiv, and in both eastern and southern Ukraine.   Ukraine seems to be two different worlds right now.  Everyday life continues on as normal in Transcarpathia, Ukraine.  The political turmoil and unrest of much of the country is nonexistent here.  A faltering economy and weakening Hryvnia (Ukrainian currency) seem to be the biggest issues here.  We are thankful western Ukraine has remained safe and peaceful and that we have been able to live and work here without problems.  We are thankful for peace and the normalcy of everyday life in western Ukraine and we are thankful it appears that we will be able to keep our plans and have our scheduled English camps here in Ukraine.

It has been a very political spring here in Eastern Europe.  Hungary also had national elections this spring and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party were reelected in a landslide victory, this past April.  Fidesz, a right central conservative party, has been very popular in Hungary.  With all things political there are pros and cons to the Fidesz government, but they have impacted life for minority Hungarians in countries surrounding Hungary, giving them citizenship and even voting rights.   Prime Minister Orbán has championed awareness and advocated for Hungarian minorities living in neighboring countries.  Living among 170,000 ethnic Hungarian minorities in Transcarpathia, Ukraine, this issue is close to home and has implications here.  Viktor Orbán has received political backlash and has made headlines this past week for asking for autonomy for the Hungarian citizens living in Ukraine.

Please keep Ukraine in your prayers as violence and unrest continues in the eastern half of the country.  We are thankful to be in a safe in this quiet area of Ukraine and that violence and unrest has not spread to Transcarpathia. We are thankful it appears that we will be able to keep our scheduled English camps this summer in Ukraine.  Please keep Ukraine in your prayers during the weekend of uncertainty surround the elections.

About Eric Hoeksema

Stacey, my wife, and I are located in western Ukraine, living with and working among a Hungarian population in Transcarpathia, Ukraine.

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