Ukrainian politicians are finding it increasingly challenging to win votes from among the young.
Compared to their elders they are better plugged in to social networks online and the information accessible there. In the capital Kiev, students from all over the country are invited to take part in a weekly televised meet-the-candidates discussion.
Student Andriy Zasadnyuk shared his impression with euronews, saying: “I see some really independent candidates, especially among those running individually, but very few of them. Those politicians and parties that promote themselves as cutting edge have never been in government or parliament before, and basically they are no different from anyone else. I do not see them offering new ideas, and that’s frightening.”
Ukraine felt a huge shift when the Soviet Union fell apart more than two decades ago.
Political activist Ihor Lutsenko compared voters in the past with today’s – bearing in mind that the undecided make up as much as 25 per cent of the electorate.
Lutsenko said: “Young people are more focused on European values. The older generation thought more about Russia, the USSR, communists and nationalists, for instance. Now young voters are more concerned about things like the environment and lifestyle.”
Of course the priorities for many also include education, jobs and access to health care.
Kiev is in northern central Ukraine. But it is also worth taking a look at Lviv, in the west, and much closer to the border with several EU countries. Lviv is also highly active in the rapidly-developing Information Technology sector, IT. The Polytechnic University is hard-pressed to keep up with the demand for IT graduates. To get in, this year saw 20 applicants for each place available.
Ukraine’s earnings from IT industry services last year far outstripped those of several EU states, with growth of more than 30 percent in the past few years. This holds out hope of a secure future for aspiring young professionals, without them joining the national brain drain.
A student told us: “I want to stay in Ukraine with a Ukrainian company, maybe with branches elsewhere. I want to do what I was trained to do.”
Another student said: “There are lots of IT companies starting to do business, and demand is high. There are not enough IT specialists. So I think there’s a real prospect here.”
Last year the country’s IT industry earned 760 million euros. It’s like a different world from primary-industry-heavy eastern Ukraine.
Dmytro Fedasyuk, the deputy dean at the university said: “The prospect of future employment is what attracts young people: getting a high level of knowledge that will guarantee a good job.”
Ukraine declared itself an independent democratic state when the USSR formally dissolved in 1991. But the newly sovereign country’s economy went into a tailspin. In that recession, Ukraine lost 60 percent of its GDP up until 1999. Finally things picked up, and since 2000, real economic growth has averaged seven percent per year. But before that Ukrainians had long stretches of uncertainty.
IT specialist Volodymyr Romanyuk told us: “Since the old days, the western part of Ukraine has been considered pro-European. We have always wanted to live in Europe, the EU. Geographically we lie at the centre of Europe and so it’s strange to associate with Russia. That’s like going back to something we were running away from for so long. We fought against that, and it’s still quite difficult – we haven’t overcome it yet.”