Trailing Badly In Polls, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko To Impose Martial Law, Likely Canceling Election

Jonathan Vankin

Hours after Russian forces fired on three Ukrainian naval vessels injuring a number of Ukraine troops, as the BBC reported, the country's president Petrov Poroshenko told the Ukraine parliament that he wants approval to declare martial law in the country — a move that could lead to canceling or postponing the presidential election scheduled for March of 2019.

Ukraine's Navy said that six of its sailors were wounded in a gun battle with Russian forces, according to information provided via Twitter by journalist Christopher Miller, who covers the region.

According to a Twitter post by Ukraine's public broadcaster Hromadske.UA, an imposition of martial law in the country would last through January at least, and would cause the March elections to be postponed. The martial law decree would include a ban on political activities, meaning that candidates would be unable to register for the elections.

Though the martial law move comes in response to the clash with Russian forces off the Crimean Peninsula on Sunday, it also would occur at a politically convenient time for Poroshenko, whose popularity with Ukrainian voters has cratered. According to the Kiev Post, almost 50 percent of all Ukrainians say that under no circumstances will they vote for Poroshenko, a 53-year-old Ukrainian billionaire oligarch who took office following the ouster of Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovich in a 2014 popular uprising, as the Inquisitr reported

The leading candidate expected to run against Poroshenko, Yulia Timoshenko, was jailed by Yanukovich's government in 2011, after she was convicted of abusing her power as Ukraine premier. But the European human rights court found that, in fact, she was imprisoned for purely political reasons, because she was a leader of Ukraine's pro-democracy movement and a top political challenger to Yanukovich, according to the Guardian.

Timoshenko remains highly popular in Ukraine, with 20 percent of the country's voters saying that with four months to go before the election, they have already made up their minds to vote for her, according to last week's poll conducted by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, the Razumkov Center, and the Rating Group.

In another poll released on November 22, according to the French Press Agency, a whopping 81 percent of Ukrainians said that they do not support Poroshenko — a level of unpopularity exceeded only by Ukraine's parliament itself, which registered a dismal 86.8 disapproval rating in the poll run by Sociopolis Institute of Social Technologies.

Why Poroshenko has proposed a nationwide state of martial law in response to naval incident remains unclear. In addition to possibly canceling the presidential election, under martial law Poroshenko's government would have the ability to "require people capable of working to do 'socially necessary work' for the state," as the government "can take control of private, communal, or state company property for the needs of the state," according to a Post report. "A ban on peaceful gatherings, protests, marches, and other mass events," is also part of a martial law decree.