Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has announced the launch of a special court to try corruption cases ahead of a presidential election runoff next week.
The anti-corruption court is being set up as part of Ukraine’s $3.9bn loan programme with the IMF, with the intention of rooting out entrenched corruption and insulating court decisions from political pressure or bribery.
Poroshenko said on Thursday that the selection process for the judges had taken seven months.
“Today, we see the result: 38 new judges proceed to perform their duties in the new court,” he wrote on Twitter.
“They have the levers and tools to be successful, judicial reform granted them independence from the legislative and executive branches and from the president, as well.”
Poroshenko received fewer than 16 percent of the votes in the first round that was held on March 31, behind rival Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and political novice, who secured more than 30 percent.
An opinion poll released on Thursday suggested that Poroshenko was on course to lose to Zelensky – 24 percent to 61 percent – in the second round of the presidential election on April 21.
Poroshenko, 53, who was elected with almost 55 percent of vote in 2014, has failed to rally his electorate despite his efforts to be seen as a passionate fighter for the country’s territorial integrity, as well as the champion of Ukraine’s dream of integration with the European Union and NATO.
Over the past five years, he has reinforced the Ukrainian army that is battling Moscow-backed rebels in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Poroshenko also ratified the Association Agreement with the EU, the document that enabled Ukrainians to trade with and travel to Europe without restrictions.
The incumbent president also secured the independence of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church from its Russian counterpart.
But he failed to rid the country of corruption or recover the money stolen from Ukraine’s coffers during the years that former President Viktor Yanukovich ruled the country.
Under Poroshenko, Ukraine has set up the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, the state body investigating corruption cases, and the Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.
But the absence of a special anti-corruption court has been limiting their power, contributing to the lack of tangible results of their work.