Imposing martial law after a naval clash with Russia in the Kerch Strait looked like a political masterstroke for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, coming ahead of an election that polls suggest he will lose. But by the time parliament had finished with his decree, it was clear he had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
The president’s initial plan was to declare martial law throughout Ukraine for 60 days. With an election scheduled for March 31, this threatened to throw into disarray the campaigns of every candidate except Poroshenko himself. As commander-in-chief, he would be at the center of attention, rallying the nation against the invasion threat.