Elections for Ukraine's parliament, or Rada, on Oct. 26 confirmed the support for reform and closer ties with the West that has dominated Ukraine's politics since the initial protests on Kyiv's Maidan Nezalezhnosti last year. With a strongly pro-reformist parliament and president, Ukraine now has its best opportunity since independence to consolidate its democratic transition and firmly anchor itself in Europe. Yet Kyiv's window of opportunity is closing, and failure now could permanently damage Ukrainians' hopes for a better future. Both the Ukrainian leadership and the West need to seize the opportunity to push through difficult reforms while enthusiasm for this reformist course remains strong.

President Petro Poroshenko called for early parliamentary elections back in August, blaming the parliament he inherited on taking power for blocking reforms and undermining the campaign against pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. This gambit paid off, as the vote returned strong support for parties backing Poroshenko's vision of a democratic Ukraine enjoying strong ties with the West.


Poroshenko's own bloc will control around 132 seats in the new parliament, while the People's Front led by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk will control 82 and another pro-reformist, pro-Western party, Samopomich (Self-Reliance) will have 33. Shortly after the election, the three parties began talks on forming a coalition that would comprise a dominant majority in the 450-seat Rada.

Like Poroshenko's victory in the May presidential elections, the Rada vote demonstrated that Ukraine is much more united than Russian propaganda suggests. Poroshenko won a nationwide majority in the May presidential elections, becoming the first leader in independent Ukraine's history to win the vote in both east and west. Similarly, the pro-reformist parties won a nationwide majority, and enjoyed solid support across the country, although the Opposition Bloc, led by figures from the government of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, finished first in several eastern regions. Ironically, this pro-reform, pro-European consensus owes much to Russia's continued intervention, which is consolidating a sense of nationhood among Ukrainian and Russian speakers.

With pro-Russian groups discredited, Poroshenko enjoying majority support across the country, and the pro-reformist parties comprising a majority in the new Rada, the reformers have a strong, nationwide mandate. Kyiv has its best opportunity since independence to push through the reforms necessary to consolidate democracy and a European future. Yet this mandate is a double-edged sword, as Ukraine's problems are massive.

Poroshenko, Yatsenyuk and their allies in the new Rada now own the mess that is Ukraine. Despite more than $30 billion in emergency assistance so far, Ukraine's economy is still in desperate straits. The World Bank estimates gross domestic product will contract by 8 percent this year, and will continue shrinking in 2015. A recent deal with Gazprom should ensure gas supplies and prevent Ukrainians from freezing this winter, but requires Kyiv to continue paying substantially more than Russia's EU customers. Meanwhile, the Russian-backed insurgency in the Donbas region smolders on, with Moscow seemingly intent on creating a new frozen conflict.

Poroshenko, Yatsenyuk and the new Rada must move quickly to put Ukraine on a sustainable path forward while their popular support is still strong. They need to implement the reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), especially since the IMF now thinks Ukraine could need as much as $19 billion in additional assistance. These include creating an effective anti-corruption agency, strengthening the tools to combat money laundering and simplifying the regulatory environment to attract investment. Kyiv also needs to take the unpopular step of further deregulating the energy sector — which will likely raise prices — while overhauling the security services to root out Russian influence.

The West has a stake in the success of these efforts, and also needs to do more to ensure their success. Brussels' agreement to push back by a year the implementation of the EU-Ukraine association agreement to placate Russia was a mistake. Europe needs to stand behind the promised association agreement, including a promised free trade agreement, which is a significant carrot for Kyiv. The West will also need to provide additional financial support in exchange for Poroshenko seeing through reforms.

While much of this aid will continue coming from Europe and the IMF, the U.S. should provide more assistance as well. The entire U.S. contribution to Ukraine has only been around $1.34 billion, compared to the almost $4 billion Washington is spending each month to fight Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants. It will also fall to the U.S. to deter Russia from further exacerbating the crisis, through a mixture of sanctions and military support for vulnerable states including Ukraine.

Despite an industrialized economy and educated populace, Ukraine has steadily declined since independence, burdened by leaders more interested in stealing than governing. Kyiv today has its best chance in a generation to address the root causes of this dysfunction. Poroshenko and his allies need to make some difficult decisions, and fast. Should they fail, this chance might also prove to be Ukraine's last for a very long time.

Mankoff is deputy director and fellow with the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.