Ukraine’s Western partners fear that whoever becomes the new president can hardly be counted on to speed up reforms in the country
Presidential elections will be held in Ukraine on March 31 in a rather strange environment.
Since 2013, there has been an armed conflict in eastern Ukraine around the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics, which Russia supports.
Corruption in Ukraine has reached a level that many local and international observers consider critical.
A record number of 43 candidates were nominated for this election: however, only three are considered real candidates:
The current president, Petro Poroshenko – a billionaire of the chocolate empire, called the ‘Chocolate King’ in Ukraine;
• The current president, Petro Poroshenko – a billionaire of the chocolate empire, called the ‘Chocolate King’ in Ukraine;
• Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko – for many years, she was actively involved in projects pertaining to the transportation and trade of Russian gas. Until recently she too had a nickname – the ‘Gas Princess’;
• Comedic actor and host of a television show, Volodymyr Zelensky, who has no political experience.
Ukraine’s western partners fear that no matter who ends up in the presidency, the new president will most likely not be able to accelerate the reforms that the West has supported for the past five years.
“Each of them has their own serious flaws. There is not one that you can just take and support”, a Western diplomat who wished to remain anonymous told Reuters.
Briefly on the top three candidates who have a real chance of winning:
Showman, actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelensky is 41 years old and at this point, he is definitely leading the race: according to opinion polls, 32.1 percent of voters are ready to vote for him right now.
Zelensky became known in Ukraine as the leading actor in the TV series “Servant of the People”, in which he played the roll of the Ukrainian president.
Never before has he participated in politics, nor in public service.
In January 2019, a journalistic investigation was published which contained evidence that Zelensky owns three companies in Russia. Oddly enough, sociologists say this information played in his favour.
The main slogans of this candidate are: the fight against corruption and oligarchs and the settlement of relations with Russia through negotiations with international participation.
One of the reasons for his high rating is the protest mood in the country and the demand for new people in politics.
Volodymyr Zelensky enjoys support primarily from young people and residents of the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine.
The current president, 52-year-old Petro Poroshenko, is second on the list of potential winners. Opinion polls claim 17.1 percent of voters are ready to support him.
Poroshenko is one of the richest people in Ukraine. The source of his fortune is the candy business – largely chocolate.
In February 2019, journalists from Bihus.info discovered a corruption scheme in the defense industry of the country: the scheme involved the son of a close friend of the president, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleg Gladkovsky. Poroshenko fired Gladkovsky and demanded a thorough investigation of the affair.
Poroshenko’s campaign is based on the fact that the army’s combat capability has been strengthened, the treaty on visa-free travel was signed with the European Union and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church gained autonomy.
Poroshenko’s opponents accuse him primarily of being incapable of defeating corruption in the country.
The polls say that Poroshenko will reach the second round of voting – but Poroshenko also leads in the negative rating of candidates – half of respondents say they would not vote for the current president under any circumstances.
Opinion polls say 12.5 percent of voters are ready to vote for Yulia Tymoshenko at this point.
She is 58 years old, she has twice held the post of prime minister, she is the leader of the Batkivshchyna [Ukr. Fatherland] party and is running for president for the third time. Tymoshenko served a prison sentence on corruption charges under President Yanukovych.
Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party also appears in the investigation of bihus.info, which speaks to a scheme of shady party financing. On March 13, the court allowed the security service to verify the accounts of the party in a money laundering case.
However, sociologists say that Tymoshenko’s voters are reliable, and ready to come out for their candidate.
Ukrainian laws say that if none of the candidates win 50 per cent of the vote in the first round, a second round of voting will be held.
This scenario appears to be the most likely.
Experts believe that based on the information presently available, President Poroshenko and actor Zelensky will come out to compete in the second round.
So far, few predictions have been put forward as to how Tymoshenko’s voters will come out in such a situation.