The Ukrainian chocolate magnate Petro Poroshenko is poised to win the presidential elections in Ukraine that are taking place on the 25th of May. Opinion polls place him first in the election, far ahead of any potential competitors. The current election will be the most important the country has had since it gained independence during the breakup of the Soviet Union. After former president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February, an acting president took over in Kiev – Oleksandr Tuchynov. It was under his tenure that Crimea seceded from Ukraine and eastern Donetsk provinces and Luhansk and Slovyansk declared their intentions to side with Russia if it came to civil war.
Poroshenko appealed to voters yesterday directly, asking for an unequivocal victory that would restore faith in the Kiev government. “…let us be realistic: if the election is not over in the first round, the second round might not take place. The level of destabilization might be such that we will have to fight for legitimacy,” he said last week during a visit to Odessa. Poroshenko suggested that further military pressure from Russia could derail the election, and inspire more resistance from the pro-Russian militias that currently control key towns and buildings in eastern Ukraine, near the border, where thousands of Russian troops are currently massed.
Russian president Vladimir Putin said during the CICI conference in Shanghai that the election was unlikely to solve anything, and it was more logical to hold a presidential vote after a referendum on a new constitution. He cited the difficulty of building relations with a government that has been conducting punitive military operations against pro-Russian militias. This fits it with Putin’s doctrine of protecting ethnic Russians throughout the former Soviet Union, a declaration which has made many in the FSU apprehensive of Moscow’s next moves. Putin additionally rebuked the Kiev government for detaining three journalists working for Russian news outlets in the east. The media atmosphere has become fraught with tension. Television towers are targets as both countries are seeking to present their contesting ideas to the world at large.
Poroshenko is leading the former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko by a large margin, as her star has diminished thanks to a jail sentence. The Committee for Voters of Ukraine expects a turnout as high as 70% for the election, and is expected to be particularly high in Kiev and in the nationalist, anti-Russian western regions.
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