Expectations High for the Chocolate King
There were no doubts that the presidential elections, held on May 25th, were won by oligarch Petro Poroshenko. No other candidate could compete with him. In a distant second place was the former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, with four times less votes than him.
Poroshenko thanked Ukrainians for their support and said he would call for early elections to the Parliament in 2014. This declaration will likely have high support in the society, since the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s Parliament) has not had an election since the protests on the Maidan, the escape of Viktor Yanukovych and the collapse of his party. Currently in the Parliament, a new coalition is made up of parties which had supported the Maidan, such as Batkivshchyna, UDAR and Svoboda as well as refugees who fled Yanukovych’s Party of Regions and independent deputies. This arrangement does not guarantee a stable governing structure, something that is necessary in the times of military conflict and economic crisis. What’s more, new Parliament elections would finish the process of forming new forces after the revolution.
More symbolic were Poroshenko’s declarations about his first possible visits. Domestically, this could be in Donbas. This is a signal that he will try to solve the conflict and end the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine. His first foreign trip could be in Poland.
“Maybe it could be Poland. I will go there on the 25th anniversary of Polish freedom”, he said after the first exit polls. This is another symbolic gesture as Poland was one of the main supporters of the Maidan and Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s government in the European Union and Poroshenko has good personal relations with many Polish politicians.
If there is any doubt about Poroshenko, it is his money and influence. He is the owner of the Roshen Confectionery Corporation and the popular TV channel 5 Kanal, which promoting him quite a bit. People are worried that Poroshenko would not change anything because he is an oligarch and will probably ensure that he himself doesn’t lose too much.
In this case is an interesting fact. As the well-known political scientist Ivan Krastev puts it: how come an anti-oligarchic movement, which was the Maidan, chose an oligarch? The answer is easy: there was no other candidate for whom Ukrainians could vote and the timing is bad for experimenting with candidates with whom they have no experience.
And there are no illusions about Tymoshenko: “If she would have won, there would be another Belarus here,” says Volodymyr from Dnipropetrovsk. The former prime minister for many Ukrainians is a symbol of corruption and egoism. While Oleh Lyashko, who came in third place, is more a performer than a politician.
There are two common expectations about Poroshenko. “In a normal situation I would never vote for Poroshenko, but right now we need a president with big support. He is the lesser evil,” Volodymyr affirms. For him the most important is stabilising the situation in the east.
“He is rich, so maybe he would not steal money from us and rather do something to help our small and medium-sized businesses”, says Andriy, a lecturer from Kamianets-Podilskyi, which is far from eastern Ukraine and a safe city. Obviously, both expectations are important for all voters, but they have other priorities.
Poroshenko had one of the highest levels of public support in the history of independent Ukraine. The expectation of calming down the situation is still the main reason why he carries such support. It cannot be excluded that this support could reverse quickly, especially if does not do his job well.
Paweł Pieniążek is a Polish journalist specialising in Eastern Europe. He regularly contributes to the Polish daily Dziennik Opinii, New Eastern Europe and the Polish magazine W Punkt.