Ukraine's Elections See 'Chocolate King' Petro Poroshenko Take On 'Gas Princess' Yulia Tymoshenko

24/05/2014 21:57

Major civil unrest is likely to impede the voting in Ukraine's first presidential election since violent protests toppled the country's pro-Russia president and pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

The country has been run by an interim administration after the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych following weeks of bloody unrest.

This Sunday, Ukrainians should have to decide on what line to take, a pro-Europe, Maidan movement candidate, or a closer union with Moscow, but that choice is unlikely to be taken by many in the Russian-speaking east, who will boycott the poll.

Several southeastern regions are under de facto control of pro-Russian militias, with Donetsk and Luhansk declaring themselves "independent people's republics". Security forces will put the most volatile areas in lockdown, with the country divided into white, pink and red zones corresponding to the most violent areas of the nation.

The two eastern regions account for 14% of voters, with rebel leaders there saying they had no interest in the elections of a “neighbouring state". On Saturday, Pavel Gubarev, self-appointed leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, said the two states would take steps to create Novorossiya, or New Russia, the name eastern Ukraine was called in the 19th century. Six more regions — Nikoyayev, Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Zaporozhie and Kherson - are being called on to join the new state.

More than 900 observers will monitor the election, and the US government has given $11.4m to the authorities to run a "free and fair" poll.

There are 21 candidates in the race for President, but just two have a significant enough groundswell of support, confectionary magnate Petro Poroshenko and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Poroshenko is leading by a large margin. If necessary, a run-off between the two leading contenders will be held June 15.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has promised that his country "will treat any choice of the Ukrainian people with due respect."

Despite calling the ousting of Yanukovych an "anti-constitutional coup d'etat", he added: "We are going to treat the choice of the Ukrainian people with due respect and we are going to work with the authorities that are going to be shaped based on the elections."

Here are the key candidates taking part in Sunday's run-off:

  • Petro Poroshenko
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    Dubbed the chocolate king, pro-Europe independent candidate Poroshenko is a confectionery oligarch and the favourite to win, even tipped to win outright from the first round of in the race. Of the country's rich elite, he was the only tycoon to quickly endorse the Maidan movement against Yanukovych and offer support to protesters. His chocolate factory Roshen is one of the top 20 sweet manufacturers in the world, and he has previously served as foreign minister and finance minister in previous administrations. He has a key endorsement, boxer and revolutionary Vitali Klitchsko, once tipped to run himself, but Klitchsko withdrew and endorsed Poroshenko.
  • Yulia Tymoshenko
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    The candidate for the 'Fatherland' party, Tymoshenko was Ukraine’s prime minister briefly in 2005 and then 2007 until 2010, when she was beaten by Yanukovych. Tymoshenko, known internationally for her traditional blonde plaits, originally came to power after the Orange Revolution in 2007 swept Kiev, a wave of pro-European feeling. But the so-called 'gas princess' was plagued with allegations of corruption, having made a fortune from gas deals in the 1990s. After her defeat, she was jailed by Yanukovych for more than two years but released after the revolution in 2014. But her support has dwindled significantly, and she is in distant second place.
  • Oleh Tyahnybok
    leh Tyahnybok is the man who most worries the West. He is the leader of Svoboda, and now the People's Deputy of the new Ukrainian government. Svoboda are a extreme far-right party, with elements of fascism and anti-semitism. Its previous name, the Social-National Party of Ukraine, is a bit of a give-away. Svoboda Party has six major cabinet ministries in the government of Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Tyahinybok has given speeches in the past deriding "kikes" and in 2005 wrote a letter to the president calling for an investigation into "organised Jewry and criminality in Ukraine". Svoboda is part of an alliance of European neo-fascists, the Alliance of European National Movements, which includes France's National Front, the British National Party and Hungary's Jobbik.
  • Oleh Lyashko
    Lyashko is the candidate for the 'Radical' party, and backed by the western Ukrainian militia movements that have targeted pro-Russian voices. He has boasted of gangland-style killings of pro-Russian activists, including one just days ago at Torez City Hall in Donetsk Oblast. He currently polls in single digits for the May 25 presidential election and is not likely to finish in the first two places.
  • Anatoliy Hrytsenko
    A key leader of the Maidan movement Hrytsenko, is currently the national deputy of Ukraine, and leader of the Civil Position party. He was a former minister of defence, who has had bitter fall outs with his former colleagues in parliament.
  • Olga Bogomolets
    Known as the 'Maidan Mother Theresa', Bogomolets is a leading dermatologist from an aristocratic Ukrainian family. Originally famous in the Ukraine in her youth as a folk singer, she came back into prominence for her emergency medical support for protesters attacked by police in Kiev's Independence Square. She is the only presidential candidate never to have held a political position in a previous administration. She is linked to the Socialist Party of Ukraine.
  • Mykhailo Dobkin
    The candidate from the Party of Regions, the party of Yanukovych, Dobkin is a former governor of the eastern city of Kharkiv. Fiercely anti the Maidan movement, Dobkin is the candidate for Ukraine's disaffected east, but his support is likely to suffer as Luhansk and Donetsk, declaring themselves independent "people's republics" will boycott the poll. Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest oligarch, has financed his campaign, on a platform of winning back those people in the cities now run by pro-Russia militia.
  • Serhiy Tigipko
    Tigipko, widely tipped for third place, was a campaign director for Yanukovych and a current parliamentary deputy. A former finance minister, he will count on votes from the Russian-speaking part of the nation, many of whom will boycotted the poll. He has been highly critical of how Kiev's interim rules let Crimea and sections of eastern Ukraine descend into chaos, and has called for an objective investigation into people's deaths on Kiev's Maidan.
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