On the homestretch: Outcomes of election campaigns of Ukraine's presidential hopefuls

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

Undoubtedly, the attention of all observers is focused primarily on Volodymyr Zelensky, leader of the polls
18:00, 28 March 2019

The organization of opinion polls is usually stopped two weeks before the election, therefore the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), the Razumkov Center think tank, and the Rating group met the deadline, having carried out the last measurements of electoral moods from March 5 to 14. According to the study, Volodymyr Zelensky has the support of 27.7% of respondents who plan to take part in the vote and have decided on their choice. Yulia Tymoshenko (16.6%) and Petro Poroshenko (16.4%) compete for second place.

As for the second round, in the case of Zelensky’s entry into it, this candidate defeats both hypothetical rivals. In a pair with Poroshenko, he leads with a score of 39% versus 18%, in a pair with Tymoshenko - 34% versus 21%. If Tymoshenko and Poroshenko compete in the second round, the latter will win with a score of 26% versus 19%. These are the results of a fresh poll, the authors of which, however, say: 22.3% among those who go to the polls have not yet decided on the candidate. And much depends on them.

Related: Plans of Poroshenko, Tymoshenko, Zelensky on solving Donbas conflict unrealistic, - Medvedchuk

We have discussed the issues of election campaign with Bohdan Petrenko, Deputy Director of the Ukrainian Institute for the Study of Extremism, Vadym Karasiov, Director of the Global Strategies Institute, Andriy Zolotariov, Head of the Third Sector Center, Ruslan Bortnyk, Director of the Ukrainian Institute for Policy Analysis and Management, Kost Bondarenko, founder of Gorshenin Institute think-tank, and Dmytro Sinchenko, Chairman of the Association of Political Sciences.

Zelensky as a red card in the old greasy deck

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a candidate in Ukraine's upcoming presidential elections who came to fame as TV comic, speaks after submitting registration documents to the Central Election Commission, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan. 25, 2019

Undoubtedly, the attention of all observers is focused primarily on Zelensky. None of the Ukrainian election campaigns knew such a rapid take-off of a candidate who declared balloting three months before the first round. What is the secret of Zelensky's success? "There are objective prerequisites for this, which consisted, in particular, that voters are disappointed in the current leaders. Although, in fact, the main feature of Zelensky is the actual absence of his campaign as such, the absence of specific messages. He played on a certain image, opposing the established policy," Bogdan Petrenko says.

Related: Wannabe prez Zelensky as Kolomoisky's bargaining chip in struggle for his lost business

Vadym Karasiov notes: "Zelensky’s online campaign is successful," he says. “We live in a digital culture. If there were no Internet, Facebook, YouTube, maybe, there would be no Zelensky as a candidate,” he adds.


Bogdan Petrenko lauds the current president: "If we talk about the classic election campaign, then the president is successful." The expert likes how the head of state promoted three basic components of his political identity - the army, language, faith... However, his colleague Bortnyk considers the visualization of these components in the form of billboards excessive. "Billboards work only for those who have low visibility. Poroshenko’s billboards are not a very effective step. Zelensky was very creative in his billboards and, Shevchenko, who was looking for his wife, but it looked like a trolling campaign. The rest of the billboards were standard."

Related: Why oligarch Akhmetov snatched control of Ukraine's critical infrastructure

Zelensky avoided direct contact with the electorate because the candidate was simply not capable of face-to-face communication. “This is Zelensky’s weakness. In order not to lose in the eyes of the voter against the background of more professional politicians, he is forced to avoid communication. If he had the appropriate communication skills, he would have won the election in one round,” the expert said.

Kost Bondarenko adds: “Poroshenko’s campaign is most successful. No one has fought for power from former presidents (the expert might mean Poroshenko’s numerous knocking cell phones out of people’s hands, slapping on the face of the voters, who come to his election meetings and asked unpleasant questions, etc, - ed.).”

Related: Key Yanukovych’s ex-sponsor Akhmetov bets on Poroshenko during 2019 elections

Answering the question why one of Putin’s slogans was used in Poroshenko’s headquarters, Andriy Zolotarev notes: “Knowing Hryniv and Medvedev (Poroshenko’s advisors, - ed.), I can say that they are professionals and would not just ignorantly use this “copy-paste creativity.” I think they did it consciously.”

Although, Zolotarev continues, “this attempt seems unsuccessful to me. Their plan was not accepted, and Poroshenko’s campaign has stumbled. Tomos-tour also turned out to be an unsuccessful project, as it was spoiled by the flash mob of asking Poroshenko why he persecutes a journalist. In addition, Svynarchuk-hate (since 1990s Oleg Gladkovsky, at that time his last name was Svynarchuk, has become a business-partner of Petro Poroshenko. In 1997 he reached the position of a deputy CEO of "Ukrprominvestgroup", which includes main assets of Poroshenko, like Roshen, International Investment Bank. In addition, he is suspected of being covering a major corruption scheme on embezzlement in Ukrainian defense sector, - ed.) has also stumbled Poroshenko’s election campaign. According to optimistic forecasts, Poroshenko might gain 17-18%," the political scientist says. And he adds: "According to my observations, this is the first time since 1999 that the president has been trying so hard..."

Tymoshenko managed to bother everyone

Yulia Tymoshenko seems to go too far with her campaign, Dmytro Sinchenko believes. “She started early — she has already tired up with her campaign.”

Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister and candidate in Ukraine's upcoming presidential election, speaks at a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 22, 2019

Karasiov does not agree with this point of view: “Tymoshenko’s progress was smooth. I wouldn’t say that the campaign was overwhelmed. If there were no Zelensky, Tymoshenko would surely get to the second round.”

Related: Tymoshenko focused on elder voters, - Financial Times

“Some people think that Tymoshenko has conducted the unsuccessful campaign,” Zolotariov joins the discussion. “But I wouldn’t be so categorical, because at the finish she often shows a better result than the one predicted by the forecasters,” he notes.

Sinchenko says that no matter how successful the campaign is, its success in the sociological dimension means nothing if the candidate is not able to defend his result.

Not that spectacular crusade

The situation with another wannabe prez Andriy Sadovy (who withdrew his candidacy in favor of Anatoliy Hrytsenko, -ed.)his Samopomichch party is rather interesting. Zolotariov says this: “As for Sadovy, this is a normal move. He couldn’t participate in the elections, because his Samopomich has been in a disaster zone, it is drifting towards the Lviv regional ghetto and becoming a quasi-regional party. The political force, which was very successful in 2014, slipped below 5%. Sadovy had to raise the flag, so he could not but was forced to fight. At the same time, Sadovy couldn’t show a low result (and it was predictably low).”

Related: Corruption schemes of Lviv mayor Sadovyi

Anatoliy Hrytsenko
Open source

Karasiov agrees: “Sadovy is the one of those who really fails. Therefore, he was forced to support Hrytsenko not to demonstrate such an obvious loss as a result in the first round.” At the same time, he adds, this did not help Hrytsenko very much: “He could have done a better campaign if he had teamed up with Sadov from the very beginning. So Hrytsenko would have collected rating bonuses that would give him chances for a second round.”

Related: Sadovyi withdraws from presidential elections in favor of Hrytsenko

Experts say that election of one more presidential candidate, Igor Smeshko, is also worthy of attention. “He has demonstrated a bright start, but then everything went smoothly and unnoticed, although at first, he made the voters talk about himself,” Kost Bondarenko notes. Karasiov agrees: "Smeshko has successfully campaigned — he responded to the need for new faces." He calls a campaign for the election of former Ukraine’s Security Service head Valentyn Nalyvaychenko and oligarch Serhiy Taruta (who withdrew in favor of Tymoshenko, - ed.)"obscure." As for Oleg Lyashko, Karasiov is convinced that his ultimate goal is the parliamentary campaign, and he has a “good start” and a good “reserve” for it.

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