The start of the official election campaign might be optimistic for the team of Petro Poroshenko. Last summer it was possible to doubt the possibility of his participation in the second round, but getting Tomos about autocephaly might improve his rating. However, the latest scandal with grand corruption scheme, which involved Poroshenko's Leninska Kuznia business entity as a straw company for smuggling spare parts from the Russian Federation with kickbacks and prices inflated 2-4 times, might jeopardize everything.
According to our sources at the headquarters of Tymoshenko and Poroshenko, the difference between their ratings is minimal. Therefore, the presidential team continues to work on increasing the rating of their team. The return of voters, who prefer another wannabe prez Anatoliy Hrytsenko, might save Poroshenko. The electorate of the former defense minister is closest to the current president. Therefore, Poroshenko’s team is looking for some dirt about Hrytsenko.
With the growing popularity of the current president, there are more willing to join the election campaign. “Many people, who some few months ago were not active, call me,” one of the most influential deputies of Poroshenko’s faction recently flaunted. Poroshenko’s forum, where he announced the nomination for a second term, was supported by Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and Parliament Speaker Andriy Parubiy from People’s Front faction. PM’s decision is the result of an agreement with the president, part of which was voluntary resignation of acting Minister of Agrarian Policy Maksym Martyniuk, who is associated with Groysman, and a promise to head of the government if Poroshenko wins.
And what about the suppression of the competitors? The presidential team has been doing quite well. Until recently. According to 112.ua sources in the coalition, the most painful was a bet on the head of the Kherson Regional Council, Vladyslav Manger, suspected of the murder of the public activist Kateryna Handziuk. Viktor Handziuk, father of Kateryna Handziuk states: “For me now, Batkivshchyna is the party of my daughter’s murderers. For me now, the Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc is the party of my daughter’s murderers.” It is about Kherson Regional Council Vladyslav Manger, as well as with the head of the Kherson Regional State Administration, member of Petro Poroshenko’s bloc Andriy Gordeyev and his deputy Yevgen Ryshchuk.
The fact that rubber-stamping “Poroshenko-friendly” Prosecutor General Lutsenko finds evidence of the involvement of Tymoshenko’s entourage and does not find evidence of Poroshenko’s associates involvement might mean that the case is adjusted to the pre-election struggle (presidential elections in Ukraine are scheduled for March 31, 2019). In addition, pro-SBU (for which read, pro-Poroshenko) far-right organization C14, included in the American terrorist base, came with rubber-bullet handguns, knives, and Teren 4 pepper spray (carrying of which requires special permission) to Tymoshenko’s meeting, held in Kyiv downtown, allegedly to discuss with Yulia Tymoshenko “who killed Handziuk;” however, these far-right did not come with the same question to Poroshenko, whose associates are the murderers, as Viktor Handziuk assures.
Another move was a special operation of Poroshenko-friendly Security Forces regarding the so-called Tymoshenko’s electoral pyramid on bribing the voters. At the same time, experts believe it was pure passing the bucks against Tymoshenko, as Ukrainian law enforcers failed to investigate into Poroshenko’s scheme on collecting personal data of the voters. Moreover, February 25, President Poroshenko announced that Ukraine’s retirees with the lowest pensions would get a 90 USD one-time payment before elections in March or in April of 2019. 1,8 million out of Ukraine’s 11,5 million pensioners are promised to get the money. An average pension in Ukraine amounts to nearly 100 USD, but there are some pensioners who receive 55 USD a month. Ukraine's law enforcers do not interpret Poroshenko's step as bribing the voters in the run-up to the presidential election.
Our sources at Poroshenko’s Bloc confess: "It would be nice to bring Zelensky (Volodymyr Zelensky, favorite of the polls, - ed.) to the second round. The president would definitely defeat Zelensky during the debates. Another good question: would Zelensky’s supporters vote at all (it is believed that Zelensky’s supporters are just protest voters, who might not come to the elections, - ed.)?"
The situation with Tymoshenko during the first months of the year is quite risky. If, for example, in September 2018, according to a survey conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, she was almost 19 times ahead of Petro Poroshenko, and even, according to our sources, in Tymoshenko’s headquarters, her team has already been bidding for the future offices, in 2019, the situation has radically changed. The rating of Tymoshenko stopped growing after the announcement of suspicion to the chairman of the Kherson regional council Vladyslav Manger and the searches of the Security Service of Ukraine.
The results of a poll, conducted in February, show that Tymoshenko could get into the second round with 13.8% of support. The former prime minister, according to these polls, comes third after Zelensky (-12%) and Petro Poroshenko. By the way, the staffs do not hide that Zelensky began to “bite off” the rating of Poroshenko, Tymoshenko, and Hrytsenko.
The start of the campaign seems to be the most successful for current leader of the race Zelensky. Back in September 2018, the opinion poll promised Zelensky third place and support for about 11% of voters, and in February of this year, this figure more than doubled. Dirty compromising waves on the Internet, based on data from sociologists, have little effect on Zelensky’s position. According to sources of 112.ua in the headquarters of the candidate, his team has initially counted on "gaining up to 10% in the elections in order to make it easier to lead a faction in the parliamentary elections." As our interlocutors predict, potentially Zelensky might add another 10% to the first ballot due to those who have not decided who to support.
At the same time, the result was achieved by spending a record little money. According to Dmytro Razumkov, Zelensky’s political technologist, as of the second decade of February, 820,000 USD was spent on the campaign. Of course, by the end of the campaign the amount will increase, but according to the calculations of the staff officers surveyed, this amount will be about 10 million USD.
Why was it possible to achieve such a result? First of all, he managed to win over part of the protest electorate. A virtual visual image of president Holoborodko ("Servant of the People" character, played by Zelensky; President of Ukraine, formerly a high school history teacher, - ed.), who did not turn away from the people and was broken on the screen by oligarchs, became an attractive alternative to current politicians. Secondly, Zelensky has minimal anti-rating. If the anti-rating of the current president, Petro Poroshenko, sometimes punched a mark of 50%, Tymoshenko’s anti-rating fluctuated around the mark of 30%, while Zelensky’s figure is several times lower.
It is not surprising that the third season of the Servant of the People TV show is planned to be shown in March, and it would become a key element of Zelensky’s election campaign. And in early February, the show did additional advertising. The Committee of Voters of Ukraine, which is close to the current authorities, called on Zelensky to pay for the TV show from the election fund. Some media outlets have published some emails on the removal of Zelensky’s TV show from the air.
“They expect to score point mainly off fun,” 112.ua sources among the opposition MPs said, adding that for the time being, public discussions are a weak point of the candidate. However, if the plans of the staff officers prove to be correct, the potential voter of Zelensky will reach the polling stations.