Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, former boxer turned politician, decided not to run for president of Ukraine and will support billionaire Petro Poroshenko. Instead, Klitschko will run for mayor of Kiev. He announced his decision at the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) convention on Saturday.
“The only chance to win is to nominate a single candidate from the democratic forces. Let’s leave the principle ‘two Ukrainians – three hetmans’ to other politicians. During the last year I had been insisting on nominating one candidate… It should be the candidate who has the greatest support of citizens. I offer the only candidate from the democratic forces Petro Poroshenko be supported in the presidential elections,” Klitschko said at a meeting of the UDAR Party in Kyiv on March 29.
“I have made the considered decision to run for Kyiv mayor,” Klitschko said. “I want to make Kyiv a really European capital, and we should do our country a truly European country. All the reforms and all initiatives start in the capital.”
Poroshenko made his billions in candy and is known as Ukraine’s “Chocolate King.” He also owns automobile plants and Channel 5 in the country. He was Ukraine’s foreign minister under former President Yushchenko but was pushed out when Viktor Yanukovych won the presidential elections in 2010.
After Yanukovych turned down the European Union trade deal in favor of a Russian bailout in November, Poroshenko was one of the first to condemn his move and offered support to those who protested in Kiev. Yanukovych was ousted on February 22, and the new government scheduled new presidential elections for May 25.
Poroshenko has been immensely popular in the polls even though he did not confirm his candidacy until Friday and submitted the forms on Saturday. He promises “to strengthen Ukraine’s armed forces and protect its borders.”
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) March 29, 2014
But what does this mean to the other 15 people who announced their intention to run, especially ex-political prisoner Yulia Tymoshenko? According to Brian Bonner at The Kyiv Post, Klitschko’s move is a silent message to Tymoshenko to get out of the race. Klitschko and Poroshenko were the top two prospective candidates; now that they have joined forces it could ruin her credibility.
Whether Tymoshenko will heed the coming calls to withdraw her candidacy and unite all democratic forces behind Poroshenko remains to be seen. But she will look like a selfish climber if she stays in; she will look magnanimous if she pulls out.
In a survey by SOCIS, KIIs, Rating, and Rozumkov Centre, Poroshenko is at 24.9%, Klitschko was at 8.9%, and Tymoshenko at 8.2%. Sergei Tigipko was at 7.3%, but after him, the other six candidates do not even break 5%.