Ukraine is experiencing the most unpredictable presidential election campaign in the history of the country with a record number of candidates — 44, you read it right, 44. And the main beneficiary of large-scale apathy may well become a comedian.
Ukrainian democracy has many flaws in many important aspects, but on the issue of adherence to the principle of representativeness, it beats all conceivable records.
Last Friday, the CEC of Ukraine launched the next phase of the presidential race, announcing the registration of a record number of candidates for the March elections – 44 people. This is more than twice the number of candidates for the presidency in the 2014 elections, and many today are wondering where these candidates came from.
Some names have long been heard – in fact, they are textbook presidential candidates.
In addition to old favorites – ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and current president Poroshenko – the names of the comedian (Vladimir Zelensky), the former spy (Valentin Nalyvaychenko), previously accused of embezzling the tax officer (Roman Nasirov), as well as the blogger under investigation on suspicion of involvement in the sex scandal (Vladimir Petrov). Petrov himself even boasted on Facebook that he would definitely go down in history as the first candidate taking part in the race, being under house arrest.
But about a dozen names surfaced as if from nowhere: it seems that these people are charged with conducting technical campaigns in favor of other candidates.
Yulia Tymoshenko especially touched the fact of the inclusion of two personalities in the list – Yuri Timoshenko and Yulia Litvinenko – quite capable of confusing the oldest representatives of her electorate. Tymoshenko promptly accused President Poroshenko of fraud and demanded the removal of the aforementioned candidates from the distance.
Less than two months remain before the voting day, but sociologists still fail to identify a clear leader. None of the candidates has so far managed to enlist the support of more than 20% of already clearly defined voters: what to say about the 50% needed to complete the elections in one round.
However, popularity is steadily growing with the obvious joker in the deck of candidates – Vladimir Zelensky. Today, the results of several opinion polls lead to the conclusion that the comedian bypasses Tymoshenko in the election race. According to various sources, right now 14% – 16% of active representatives of the electorate are ready to support him. In other words, over the past month, the comedian’s rating soared by 5%, mainly due to rock star Vakarchuk, who refused to participate in the elections.
Zelensky’s well-thought-out campaign is built on bringing under the banner of those opposed to all voters: it seems that the sentiments that triggered Brexit in Britain and the coming of Trump to power in the United States are able to play for the candidate.
People already know him – this is the main advantage of Zelensky. The team of the TV program “Quarter 95” has long been well known to every family in Ukraine. He is also remembered as the performer of the leading role in the series “The Servant of the People”, where he, by a lucky coincidence, plays the role of a school teacher, in the course of the struggle against government corruption of the ascended president.
The television image of an outsider who has rapidly burst into politics also contributes to the growth of popularity.
– The myth of his (nationality) ability to become president is extremely effective. The myth is completely illusory, not providing readiness for work in the government, but it has already become a problem for the old guard who has rallied against him, – said independent expert Vladimir Fesenko.
Zelensky – in the absence of political experience – demonstrates excellent political flair, focusing on the positive themes of “dreams” and “national revival.” This approach contrasts sharply with Poroshenko’s aggressively patriotic and “anti-Tymoshenko’s” position, and Tymoshenko’s equally aggressively populist and “anti-Poroshenko’s” strategy.
According to the connoisseur of electoral sentiment, the director of the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, Vladimir Paniotto, only three candidates – Zelensky, Tymoshenko and Poroshenko – have a chance of reaching the second round. According to him, at the current stage of the campaign there is no significant difference between the levels of their support.
Most of Zelensky’s electorate is “not tested in battles.” On the one hand, he has the most favorable position, allowing him to ride a wave of distrust of politicians and politicians. But at the same time, his young supporters, as a rule, rarely reach the polling stations.
In addition, out of the whole trio, it is his past that has been studied less thoroughly, and Zelensky may well face problems, because the intensity of “negative PR” will only increase in the following weeks.
Among the known weaknesses is the proximity to the scandalous oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, Zelensky’s business partner. And opponents are already increasing the offensive on this front.
According to many, the upcoming elections will be the most competitive and most controversial in modern history. Accusations of vote rigging and other criminal acts have already been rife. Yulia Tymoshenko and several leading candidates have recently signed a memorandum with open criticism of the team of President Poroshenko: in their opinion, its headquarters is preparing “mass frauds” and electoral manipulations.
The surprise was the unexpected appearance in public of former President Viktor Yanukovych – from his Moscow exile he declared the “inability” of Poroshenko to win a fair victory.
The incumbent president not only did not refuse to participate in the race, but also significantly increased the rating of opinion polls in recent weeks: nevertheless, the battle is extremely difficult. And even if he succeeds in breaking out into the second round, for a convincing victory the president simply needs a break in the negative sentiments of voters.
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According to the opinion polls, he has the highest anti-rating among the leaders (the voices are most likely leaving opponents). Almost 50% of voters say they will “never” vote for Poroshenko. According to this indicator, Tymoshenko’s situation is only slightly better – about 30% do not want to give votes for her.
It is this disappointment of the old guard that mainly plays into Zelensky’s hand, Fesenko says: according to his forecast, the chances of a comedian for winning the struggle for the presidency are at least 25%.
“If Zelensky is in the second round, he still has every chance of winning,” the political scientist believes. The presidency is ready for the joker candidate, “even if the candidate himself is not fully prepared for the presidential position.”