Vitali Klitschko shocked much of Ukraine when he stepped down from the country’s upcoming presidential race to make way for who Ukrainians know as “The Chocolate King,” Petro Poroshenko. Until Saturday, Klitschko was first in the polls, followed closely by Poroshenko and further by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Klitschko announced to his UDAR party his decision to leave the presidential race, and said he had instead put his sights on being Mayor of Kiev. “We have to nominate a…candidate representing…democratic forces,” said Klitschko. “This has to be a candidate who [has] the strongest public support. This…is Petro Poroshenko.” The strategic move by Klitschko has spread jolts of excitement throughout Ukraine for the highly poised and likable Poroshenko.
The new front-runner is famous both as a businessman and a politician. Poroshenko graduated from Kiev State University in 1989 with an economics degree. Upon graduation, he began a cocoa-bean business which he merged with the several confection companies he took over in the 1990’s, creating what is now the Roshen Group. The immediate success out of college gained him the nickname, “Chocolate King.”
But Poroshenko has done much more than chocolate in his day. Entering the parliament of Ukraine in 1998, Poroshenko was an active politician who caught attention in 2001 when he became the campaign leader behind Viktor Yushchenko, who ran in a corrupt race against Viktor Yanukovych in 2004. The original results showed Yanukovych winning, but after a re-vote Yushchenko was the clear winner, earning 52% of votes.
Yushchenko served as Ukrainian president from 2004-2010. The politician was succeeded in 2010 by his old rival, Viktor Yanukovych, who remained president until February of this year, when massive protests ousted his authority and parliament voted for new elections. Poroshenko was a long time supporter of both the Orange Revolution, which led to Yushchenko’s presidency, and the recent revolution, which ousted Yanukovych.
While it was a shock for Klitschko to step down, he did so with the intention of backing Poroshenko. The strategic choice dissolved those voters choosing between Poroshenko and Klitschko, leaving Yulia Tymoshenko far behind in the polls.
Tymoshenko, like Poroshenko, became a rival to Yanukovych after taking up the prime minister position following the faulty vote in 2004, and then being beaten by him in the 2010 presidential election. Tymoshenko was jailed for two years on what the West believes to be trumped-up charges, only being freed after the oust of Yanukovych this February.
Still, Poroshenko has the demanding lead, with the support of Klitschko. “The alliance…will fundamentally change …the political field and will cancel out other candidates,” said Ukrainian analyst Vadim Karasyov. “It is clear that [Tymoshenko] is not fighting for the [presidency], but for a future [place] in parliament.”
The upcoming presidential election in May is not only important for the candidates, but for the people of Ukraine. The heavy decision falls on the shoulders of a nation who protested to oust a president, despite the great displeasure of neighboring Russia. The vote will not be taken lightly by Ukrainians who face the legally gray area of Crimea’s annexation and possible threat of Russian intervention.
As Klitschko makes way for the charismatic “Chocolate King” Poroshenko in the upcoming presidential election, the people of Ukraine sit heavy-hearted with the decision of a lifetime.
By Erin P. Friar
Times of India