A new poll by the International Republican Institute (IRI) found that the presidential race in Ukraine remains wide open, as none of the prominent candidates has a clear lead and the gaps between them remain relatively small.
“The absence of a clear frontrunner in the presidential election suggests that voters have not decided which candidate will respond to the issues that are most important to them, such as improving the economy, resolving the war in the Donbas and tackling corruption,” said IRI regional director for Eurasia, Stephen Nix, said in the report.
Currently opposition leader, former prime minister and head of Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party Yulia Tymoshenko leads the field of presidential candidates with 17% of likely voters. President Petro Poroshenko, political outsider Volodymyr Zelenskyi and two other candidates are in a statistical tie for second place.
The poll paints the same grim picture as the previous version that showed a general disappointment of the people of Ukraine in their government and leaders.
The vast majority (71%) of respondents think that Ukraine is going in the “wrong direction,” an impression that started at the end of the first year after the Euromaidan demonstrations forced a change of government in 2014.
Poroshenko also gets slated, with the share of voters who disapprove or strongly disapprove of this performance rising from 47% in March 2014 to 79% in September. The prime minister and the cabinet of ministers have also seen their unpopularity rise from 44% in March 2014 to 76% in September.
In general in the beauty pageant of Ukrainian politicians nearly all of them are polarising figures, with the notable exception of rock star Svyatoslav Vakarchuk and comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, who are both not from the establishment. Tymoshenko stands out, as she is both a frontrunner but also has a large 40% share of voters that say they see her in a very unfavourable light.
However, as incomes begin to rise and growth returns to the economy there are signs that the mood of the people is changing and becoming more optimistic, at least as far as their own economic situation is concerned. Whereas 57% said their economic situation had gotten a lot worse in the last 12 months in September 2014 that share has fallen steadily and is now down to 30%. However, the share that say their situation has improved or improved a lot remains in single digits rising from a mere 1% to 8% over the same period. For the vast majority life continues to get worse.
Tymoshenko still has a clear lead, but still would only command 14% of the votes if all respondents are included. Her score improves somewhat if those that said they will not vote are filtered out, in which case Tymoshenko commands 17% of the vote, according to IRI.
As for the general issues that concern voters most, they are the military conflict in Donbas, corruption in the government and low industrial production. And from the issues that concerned the respondents personally, they named growth of prices as by far the most important (68%) with the Donbas situation second (29%) and hryvnia devaluation as third (27%).
Remarkably relations with Russia (4%) or Russia’s presence in the Crimea (2%) were simply unimportant to the vast majority of those polled.
The votes for parties, if elections were to be held on Sunday, are split along the same lines as those for the presidential candidates, with Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party as the clear leader and the president’s party in second place but in a statistical tie with the other leading parties.