Opposition leader, former prime minister and head of the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party Yulia Tymoshenko has announced she will stand as a presidential candidate in the 2019 presidential elections.
Tymoshenko is back from the political dead after she had a lukewarm reception during the end of the 2014 EuroMaidan protests. The crowd made it clear that they were happy she had been released from jail, but also made it clear that things had moved on and they wanted new leaders.
Since then she has staged a remarkable comeback, focusing on populist issues, and currently leads the polls with 11% of Ukrainians saying they would vote for her.
"I won't entrust this to anyone else this time around. I will be running for presidential office. We will win so as to put the country on its feet again," Tymoshenko said on the NewsOne television channel, reports Interfax.
Tymoshenko has been building up a political base, and accompanied former Odessa governor and ex-Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili when he re-entered Ukraine in September despite having no passport. Saakashvili will not run for the presidency, but has thrown his weight behind Tymoshenko’s bid now he is in open opposition to his former friend and ally President Petro Poroshenko.
Poroshenko and his eponymous party are doing very badly in the polls with between 2% and 9.5% support according to various polls.
Tymoshenko has long wanted the presidency but rose only to the post of prime minister following Ukraine’s first big revolution, the Orange Revolution in 2004. She reminded voters that that she had earlier supported the election of Viktor Yuschenko — leader of the Orange Revolution — as president, and Arseniy Yatsenyuk who served as prime minister in Yushchenko’s administration. However, she said this did not yield any results.
"I've placed my confidence in the country's leaders more than once, and I've entrusted my voice for governing the country. You know that I supported Yuschenko for president and Yatsenyuk for prime minister. I am not going to entrust my voice, the voice of my team and the people who trust us, to anyone else," she said according to Interfax.
The next presidential elections in Ukraine are to be held in the spring of 2019.
Tymoshenko said on air on NewsOne TV station that she will run for president “to lift Ukraine from its knees.”
It will be the third time that Tymoshenko has run for president. She narrowly lost to ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych in 2010 and came second to Poroshenko on May 25, 2014.
Poroshenko is yet to officially announce if he will run in 2019, but it is already clear that he is preparing for re-election.
Tymoshenko is an extremely divisive figure and does not command universal support. Indeed given Poroshenko’s unpopularity – some 80% of Urkainians say the country is going in the “wrong direction” according to one recent poll – it is remarkable that none of the possible opposition leaders have managed to rally significant support to their causes, all polling within a few percent of each other.
According to a poll taken in May by the Rating polling agency, Tymoshenko would get 12.4% of the votes if the election was held at the time, while Poroshenko would get only 9.5%. A different poll by Social Monitoring Center and the Oleksandr Yaremenko Ukrainian Institute of Social Studies in July also put Tymoshenko slightly ahead of Poroshenko: 11.2% would prefer her as president, compared to 9.5% who chose Poroshenko, according to the Kyiv Post.