Poroshenko debates an empty lectern as Ukraine's presidential frontrunner Zelenskiy is a no show

 Poroshenko debates an empty lectern as Ukraine's presidential frontrunner Zelenskiy is a no show
Poroshenko turned up for a debate on April 14 but Zelenskiy didnt
By bne IntelliNews April 15, 2019

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was forced to communicate with journalists and his supporters at the national Olympic stadium in Kyiv on April 14 due to the fact that his rival and the leader of the ongoing presidential campaign Volodymyr Zelensky refused to take part in what should be the first face-to-face debates between candidates.

"I want to know for myself his position on the most important vectors of the implementation of the powers of the president and supreme commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the guarantor of the constitutional rights and freedoms of the citizens, and the defender of Ukraine," Poroshenko's media office quoted him as saying at the stadium.

He would also like to hear from presidential candidate Zelensky the position on negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and liberation of the Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia. "But for some reason, he does not tell it. I do not think it's very good. This is not a disrespect for Poroshenko, this is a disrespect for the people and for the country, for the voters in the end," he added.

"Pull yourself together and come," Poroshenko said adressing Zelensky, a close associate of the nation's controversial oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, who left Ukraine a couple of years ago due to conflicts with Poroshenko and law enforcement agencies, controlled by the president. Currently, the businessman, an owner of the country's largest televison network, provides unprecedented media support to Zelensky.

Different places, time

Poroshenko added that he was ready to hold a discussion with his opponent on the other day. Specifically, he suggested that candidate Zelensky should not refuse to participate in the debate in the studio of the national public broadcaster on April 19 and at the ICTV channel the same day.

Meanwhile, Zelensky's team insists that their candidate to take part in the debates at the Olympic statium on April 19.

"It was announced that we expect him [Poroshenko] on April 19 at the stadium. We hope he will come. If not, then it seems to us Poroshenko is trying to avoid the debate. The reason why Zelensky was not there [on April 14] was known in advance. For some reason, Poroshenko wanted to go there," Zelensky's spokesman Dmytro Razumkov said news agency Interfax on April 14.

Razumkov said this issue revolves around holding a debate in the stadium itself, so that citizens of Ukraine cannot only watch and listen to the debate on TV, but also attend it."Today, a campaign rally was held by Poroshenko at the stadium. We do not participate in campaign rallies of the incumbent president," he said.

The spokesman added that the law on the presidential election does not provide for holding a debate in a building or in a room at Ukraine's public broadcaster, as stipulated by Ukraine's Central Election Commission. "With all due respect, the law stands above the CEC resolution," he said.

Meanwhile, Poroshenko promised at the stadium to respect any choice of the Ukrainian people, whoever wins the second round, which is due to be held on April 21. "If, God forbid, he [Zelensky] was to be elected, that would be the Ukrainian people's choice and I will respect it, whatever the choice," Poroshenko said.

Promises

If elected president, Zelensky would preserve the central bank’s independence and keep its governor Yakiv Smoliy, according to the  nation's former Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius/.

He would also lobby a reluctant parliament to lift a moratorium on the sale of farmland and change how business are taxed, said Abromavicius, who is one of two former ministers serving as advisers to the Zelensky campaign in order to earn the confidence of investors, Reuters reported on April 12.

Zelensky has met IMF officials and the two sides agreed neither wants Ukraine to be in an IMF program as such, Abromavicius said, but the IMF’s departure depended on Ukraine being successful, implementing reforms, paying back debts and tapping into open markets.

Another adviser, former Finance Minister Alex Danylyuk, accompanied Zelenskiy to an April 12 meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Danylyuk was seated to the right of Zelenskiy at the negotiating table, while on his lefthand side was Ruslan Riaboshapka, a former deputy justice minister. Zelenskiy told the RFE/RLafterwards they had a "very constructive meeting", during which they discussed "ceasing the war in Donbas", among other topics.

Zenon Zawada at Kyiv-based brokerage Concorde Capital believes that "the instability" created by a Zelenskiy presidency will affect Ukraine’s political situation before it reaches the financial sphere. "The biggest risk so far is if he acts as a passive or weak president, a vacuum that will be ceased upon by veteran politicians, like Yulia Tymoshenko," he wrote in a note on April 15.

Tymoshenko already advocated throughout her campaign for amending the constitution to strip the presidency of its remaining authority (mostly in foreign policy and defense) in order to create a parliamentary republic. "Judging by her comments made on April 12 on the presidential race, Tymoshenko is already skeptical of Zelensky and looks to be merely preparing for the opportune moment in the coming months to go into full opposition to him in order to propose stripping authority from him," Zawada added.

The farmland market is a key issue to begin her attacks on Zelenskiy, considering she has always been staunchly opposed to its creation, the expert also believes.

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