Ukrainian former PM Tymoshenko launches presidential bid

Ukrainian former PM Tymoshenko launches presidential bid
Ukraine Tymoshenko launches presidential bid
By Sergei Kuznetsov in Kyiv June 21, 2018

Former Ukrainian prime minister and Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) faction leader Yulia Tymoshenko has formally launched her bid for the presidential election due to be held in 2019.

"I will run for the presidency of Ukraine, but I will run not for the sake of simply playing with authoritarianism and monopoly of power," Interfax news agency quoted her as saying during a video conference on June 20. "The presidential post for me is not [game console] PlayStation, but these are real changes that the country is waiting for."

Tymoshenko has lead the opinion polls as the leading candidate over the past two years.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s popularity ratings are in free fall as three quarters of Ukrainians thought the country is headed in the wrong direction. A second elections poll, also released on April 26, shows public support for Poroshenko and his Solidarity party has collapsed since the start of the year.

Specifically, some 8.7% of respondents said they would vote for Tymoshenko if the election was held next Sunday, while 7.6% said they would support Poroshenko, according to January's survey conducted by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation named after Ilko Kucheriv jointly with the Kyiv-based Rasumkov sociological service centre.

Another poll held in April showed that Tymoshenko had continued to make advances with 14.2% supporting Tymoshenko, 10.9% supporting pro-EU former defence minister Anatoliy Grytsenko, 9.4% support Russian-oriented natural gas trader Yuriy Boyko and only 9.3% support Poroshenko. More than 21% of those intending to vote are undecided, pollster Rating sociological group said in April.

At the same time, some experts believe that Poroshenko has significant chances to beat Tymoshenko in a second-round runoff due to the fact that Tymoshenko has one of the highest negative ratings amongst Ukrainian politicians (the number of voters who say they will not vote for the former PM under any circumstances).

Ukraine's western backers and donors will also likely support Poroshenko against Tymoshenko during the second-round runoff, as the latter is strongly associated with populism and anti-market solutions.

"If I win in the presidential election, I will immediately hold a referendum at which [I will propose] adopting the new Constitution of Ukraine as a real social contract and de-monopolising power, on the one hand, making it stronger in terms of implementing strategies, and on the other hand, making it properly organized and balanced, controlled by society," Tymoshenko added during the conference.

According to her, the parliamentary elections scheduled for autumn 2019 will have to be carried out under new legislation.

"A large group of scientists and jurists is working now to create the concept of a new Constitution. Then this project must be submitted to a referendum," the politician said. "The new president must first adopt a new constitution and implement it. New parliamentary elections should then be held under a new, strong constitution, the best in the world."

Meanwhile, many Kyiv-based political experts believe that Poroshenko has more than enough time to shore up his popular support, which has been weakened over the past year.