Ukrainian president Poroshenko sees his popularity in the polls collapsing

Ukrainian president Poroshenko sees his popularity in the polls collapsing
Yulia Tymoshenko has opened a wide lead over Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in a Kyiv International Institute of Sociology poll / Ukraine president's office
By bne IntelliNews March 21, 2018

The election ratings of Ukrainian President Poroshenko are collapsing, according to poll results released on March 19 by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. Former Ukrainian prime minister and Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) faction leader Yulia Tymoshenko has opened a wide lead in the survey conducted by the well respected Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) in February.

The result is broadly in line with results of other surveys, which have been conducted in Ukraine over the past two years.

Of decided voters planning to vote in the March 2019 presidential elections, 24.6% said they will vote for pro-EU populist Yulia Tymoshenko, 15.5% for pro-EU populist Oleh Liashko, 12.5% for pro-EU reformer Anatoliy Grytsenko, and only 9.8% for Poroshenko. His support has steadily collapsed from 18.3% in September and 16.9% in December.

Poroshenko’s political party is faring even worse, according to the same poll. Of decided voters planning to vote in the October 2019 parliamentary elections, 22.5% said they will vote for Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party, 13.7% for Liashko’s Radical Party, 12.4% for the Russian-oriented Opposition Bloc, 10.3% for the Russian-oriented For Life party, 9.4% for Grytsenko’s Civic Position and only 6.6% for Poroshenko’s Solidarity party. It had 13.4% support in December.

The poll was conducted of 2,043 respondents between February 5 and 21 by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), an independent firm that has performed polls for various governments, businesses and international clients, including IFIs.

“The main factor that we can identify in Poroshenko’s ratings collapse in the last six months is rising inflation, which surged 13.7% last year (nonetheless lower than previous years). Consumer inflation accelerated in the last months of the last year, reaching 14% y/y in January and February. The impact of rising gasoline prices has been particularly harsh. The average Ukrainian doesn’t seem as interested in structural reforms anymore as he is in immediate government help to alleviate his poor economic standing. The forced deportation of protest leader Mikheil Saakashvili may have also harmed Poroshenko’s ratings,” Zenon Zawada of Concorde Capital said in a note.

“Whether or not Poroshenko’s collapse will be reflected in other polls remains to be seen, though this KIIS poll is well-regarded. What is certain is that the trend favors Ukraine’s two leading populist forces – Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party and Liashko’s Radical Party. Both politicians represent populism in its purest form, with constant calls for higher wages and pensions, as well as expanded use of state subsidies. They are just as critical of the IMF as they are of Russia. Needless to say, Ukraine’s Western lending partners will be alarmed by these numbers,” Zawada adds.

“With such weak poll figures, Poroshenko won’t even be able to rely on administrative resources and light fraud that we identified in yesterday’s analysis that could help him win. His saving grace is that nearly 40% of potential voters are undecided, according to the same poll. In theory, Poroshenko still has time to turn his ratings around with radically populist measures, such as salary hikes, though he and his party have shown limited skill in that sphere. And they are limited in their populist measures by their obligations to international lenders.

The potential still remains for the dark horse candidacy of Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, the intellectual rock star currently studying at Stanford University. However, he has yet to make up his mind about his candidacy and is running out of time to conduct a serious campaign. We see him as a direct proxy for IMF and US interests in Ukraine.”