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In the Media

article imageOp-Ed: Petro Poroshenko the oligarch poised to become Ukraine president

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By Ken Hanly
May 25, 2014 in Politics
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Kiev - There seems little doubt that billionaire oligarch Petro Poroshenko will become Ukrainian president either after Sunday's election or in a subsequent runoff.
There are a total of 21 candidates officially running. While three dropped out, they are still listed on the ballot since they withdrew too late. However no other candidate is even within striking distance of Poroshenko. The composition of parliament when it was dissolved is shown in this Al Jazeera article.
A poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology that was taken between 29th of April and the 11th of May found that among decided voters Poroshenko was supported by 54.7 percent, far ahead of second place former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko with just 9.6 percent. While this is only decided voters, it is a clear enough indication that Poroshenko will win even if he has a runoff with Tymoshenko. Even the Moscow Times recognizes that Poroshenko will be the victor perhaps even after tomorrow's vote.
Poroshenko is popularly known as the "Chocolate King" since he is owner of the largest confectionery manufacturer in the Ukraine Roshen. He has production facilities in Russia too but Russia has recently taken action against his products, no doubt to punish Poroshenko for his support of the Maidan protesters and the interim Ukrainian government and his orientation towards the west.
Poroshenko has a mansion in Kozyn a suburb of Kyiv. In Soviet times the area used to be a worker's retreat. The new Ukraine has changed that: Today, a few vintage compounds with rusted metal gates remain, and dilapidated houses stand in the center of town. But the choice land close to the river has been bought up by wealthy Ukrainians who have erected mansions along its banks. Poroshenko’s grand manse—complete with a white portico and columns that recall, not at all subtly, the White House, is surrounded by a yellow brick wall. Over the top, you can see rows of freestanding Roman archways, metal-leaf gates and the golden cupola of an Orthodox chapel.
According to Forbes Poroshenko is worth about $1.3 billion, making him the seventh richest man in the Ukraine. He owns UkProminvest a holding company that has interests in bus manufacturing, car distribution, shipyards, banking and electrical cables. He also owns a TV station Channel 5 which was the main opposition TV station and an early supporter of the Maidan protesters.
Poroshenko is hardly a new face in Ukraine politics. He was elected to parliament in March 2002 and served as head of the parliamentary budget committee. He had been campaign chief for Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Bloc which won the biggest share of the popular vote. Poroshenko supported the Orange Revolution: Being perhaps the wealthiest businessman among Yushchenko supporters, Poroshenko was often cited as one of the chief financial backers of Our Ukraine and the Orange Revolution.
So from the first Poroshenko has backed changes supported by the west. However, Poroshenko has managed to change his support often depending on who was in power since he has held high positions in every government since 2004 when the Orange Revolution took place. He has been minister of foreign affairs, of economic devlopment, head of the National Defense and Security Council and Chairman of the National Bank. Certainly the IMF and other lenders will see Poroshenko as eminently qualified to deal with them.
Poroshenko claims he is not an oligarch. On a popular Ukrainian TV talk show he said:
“I am not an oligarch because an oligarch is a person who uses state power to enrich themselves. I was in the opposition the whole time. And quite the opposite, it was the thugs and criminals in power that destroyed the economy.” Poroshenko’s presidential campaign slogan is a Ukrainian phrase that means “Live in a new way!”
Apparently Poroshenko has a bad memory: In September 2005 highly publicized mutual allegations of corruption erupted between Poroshenko and Tymoshenko involving the privatizations of state-owned firms. Poroshenko, for example, was accused of defending the interests of Viktor Pinchuk, who had acquired for $80 million a state firm, Nikopol Ferroalloy, independently valued at $1 billion.[12] In reaction to the allegations, Yushchenko dismissed his entire cabinet of ministers, including Poroshenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko.[2]
No doubt these past issues are forgotten. Poroshenko is seen as producing real goods chocolates rather than stealing from the state. He also was one of the first of the oligarchs to join in the protests to oust former president Yanukovych whom he had worked for until 2012. The charges against Poroshenko were eventually dropped by state prosecutors but only after the General Prosecutor of the Ukraine, Svyatoslav Piskin was fired. Piskin says he was fired because he would not proceed with charges against Tymoshenko but insisted on proceeding with charges against Poroshenko.
Poroshenko's presidential bid has some shady support: The internet publication Ukrainian Pravda, referring to the Austrian press, reported that Poroshenko and Klitschko formed their union on request by Ukranian billionaire Dmitry Firtash,[39] who is facing bribery charges in the U.S.[40] Firtash publicly confirmed that his support supports Poroshenko in the presidential election.[41] Vitaly Klitschko a famous champion boxer was a key figure in the Maidan protests and a potential presidential candidate before he gave support to Poroshenko. Klitschko's decision to abandon his own presidential ambitions and support Poroshenko was applauded by none other than Sergei Liovochkin former head of former president's Yanukovych's administration. With support like that how can he lose?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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