After a winter of lightning-fast changes – a president ousted and a peninsula apparently lost to Russia — Ukrainians are beginning to look ahead to elections on May 25 to replace Viktor Yanukovych. The opposition leader who seemed to have the inside track a few weeks ago, ex-world champion heavyweight Vitali Klitschko, has taken himself out of the running. Klitschko will stand for mayor of Kiev and throw his support behind billionaire Petro Poroshenko, who made his fortune in the candy business. Although not widely known in the West, Poroshenko has relatively broad appeal in this deeply divided country. He was a prominent backer of both the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the recent pro-European demonstrations in Kiev’s Independence Square.
Political analyst Brian Mefford says Poroshenko has also worked with Yanukovych in the past, and until recently had lucrative business ties with Russia. “In a time when the country just lost a significant amount of its territory to annexation in Crimea, the voters are looking maybe less for a celebrity and more for someone that they see as an accomplished businessman and political professional,” says Mefford.
Poroshenko has a long resume and has served as foreign minister, economics minister, national security chief and as a member of parliament.
Poroshenko’s most prominent rival at the moment is former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Since being freed from jail, she has promised to be “the candidate of Ukrainian unity.”