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.
After a leading contender dropped out of Ukraine’s presidential race Saturday, the hopes of many Ukrainians and their Western supporters are now on a man known as the Willy Wonka of Ukraine, the billionaire owner of a chocolate-candy company. Petro Olekseyevich Poroshenko, 48, was the highest-profile Ukrainian industrialist to support the protests that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych last month, and he has for several weeks led in polls for the May 25 presidential election. Known as a centrist who had previously worked for both pro-Western and pro-Russian governments, he became a strong advocate of integration with Europe after Russia banned imports of his chocolate. On Saturday, the candidate who had been running second in polls, the former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, withdrew from the race, throwing his support behind Poroshenko and solidifying his lead.
International observers delivered scathing criticism on Monday of Ukraine’s parliamentary election, saying the vote was heavily tilted in favor of President Viktor F. Yanukovich’s Party of Regions through the abuse of government resources, the dominance of media coverage and the jailing of two prominent opposition leaders. International observers on Monday said that the vote was heavily tilted in favor of President Viktor F. Yanukovich’s Party of Regions. “Considering the abuse of power, and the excessive role of money in this election, democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine,” said Walburga Habsburg Douglas, a Swedish lawmaker who led an observer mission for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.
Ukraine is preparing for its parliamentary elections on October 28th. The main question is as old as Ukrainian history: will it be a transparent and fare election by western standards or will the ruling party use questionable methods to win their seats in Parliament? The main players in this election are the government’s Party of Regions and the United Opposition party, Fatherland (Batkivshchyna). In addition to those, there is UDAR (Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms), lead by famous Ukrainian boxer, Vitali Klitschko, the Communist Party and about thirty other smaller groups. With Yulia Tymoshenko, former prime minister and the leader of the opposition, in prison, her party is still remarkably strong. Tymoshenko is serving her seven-year term over a gas deal with Russia and abuse of the office – charges that she denies.
Ukraine: Vitali Klitschko, the boxer who would be president, faces his toughest fight yet | guardian.co.uk
In one of the world’s most combustible parliaments, MPs had better watch out. A putative new member is coming who can do more than look after himself. They call him Dr Ironfist and for good reason: Vitali Klitschko is a heavyweight boxing champion, the first ever to hold a PhD – and not a man to pick a fight with. After two decades in the ring, the 41-year-old is on his way to perhaps the most bruising challenge of his life – taking on President Viktor Yanukovych and the dominant elite of Ukraine’s corrupt political system. With elections next month and some expecting Klitschko to hang up his gloves after a fight against Manuel Charr this weekend, the boxer appears poised for that most enigmatic of transformations: sports star to politician. “We are trying to make politics more open,” Klitschko said in an interview with the Guardian. “It became a Ukrainian tradition to make decisions behind closed doors [but] … we are trying to apply European standards in politics.”