Having ridden roughshod over Ukraine, Russia's annexation of the Crimea is now over and a new chapter in Ukrainian politics is about to begin - but it won't be much different than the last chapter, with the same old faces surfacing for May presidential elections.
In the aftermath of the Maidan protests that overthrew president Viktor Yanukovych in February and Russia's retaliatory annexation of the Crimea in March, Ukraine has moved presidential elections forward a year to 25 May.
As of early Wednesday, the top four candidates for the presidency were independent businessman Petro Poroshenko, professional boxer and UDAR party leader Vitali Klitschko, banker and former ruling party figure Serhiy Tihipko, and controversial former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was recently released from prison to join the Maidan protests.
According to a survey conducted between 14 and 19 March, Poroshenko was polling with a significant lead of 24.9%, leaving Klitschko and Tymoshenko battling it out for second place with 8.9% and 8.2%, respectively, and Tihipko trailing slightly with 7.3%.
What the polls indicate is that Poroshenko is likely to make it to a second round of elections, which are expected to take place sometime around late June, while he would be running against Klitschko, Tymoshenko or Tihipko, who are each polling more or less equally.
But the situation is dynamic. Late on Wednesday, Oilprice.com sources in Kiev close to former energy and vice-prime minister Yury Boyko said he had officially placed himself in the running for president, as an independent candidate.
Regardless of who wins the presidential vote, the Maidan will be disappointed. The protest movement wasn't just complaining about the Yanukovych government—it was complaining about over two decades of pervasive corruption, and now we are seeing those same faces again.
All of the top five candidates carry with them baggage from previous failed governments, but none more than Tymoshenko.
While Poroshenko is a successful businessperson, Klitschko a successful athlete and Tihipko a successful banker, Tymoshenko is largely perceived as a failed politician.
Of the four, Poroshenko and Klitschko have the cleanest records, and the least amount of negative political baggage.
“Tymoshenko is not a trusted political figure, and there have been quite a few polls stating such,” Ukraine energy expert Robert Bensh told Oilprice.com.
Tymoshenko spent three years in jail on what her supporters say were politically motivated charges of abuse of power before being freed last month; but her return to the political fray is a highly controversial one.
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