Poroshenko to fight tooth and nail in Ukrainian presidential election runoff

Vladimir Zelensky’s convincing success in the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election does not mean that he will emerge the winner in the runoff with 100-percent certainty, polled experts told TASS on Monday

"The main outcome of the elections is Poroshenko has entered the second round. It cannot be ruled out that he may contest victory. This may happen as a result of a swing of votes, rigging, low turnout, voting outside the country and ballot box stuffing with the votes of those who are no longer Ukrainian citizens (Crimea’s residents - TASS)," says a member of the Russian presidential council for nationalities relations Bogdan Bezpalko.

Expert Oleg Nemensky, of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISI) believes that theoretically Zelensky’s chances are better.

"This is so not only because Zelensky is way ahead by the number of the votes cast, but because Poroshenko’s support growth potential is worse than Zelensky’s," Nemensky said. "Also, the votes of Poroshenko’s opponents in the first round will go to Zelensky by and large."

Poroshenko will be fighting tooth and claw, though.

"It is absolutely clear that Poroshenko is fighting for power with all his might and is in no mood to let it slip away easily. There is a big question mark over whether the election runoff will be calm. Possibly, Poroshenko will not recognize the victory of his opponent Vladimir Zelensky. There is every sign he is getting ready for this: he has already said that all of his opponents are "Moscow’s creatures", that "Moscow is meddling in the election" and that "Ukraine will have to be protected from the aggressor country and its stooges." One should be no means expect to see Zelensky’s calm victory in the second round."

Zelensky option

Experts are curious about the way Zelensky will prefer to act in the capacity of the head of state in case of his eventual victory in the runoff.

"He is a dark horse. He is not a politician but an entertainer," says Bezpalko. "He may be saying whatever he wants. It will be perceived not as Zelensky’s own words, but as monologues by the character he impersonates in the TV sitcom - school teacher Vasily Goloborodko (in the series the main character becomes president - TASS).

Bezpalko recalled that Zelensky was generally seen as a candidate relying on support from big business tycoon Igor Kolomoisky, who places business interests above everything else.

"Accordingly, he will be settling scores with Russia, Poroshenko, and another Ukrainian tycoon Rinat Akhmetov," Bezpalko believes.

Timoshenko’s hopes

After the failure in the first round, says Nemensky, Timoshenko is faced with an alternative of whether to recognize the election returns or not.

"The question is whether Timoshenko will be able to react to her failure calmly enough," he said. "The odds are she will refrain from staging any major protest action right away, but she will not recognize the results of the first round, either. She will put the issue on the back burner just in case Poroshenko achieves victory in the runoff. Then she will be able to say that he’d got into the runoff unlawfully."

Bezpalko believes that in principle Timoshenko may press for the post of prime minister. However in a situation where all power in modern Ukraine is in the president’s hands, she will be doomed to stay in the political background.

According to preliminary estimates by the CEC after the counting of 65.13% of the votes Vladimir Zelensky, a candidate from the Servant of the People party, received 30.41% of the votes, Poroshenko, 16.29%, and leader of the Batkivshchina party Yulia Timoshenko, 13.1%. Yuri Boiko, of the Opposition Platform for Life, was fourth with 11.52%, and Anatoly Gritsenko, of the Civic Position, fifth with 7.12%. The runoff is due on April 21.

Zelensky Ukraine