If you’ve been following this blog avidly (as you should, dear reader!), you’ll have seen that Ukrainian chocolate tycoon Pyotr Poroshenko has won the election in Ukraine. I admit, I wasn’t sure about him at first, but after reading more about him, I’m willing to give him a chance.
A president Poroshenko is likely to assure Putin, probably in private, that Kyiv has no current plans to join NATO, which is the Russian leader’s main demand. But, as ousted president Viktor Yanukovych found out in the months preceding his flight in February, it would be political suicide for him to explicitly foreswear a formal link to the West. Putin understands local Ukrainian politics and, as long as he perceives no overt anti-Russian hostility and sees a partner with whom he can do business, he is likely to give Poroshenko a go.
Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s most overrated politician, came in a distant second. Once can hope that this is the end of her political career.
The Telegraph has an excellent article about Poroshenko. He doesn’t want to focus on Ukraine’s divisions.
But it is not surprising that he wishes to hit the ground running. He will inherit a country on the brink of economic collapse, with a separatist rebellion raging in its main industrial region, and a Russian neighbour that has annexed one part of the country and quite finished toying with the threat of invasion of the rest.
Not that Mr Poroshenko wishes to see it like that. “There are no western Ukrainians or eastern Ukrainians,” he insists. “There are no Russian-speaking Ukrainians or Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians – there is only one Ukraine, whole and indivisible.”
His campaign slogan is “Live in the new way.” That’s a bad translation but I can’t come up with anything better!
He has worked with both Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych.
Having served in government under both Viktor Yanukovych as trade minister and Mr Yushchenko as secretary of the national security council, he has a proven ability to work with all the main political factions.
However, he also lacks the political machine and networks of patronage that helped both Mrs Tymoshenko and Mr Yanukovych to run the country. Mr Klitschko’s Udar party, which he has allied with, is young, inexperienced, and never been in power.
His campaign style is simple, and largely boils down to promising the public a better life. His standard tactic on the stump is to ask the crowd what their average monthly salary is, before telling them how much more workers in his chocolate factories are paid.
But he will need something more than businessman’s savvy and confectioner’s charm if he is to survive long in his new job.
Trickiest of all, he will have to find a way of working with Moscow while delivering on his openly pro-European agenda.
While Vladimir Putin said on Friday that he would respect the election and work with whoever comes to power, finding a common language will be tricky.
To Mr. Poroshenko, all I have to say is: Поздравляю! [Congratulations!] I hope this will mark a turning point for the better in Ukraine.