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30 Mar, 2014 13:38

From Chocolate King to Darth Vader: Ukrainian presidential hopefuls submit bids

Sunday, March 30 was the last chance for candidates to get their names on the list of presidential hopefuls. Twenty four candidates expressed their will to join the election race, 7 of whom have already been registered by the Central Election Committee.

To be registered all nominees had to submit their applications to Ukraine’s CEC, including a monetary deposit of 2.5 million hryvna ($236,000). On April 5, the CEC will finish considering the applications and registering candidates, and the election campaigns will go into full swing. They will have 50 days to persuade Ukrainians to vote for them on May 25.

The main candidates have been known since Saturday, when the main political parties nominated their choices.

Pyotr Poroshenko (UDAR Party)

Ukrainian businessman and pro-European MP Pyotr Poroshenko enjoys the highest rating among potential presidential candidates. A mid-March opinion poll showed he would score 36.2 percent of the votes. After UDAR’s leader boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Kiltschko withdrew his own candidacy, Poroshenko was nominated as candidate to represent the party in the presidential election.

Pyotr Poroshenko (Reuters/Viktor Gurniak)

Often cited as one of the most influential people in Ukrainian politics, Poroshenko served as Foreign Minister under President Viktor Yushchenko in 2009, and Economic Development and Trade Minister under President Viktor Yanukovich in 2012. From 2007 to 2012, he served as chairman of Ukraine's National Bank.

Poroshenko is also a confectionery magnate, who has been dubbed the “Chocolate King.”

Announcing his candidacy, Poroshenko said he would focus on building “new, effective, modern armed forces” to protect the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and vowed to create more jobs.

Yulia Tymoshenko (leader of Batkivshchina (Fatherland) Party)

Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s former prime minister, has submitted her application to the CEC after being nominated as candidate by a unanimous vote at a Batkivshchina (Fatherland) Party conference.
Tymoshenko outlined her election program as a “campaign of direct action.” There will be no promises, she vowed.

Tymoshenko was a major figure in the so-called Orange Revolution in 2004, when supporters of pro-western Viktor Yushchenko challenged the victory of pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovich in the presidential election. After two rounds of the election disputed by the opposition and mass protests, Yushchenko eventually won a third round.

Tymoshenko was Ukrainian prime minister from 2007 to 2010. She ran for president in 2010, only to be narrowly beaten in a run-off vote by Yanukovich.

Yulia Tymoshenko (Reuters/Gleb Garanic)

Her second term as a PM was cut short as in 2011 she was sentenced to seven years in prison for abuse of power for her role in the January 2009 gas contracts with Russia. Tymoshenko supporters, who had been saying that the case was politically motivated, warmly welcomed her at Maidan Square in February 2014, as she was released amid a raging political crisis. Tymoshenko’s early release came after the Parliament amended the law to free her. It was also the day when she first voiced her intention to run for the presidency on May 25.

Speaking after her party’s nomination on March 30, Tymoshenko declared “the unity of the people of Ukraine” the main goal, stressing necessity of returning Crimea. She vowed a “personal fight against oligarchs” and expressed her confidence that Ukraine should join the EU “in the shortest possible time.”

According to a recent poll by Ukrainian research group SOCIS, 11.6 percent of respondents said they would support Tymoshenko should she take part in the second round of elections.

Mikhail Dobkin (Party of Regions)

Initially a self-nominee, Mikhail Dobkin, who is currently under house arrest, facing separatism charges, was among the first people to submit his candidacy. At the Saturday’s Congress, the Party of Regions named him as its candidate with 315 party delegates supporting his nomination.

Dobkin said he was going to appeal for his house arrest to be revoked to let him have a full-fledged presidential campaign.

Mykhail Dobkin (Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko)

Businessman-turned-politician and the former governor of the eastern Kharkov region, he vowed to focus on reviving diplomatic relations with Russia, if elected president. “The most difficult issues can be solved with diplomacy,” he told his fellow party members after the nomination. Touching upon Crimean Peninsula, Dobkin said “it is necessary” to return the territory.

With President Yanukovich having asked to exclude him as leader of the Party and chairman Nikolay Azarov having fled the country, the Party of Regions had to elect a new leadership before nominating candidates.

Aside from Dobkin, other three party members submitted their candidacies as self-nominees – Sergey Tigipko (country’s former vice-PM in 2010-2012), Yury Boiko (vice-PM in 2012-2014) and Oleg Tsarev.

A survey conducted in mid-March by the SOCIS polling organization estimated that Mikhail Dobkin could secure 5.3 percent of votes.

Oleg Tyagnibok (leader of Svoboda (Freedom) party)

Unlike other parties, the ultranationalist Svoboda party had no intrigues or disputes and, as it was anticipated from the very beginning, nominated its long-time leader Oleg Tyagnibok. His candidacy was supported by all 568 delegates to a Svoboda party conference.

Devoted to the ideas of nationalism, Tyagnibok has been a member of the Social National Party since 1991 and then became its leader in February 2004, the year when the party received its current name.

In 2004 he was kicked out of Parliament over a fiery speech that was slammed for anti-Semitic rhetoric. He was back in Parliament eight years later with his right-wing Svoboda party securing 38 out of 450 seats.

Oleg Tyagnybok (AFP Photo/Sergei Supinsky)

Svoboda is a far-right party that emphasizes national sovereignty and sees neighboring Russia as the biggest threat.

Speaking to fellow party members, Tyagnibok said he would stick to “The Program for the Protection of Ukrainians" accepted by Svoboda.

In the political part of its program, the Svoboda Party demands Ukraine’s suspension from the CIS, the Common Economic Space and EurAsEC, in which Russia is also a member state. It wants close political and economic cooperation with "natural allies" (Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Baltic countries, Poland and Bulgaria) as well as with the US and the UK.

Tyahnybok was a candidate for President of Ukraine in the 2010, but then he received only 1.43 percent of the total vote. He is wanted in Russia “for organizing a stable armed group (gang)” and fighting alongside militants during the Chechen war in 1994-95.

Dmitry Yarosh (leader of Right Sector)

The Right Sector group’s leader Dmitry Yarosh is a self-nominated candidate for the post of Ukrainian President. The ultra-nationalist movement announced on March 24 that it wants to become a political party. The Right Sector political party also includes the Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA) branches – the Ukrainian People's Self-Defense (UNSO), a paramilitary force, and Trizub (the ultra-right Stepan Bandera All-Ukrainian Organization).

The Right Sector is highly critical of the coup-appointed authorities in Kiev. It accuses the acting president, Aleksandr Turchinov, of playing “undercover games.”

Dmitry Yarosh (AFP Photo/Sergei Supinsky)

Russia charged Yarosh with inciting terrorism after he urged Chechen terrorist leader Doku Umarov to launch attacks on Russia over the Ukrainian conflict.

Moscow put him on an international wanted list for participation in hostilities against Russian soldiers in Chechnya in 1994-95.

A recent poll conducted by Ukrainian research group SOCIS about presidential election preferences showed that only 1.6 percent of people were ready to vote for Yarosh.

Meanwhile, the majority of those who submitted documents to the CEC and $236,000-deposit are self-nominated candidates.

‘Maidan doctor’ Olga Bogomolets

Self-nominated Olga Bogomolets managed to submit her candidacy at the second attempt. The first time she did not have enough money for the deposit. She shared pictures of her registering at the CEC on her Facebook page.

Picture from Olga Bogomolets Facebook page

Bogomolets was the main doctor for the Maidan mobile clinic when protests turned violent in Kiev in February. She treated the gravely injured and helped organize their transportation to neighboring countries, who provided assistance in treating those with severe wounds. Bogomolets turned down the position of Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine for Humanitarian Affairs offered by the coup-appointed regime.

Bogomolets appeared to be unwillingly involved in the scandal over a leaked phone conversation between the EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonia’s foreign affairs minister. The latter referred to “this same Olga [Bogomolets]” who he claimed had told him that “all the evidence shows” that “the same snipers” killed policemen and protesters.

Also on the list of the presidential hopefuls are a number of party leaders: First Secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party’s Central Committee, Pyotr Simonenko, the chairman of the nationalist Ukrainian People’s Party, Aleksandr Klimenko, leader of the Civil Position party, Anatoly Gritsenko and leader of the Radical Party, Oleg Lyashko.

Lyashko earlier in March made headlines when he and his supporters abducted a local pro-Russian MP in the Lugansk Region, and had the man handcuffed and abused.

Among other candidates are former high-ranking officials, like ex-Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin, ex-head of Foreign Intelligence Service, Nikolay Malomuzh and former Minister of Social Development, Natalia Korolevskaya.

Tycoon and president of the All-Ukrainian Jewish congress, Vadim Rabinovich, is also taking part in the presidential race.

The most peculiar name on the list is Darth Vader. The Sith Lord has been nominated by the Internet party of Ukraine. Vader promises to build the Death Star to protect Ukraine’s borders, make Sith the second official language and raise salaries to cosmic levels.