News / Europe

Tymoshenko Loses Magic in Ukraine Presidential Race

Ukrainian politician and presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko takes part in talks in Kyiv, May 14, 2014.
Ukrainian politician and presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko takes part in talks in Kyiv, May 14, 2014.
Reuters
Campaigning for Ukraine's presidential election, Yulia Tymoshenko says she alone can save the nation from disaster. It is a refrain that has served her well in the past but the voters no longer seem to be listening.
 
Opinion polls put Tymoshenko, a two-times prime minister, in a distant second place behind confectionery magnate Petro Poroshenko for Sunday's vote with just 10 percent support - humiliating a woman whose trademark peasant's hair braid and rhetoric have defined Ukrainian politics for a decade.
 
But her supporters, who insist the polls are wrong, and political analysts say it would be rash to write off Tymoshenko, whose ambition and self-belief appear undimmed by health problems and by a jail sentence that ended in February.
 
“I will do whatever I can as president to ensure that Ukraine decides its own future in Europe as a full-fledged member of the democratic world,” she told reporters after addressing supporters at a business forum in Kiev this week.
 
In typically combative mood, she called for a referendum on joining NATO and the European Union as part of a campaign she said could force Russia to reverse its annexation of Crimea and to stop meddling in mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.
 
Her promises of tax reform and a crackdown on corruption drew enthusiastic applause from supporters, mostly small businessmen from more nationalist-minded western Ukraine.
 
“I don't understand those who say she is a divisive figure. She can unite our country. Her first language is Russian and she comes from the east,” said Oleg Tymo, 44, a businessman from the far-western city of Lviv near the Polish border.
 
Tymoshenko remains Ukraine's most eloquent and recognizable politician and she likes to stress her experience. But at a time of yearning for change that may prove a handicap, not an asset.
 
Another country
 
A leader of the Orange Revolution protests of 2004-05, she served her two terms as prime minister before narrowly losing to arch-rival Viktor Yanukovich in a 2010 presidential run-off.
 
Under Yanukovich, she was jailed on abuse of office charges which her supporters and the West said were politically motivated. Moscow-backed Yanukovich lost power in February after months of sometimes violent street protests centered on Kiev's Independence Square, or Maidan, and fled to Russia, opening the way for this week's presidential election.
 
But Tymoshenko left jail to find a very different Ukraine, one traumatized by the 100-plus deaths during the protests and now reeling from the loss of Crimea and Russia's military moves that have stirred fears of a new Cold War with the West.
 
“Something has changed. There has been a paradigm shift. In Ukraine there used to be an attitude of 'let's elect a strong leader and in a few months' time all will come right' but that attitude has gone,” said one Kiev-based Western diplomat.
 
“The 'Maidan' revolt happened because people took responsibility into their own hands. Tymoshenko did not take part because she was in jail. She only got polite applause when she finally addressed the Maidan and shed tears on stage, saying Ukraine's leaders were not worthy of its people.”
 
“She does her voodoo but it doesn't work any more,” he said.
 
This view is borne out on the streets of Kiev.
 
“Her time has passed... Events have shown that people want new faces,” said Roman Chuvilno, 27, an IT product manager.
 
“I am not going to vote for Tymoshenko, she is oriented towards internal conflicts in Ukraine and this is the last thing we need right now,” said pensioner Yuri Pisachenko, 74, alluding to bitter power struggles that marred her past stints in office.
 
Tymoshenko, 53, has adjusted her style to match the more somber mood, swapping her hair-braid for a more staid bun and dressing modestly. She walks slowly, often leaning on an aide's arm, clearly still suffering from the back pain that plagued her in jail and for which she has received treatment in Germany.
 
Even support in her own camp seems sometimes to fall short of the ringing endorsement she might once have expected.
 
“All our politicians have skeletons in their cupboard and there are no new faces... She is simply the best candidate of the bunch,” said Aleksander Davtyan, who runs a construction business in the eastern city of Kharkiv.
 
Down but not out
 
However, nobody expects Tymoshenko to quit politics if she loses to Poroshenko on Sunday - or in a second round on June 15 if he fails to win an absolute majority in the first. She will merely bide her time, analysts say, believing that Ukraine's huge economic problems will quickly erode his support.
 
“Tymoshenko will probably go into opposition but she remains one of Ukraine's most experienced managers and politicians. It would be quite wrong to think her political career is at an end,” said Vadim Karasyov, a political analyst.
 
As prime minister Tymoshenko had a tumultuous relationship with former president Viktor Yushchenko, who had been her ally in the Orange Revolution. Recalling this, a victorious Poroshenko is unlikely to offer her a job in his government, even if she defies the polls and manages to force a run-off.
 
Poroshenko and Tymoshenko are united in their support for closer economic and political ties with Europe and in their condemnation of what they say is Russia's backing of pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine. But, the Western diplomat said, “she is too disruptive. It would be suicidal for Poroshenko to bring her into a new government”.
 
She and Poroshenko also clashed during her time as prime minister. When he was secretary of the National Defense and Security Council, she attacked him in 2005 and then accused him of involvement in corruption. The scandal ended only when  Yushchenko sacked them both.
 
Tymoshenko retains influence in the current parliament, where her Fatherland party is the second largest after the Party of the Regions, the former party of Yanukovich.
 
Ukraine's interim president and prime minister are both from her party, but they have kept their distance from her campaign. Analysts also say some advisers have left the Tymoshenko camp after advising against her presidential bid.
 
Volodymyr Fesenko, an analyst at the Penta think-tank, said Tymoshenko had shown a lack of strategy in her campaign, putting off voters at such a tense time with increasingly sharp attacks on Poroshenko and claims that only she is fit to lead Ukraine.
 
“Internal conflicts are just not acceptable for society at a time when the country faces external aggression,” he said. “And her calls for a referendum on joining NATO will not net her more votes. The NATO issue divides Ukrainian society.”
 
Russia strongly opposes Ukraine joining the Western military alliance, as are many voters in eastern Ukraine.
 
But Fesenko said he also expected Tymoshenko to weather any election setback. “I do not think she will leave politics. She has regained her energy, she is ready again to fight.”

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid