Businessman gains in Ukraine's presidential race

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Jan. 13, 2010, 7:11 p.m. |
A wealthy businessman has made surprising gains against the two front-runners in Ukraine's presidential race, riding a wave of popular discontent with the nation's leaders. Sergei Tigipko, 49, former economy minister, is being bolstered by a last-minute media blitz and anger toward Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the country's deadlocked government.

A second-place finish in Sunday's presidential vote could put Tigipko into a runoff against former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, his former boss.

That would represent a shutout for the leaders of Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution — Tymoshenko and current President Viktor Yushchenko — who promised but so far have not managed to deliver sweeping democratic reforms. Yushchenko is running for re-election but is far back in the polls.

Tigipko said he has already spent about $11 million on the campaign, bolstering the image he has tried to project of an independent candidate not beholden to any of Ukraine's political or business factions.

An opinion poll released Wednesday by a Russian state-run polling agency, VTsIOM, put Tigipko slightly ahead of Tymoshenko with 14.4 percent support against her 13.9 percent. Yanukovych was far ahead with 30.5 percent in the poll, which was conducted Jan. 3-10 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Tigipko's popularity began to surge after the amateur bodybuilder appeared on the December cover of Men's Health magazine in Ukraine wearing a tight T-shirt and jeans. He followed this up with appearances on TV talk shows and a huge advertising campaign that covered the Ukrainian capital with his billboards.

At a press conference Wednesday, Tigipko sought a middle ground between Yanukovych's pro-Russian platform and Tymoshenko's traditional focus on Ukrainian nationalism and European integration.

He said Ukraine was not yet ready to seek membership in the European Union or NATO and must first focus on forming a unified government that can stimulate the country's flagging economy. In the long term, however, he said Ukraine must move toward European integration.

Tigipko also said he would seek to repair damaged relations with Russia.
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from richard Jan. 13, 2010, 7:48 p.m.    

He's the only person who could beat Yanukovych in a run-off. Tymoshenko's ratings have got lower and lower and lower during the past year.

Please - anybody but Tymoshenko.

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Anonymous Jan. 13, 2010, 10:40 p.m.    

Yushchenko is finished. Anybody BUT Yushchenko.

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Anonymous Jan. 13, 2010, 10:58 p.m.    

Stalin? or a modern version thereof without the wholesale mass murder of course

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Anonymous Jan. 13, 2010, 10:56 p.m.    

Agree Tymo is finished and watch the dummy get spat out as it happens - I predict a prima donna performance of epic proportions

Tigipko is gaining from discontent with the majors - maybe he can pull something special out of the hat, I dont believe the "its a choice between tymo and yanu" even though the "polls" indicate these two will be a run off.

The big issue is will the discontent turn to apathy and low voter turn out or will Ukrainians want their voice heard

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Anonymous Jan. 13, 2010, 8:26 p.m.    

I suspect the poll is a fake, the late December polls had Tigipko at 7-8 percent, and YT at 15-17 percent, in line with the results all through the campaign.

But regardless, Yanukovich needs to worry about a possible Tigipko-Tymoshenko alliance against him in the second round. If they finish 2-3 as expected, YT has the option of withdrawing any time before the Feb. 7 runoff in Tigipko's favor.

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Anonymous Jan. 13, 2010, 10:38 p.m.    

Tigipko has no natural constituency he is not in a position to direct those who support him.

I also seriously question the polls results as not one other opinion poll has placed him so high and Yulia Tymoshenko so low. All have him in percentage points behind in the race for second place.

If Ukraine had of adopted a preferential voting system then there is an outside chance that Tigipko could go on to win the election BUT Ukraine has instead a flawed outdated two round first-past-the post ballot system. Only the two highest polling candidates will progress to the second round vote. All other minor candidates are competing against each other and together they will lose the election.

What I also find interesting is that the English Media have not given a balanced and fair reporting of other minor candidates such as Moroz, Symonenko and or Bogoslovska. I do not think they will win but collectively they do represent close to 8 to 10 percent of the electorate and they will play an equal major role in the outcome of the election.

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Anonymous Jan. 14, 2010, 12:44 a.m.    

Is Tigipko paying for this story? Sure sounds like it. Trying to act like Putin is just not going to make it for him.

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Anonymous Jan. 14, 2010, 2:30 a.m.    

Lets not forget Tigipko was in charge of Yanukovichs 2004 election campaign to defraud the Ukrainian voter. He's nothing more than a technical candidate for Yanukovich.

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Anonymous Jan. 17, 2010, 5:31 a.m.    

KGB poll shows that Tigipko is another KGB mole.

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