Ukraine's election: portraits of main players

Print version
Jan. 1, 2010, 9:42 p.m. | Politics — by Reuters


Jan 1 (Reuters) - A total of 18 candidates are taking part in Ukraine's presidential election on Jan. 17, including President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Prime Minister and opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich. Others taking part include parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, ex-Speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk and former central bank head Serhiy Tyhypko. In a protest against the system, one contestant has formally changed his surname to 'Protyvsikh' which means 'against all'.

No candidate is expected to win the first round outright. However, Yanukovich and Tymoshenko are widely seen as likely to face each other in a run-off on Feb. 7

Yushchenko himself has only the slimmest chances of re-election, according to many opinion polls.

Here is some background on the main players:

* YULIA TYMOSHENKO (49) - prime minister:

-- Her energy, impassioned speeches, and peasant-style hair braid make her one of the most dominant figures in Ukraine.

-- Called the "gas princess" for her early involvement in the gas industry, from which she is believed to have amassed a fortune, she was deputy prime minister in charge of energy in 2000 and won praise for her reform efforts.

-- Born in November 1960, the slightly-built Tymoshenko wears eye-catching designer outfits from Paris fashion houses.

-- After being dismissed as deputy prime minister, she spent several weeks in jail in 2001 accused of forging customs documents and smuggling gas. She was subsequently cleared of all charges.

-- She was allied with Viktor Yushchenko, now president, during the 2004 "Orange Revolution" when her rousing speeches kept hundreds of thousands on the streets for weeks. The two are now deadly rivals.

-- Yushchenko appointed her his first prime minister in 2005 but the honeymoon was short-lived -- he sacked her after eight months, with each accusing the other of corruption. She was appointed for a second time in December 2007.

-- Her policies included compensation for depositors who lost Soviet-era savings, price controls on food and medicines to bring inflation down, calls for a review of murky privatisations and high social spending.

-- For some time, she was ridiculed in the Russian media but in late 2008 the Kremlin, seeing her opposition to Yushchenko, got swiftly behind her for the top job in Ukraine.

-- In early December, Russia's Vladimir Putin denied Moscow was backing her for president.

-- Putin and Tymoshenko met in Yalta in November and brokered a deal between their state energy companies that gave Ukraine softer terms for buying natural gas and avoiding a repeat of last year's gas dispute.

-- Although she was born in the Russian-speaking east, she has spent many years improving her Ukrainian to broaden her appeal.

* VIKTOR YUSHCHENKO (55) - president:

-- The former central bank chief and prime minister was the victim of dioxin poisoning in the 2004 presidential campaign. His face was disfigured and he underwent a series of operations.

-- Yushchenko has made membership of NATO and the European Union cornerstones of policy. Born in northern Ukraine in February 1954, he is religious and deeply committed to Ukrainian statehood.

-- His insistence that the 1930s Stalin-era 'Holodomor' -- the famine in Ukraine and neighbouring Soviet republics in which between 7 and 10 million people died -- was a deliberate genocide has angered Moscow.

-- Popular support after his victory in the re-run 2004 election ebbed away as his aim of turning Ukraine into a modern state with a Western orientation gave way to infighting and indecision.

-- His credibility fell further after he agreed to appoint Yanukovich prime minister in 2006, subject to a deal that was supposed to leave pro-Western policy goals intact.

-- Yushchenko regularly criticises Tymoshenko. He has accused her government of everything from using fears of a swine flu epidemic to secure more money for the budget, to striking a ruinous deal with Russia over natural gas supplies.

* VIKTOR YANUKOVICH (59) - opposition leader, former prime minister:

-- Born in July 1950, the beefy and blunt Yanukovich has changed his image to become a more capable public speaker.

-- A native Russian speaker from the Donbass coalfield region, he has made efforts to speak better Ukrainian, the country's national language, but he often stumbles over words.

-- He is widely seen as representing the interests of Ukraine big business and his campaign benefits from backing by shadowy billionaire Rinat Akhmetov.

-- Backed in 2004 by Moscow, he was initially declared the winner of a rigged presidential election, but lost the re-run of the poll to Yushchenko.

-- He made a comeback in 2006 when Yushchenko appointed him prime minister after "orange" parties failed to form a coalition. However, he left office after his Regions Party and its allies were outscored by "orange" parties in a snap 2007 election.

-- Yanukovich has warmer relations with Russia and is cool about Yushchenko's plans to seek fast-track NATO membership. Like most politicians in Ukraine, he supports further integration with the European Union.

-- In his youth, he was imprisoned twice for theft and assault. His aides said the charges were struck from the record and no documents are available on the issue.

-- At the start of official campaigning in October, Tymoshenko's supporters went on the offensive against Yanukovich.

-- Tymoshenko loyalists revived old rumours that Yanukovich had taken part in a gang-rape and beating of a woman when he was a youth. They said these charges had been brought to the attention of the prosecutors several years ago. Serhiy Lyovochkin, deputy head of Yanukovich's Regions party, denied the accusations.
The Kyiv Post is hosting comments to foster lively debate. Criticism is fine, but stick to the issues. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks will be removed from the site. If you think that a posted comment violates these standards, please flag it and alert us. We will take steps to block violators.
Anonymous Jan. 1, 2010, 10:16 p.m.    

17 candidates (four from Our Ukraine) all running against Yushchenko. Not eben his own party supports him. Yushchenko's support rating is less then 4%, Five years ago he enjoyed 52%. Yushchenko has the highest negativity rating (83%) then any other candidate.

The whole presidential election is a farce and a total waste of limited resources. Ukraine would have been better off if its head of state was elected by a constitutional parliamentary majority as is the case in Estonia, Latvia. Hungary. Moldova, Greece, Switzerland and the EU itself.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 1, 2010, 10:21 p.m.    

Yushchenko is no longer a main player. No one except Yushchenko believes he can survive the first round of voting. Combined Our Ukraine's candidates represent less then 12% (2% below their 2007/2007 parliamentary vote) Even if Yatseniuk and the other OU candidates withdraw at this late stage Yushchenko could not win.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 2, 2010, 1:49 a.m.    

Cut and paste flooding. Really KP, you can do better.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 2, 2010, 10:15 p.m.    

Another sore Yushchenko support who is upset about Yushchenko losing the election. Now they want to silence Yushchenko's critics. Each story stands alone and many issues need to be repeated. Face facts Yushchenko no longer maintains the support of Ukraine. 83% of Ukraine wants him removed from office and he only has 4% support. FOUR PERCENT. In two weeks he will be voted out of office.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 3, 2010, 2:46 a.m.    

You're nothing but a flooding troll. My vote goes to Tymoshenko by the way, not Yushchenko, so you are very wrong. It's too bad KP comment section has gone the way of an amateur publication which allows such flooding, I would have thought this publication would have been more professional.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 3, 2010, 2:27 p.m.    

It takes a troll to know a troll. Your choice of ward is very similar to others. Your attempts at silencing debate by flooding comments does not serve you well. If you do not agree with the comments made then ignore them. Personally I agree with much of what has been said in relation to the criticism of Yushchenko. It is factual and well informed. Unlike your mindless comments and abuse.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 2, 2010, 2:44 a.m.    

No one of any credibilty thinks Yushchenko will survive. There is just two weeks remaining before the first round vote.

Yushchenko and he is way down the list. Even Yushchenko's most stringent supporters have resigned themselves to this fact.

Reading the chatter out there they are now engaged in a revenge attack/trash and burn exit plan. Yushchenko is the biggest loser as the guest above has stated 17 candidates, four from his political party, have run against him.

The final round will be a contest between Yanukovych and Tymoshenko. With Yanukovych in poll position to win the overall election.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 2, 2010, 2:46 a.m.    

No one of any credibilty thinks Yushchenko will survive. There is just two weeks remaining before the first round vote.

Yushchenko and he is way down the list. Even Yushchenko's most stringent supporters have resigned themselves to this fact.

Reading the chatter out there they are now engaged in a revenge attack/trash and burn exit plan. Yushchenko is the biggest loser as the guest above has stated 17 candidates, four from his political party, have run against him.

The final round will be a contest between Yanukovych and Tymoshenko. With Yanukovych in poll position to win the overall election.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 1, 2010, 10:42 p.m.    

The decision who is and who is not elected prime minister is not the President's to make.

Yushchenko betrayed Ukraine and his supporters when Our Ukraine following the 2006 Parliamentary election failed to form a governing coalition.

Yushchenko at first tried to oust Yulia Tymoshenko from taking the Prime-ministers position., When that failed they went after Moroz and tried to prevent him from being elected parliamentary speaker.

In the meantime Our Ukraine and Yushchenko continued to negotiate and advocate a coalition with party of Regions.

In the end Yushchenko lost out. Moroz was elected Speaker anyway and the orange revolution collapsed as a result of Yushchenko's betrayal

In 2007 Yushchenko unconstitutionally dismissed Ukraine's Parliament and he went as far as illegally interfering with the operation and independence of Ukraine's constitutional Court in order to prevent the court from ruling against his decree. In the process he caused seven months of political and civil unrest and untold damage to Ukraine's economic and democratic development. He should have been impeached for his actions.

In September 2007 he once again tried to form an alliance with Party of Regions but failed to secure sufficient support. He reluctantly supported Yulia Tymoshenko's appointment as PM and has continued to undermine her success and political stability in Ukraine.

In September 2008 Yushchenko tried to once again dismiss Ukraine's parliament in order to overthrow the Tymoshenko government. This was the end of the end. His won party rebelled and refused to support him. Vlodimir Lytvyn was elected speaker and Yulia has managed to maintained office with Lytvyn's support.

Yushchenko's support in ten process has collapsed form a high of 2% in 2005 to below 4% in 2010.

Where once he was the toast of teh west and was even nominated for a noble prize now not veen the US president, Barack Obama, would meet with him during his visit to New York in September 2009.

Yushcehnko is a failed president who history will not record kindly.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 2, 2010, 10:52 p.m.    

Anyone but Yushchenko would be an improvement., "There are 17 candidates running against Yushenko, four from Yushenkos's own party. 83 percent of Ukraine oppose him and Yushchenko has the highest negativity rating of any other candidate."

The fact that members of Yushchenko's own party is running against him tells you a lot. Even Hrytsenko opposes him.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 2, 2010, 10:54 p.m.    

If you supported the Orange revolution the your best bet is to vote for Tymoshenko, at least then your vote would count.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 3, 2010, 8:33 a.m.    

I will spend the next two weeks putting all my effort into long commentaries about why my neighbor's dog should not become president...

For god's sake, why would you put so much effort into attacks on Yushenko, who has absolutely no chance of winning, and why would you do it on a forum dominated by expats who aren't allowed to vote, anyway?

What on earth will you do with your time when Yushenko is long gone?

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 3, 2010, 8:55 a.m.    

He's a lunatic, they make no sense.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 3, 2010, 2:40 p.m.    

Yushchenko's term of office need sot be put into perspective, History must not be allowed to be white washed into portraying his term of office other then what it was . A complete disaster. Ukraine must learn from his mistakes or else it will be doomed to repeat them. Yushchenko in 2005 enjoyed the support of over 52% of the electorate. Today his support rating is less then 4%. He has the highest negativity rating of 83% and he is seen as the main cause and catalyst for the collapse of the Orange revolution. A President who has betrayed his oath and the people of Ukraine. If Yanukovych wins the election as expected then it is Yushchenko who must bare all responsibility. His actions and policies have been destructive, divisive an undemocratic. He is without any doubt the worst President in Ukraine's short history as an independent nation and has set back Ukraine's economic and democratic development 10 or more years. It is now further away from meeting European standards and European values then ever before. Its as obvious as day follows night that if Ukraine wants to join the EU then it should adopt European systems and European models of governance. Instead of embracing democratic reform Yushchenko has opposed it.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 3, 2010, 2:53 p.m.    

In case you have not noticed this whole election is based on opposition ton Yushchenko. 17 candidates have all stood in opposition to his presidency. The first round is not about Yanukovych versus Tymoshenko. It is about removing Yushchenko from office and finding his replacement. The second and final round of voting will focus on who is best to be Ukraine's next head of state.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 3, 2010, 2:49 p.m.    

Who ever is elected President will not matter much, Either Tymoshenko or Yanukovych would be an improvement on Yushchenko. The fact still remains that the presidential system has and will continue to fail Ukraine. Ukraine must take collective responsibility for its own governance. This id best done by adopting a parliamentary model and having the head of state elected by a constitutional majority of the parliament as is the case in Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Moldova, Switzerland, Greece and the EU.

In 2007 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recommended that Ukraine consider adopting a full parliamentary system.

With the Presidential election out of the way Ukraine must begin to serious consider the issue of constitutional reform

Ukraine must decide does it want to be apart of the EU or remain independent? Does it want to embrace democracy or revert back to an autocracy? If it retains the presidential system then it should kiss goodbye top the notion of being a part of Europe.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 3, 2010, 9:10 p.m.    

I'd like to add a special note of thanks and recognition to Ukrayinska Pravda's forum efforts over the past couple of days. Specifically, they cleaned out the smear campaign and apparently blocked UkrToday.

Just after this thread appeared here on ForUm, someone posted it on UP's forum. "UkrToday" responded by flooding UP's forum. That was exactly what he did when he was first cornered and exposed in this (ForUa) forum and in this site's news section. That flood was cleaned quickly by UP, along with most or all of the previous smear posts. Obviously, UP has made their decision about which way they want to go. Kudos.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 4, 2010, 9:03 a.m.    

UP English news was closed following and attack by Tomas Martinez and Nestor who trashed the formed by posting a serious of insults, threats and intimidation. They did the same thing on ForUA but there Martinez was moderator. The modus operandi is the same. They gang up on their victim who always was someone who opposed Yushchenko and they bate them by taunting their victim with crude insults and the like when their victim responds they call to have them banned. IN ForUA's case Martinez banned them as he was moderator. They would never apply the same standards to themselves of course. You should have seen the abuse Tomas Martinez subjected Anita and Angela too. It was disgraceful.

When Yulia fell out with Yushchenko in they tuned on Tymoshenko supporters and started hounding them. This time Tomas Martinez turned on poor Gene Nelson also a fellow moderator. Martinez in true Lord of the Flies" behavior, having trashed the ForUA forum, left camp and set up his own Internet news site forum where only pro-Yushchenko voices were allowed to participate and where they attack and vilify KP and Taras Kuzio.

They are the same gang of people that are now posting on on Kyiv post seeking to disrupt the debate and deny others the right to participate. Now that Yushchenko is about to lose office they are engaged in a Klu Klux Klan type trash and burn strategy hiding behind false nics or posting under someone else's name making false attributions and allegations threats and acts of intimidation.

{# <-- parent id goes here
Anonymous Jan. 4, 2010, 4:45 p.m.    

The only one trashing this site is you. It's easy to see why you were banned. You exhibit the same behaviour here that has been attributed to you. Continually flooding the site with the same comments and making disparaging remarks. Mr. Craats, why don't you flood your own blog?

{# <-- parent id goes here


© 1995–2014 Public Media

Web links to Kyiv Post material are allowed provided that they contain a URL hyperlink to the material and a maximum 500-character extract of the story. Otherwise, all materials contained on this site are protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of Public Media at
All information of the Interfax-Ukraine news agency placed on this web site is designed for internal use only. Its reproduction or distribution in any form is prohibited without a written permission of Interfax-Ukraine.