President Viktor Yanukovych might be getting nervous.
Voter support for his rival, imprisoned opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, has for the first time surpassed his plunging approval ratings.
Moreover, discontent is rising. More than two-thirds of Ukrainians polled said the nation’s situation worsened in 2011, while more than half (52 percent) said they are ready for protest. Nearly 60 percent said they do not support the administration.
These were the watershed survey results from 2,008 Ukrainians polled by Kyiv’s respected Razumkov think tank, which released the findings on Dec. 27.
All of this could spell more difficulties for the administration as it faces increasing pressure over what critics are calling a return to authoritarianism after nearly two years of governing.
Tymoshenko, who narrowly lost the 2010 presidential election to Yanukovych, was sentenced to seven years in prison on Oct. 11 after court proceedings widely derided as a “show trial.” Many in and outside Ukraine see the trial as a politically motivated attempt by Yanukovych tosideline his rival.
Yanukovych denies such accusations but he is facing increasing pressure from the European Union and U.S. to release Tymoshenko ahead of next autumn’s parliamentary election and end a broader rollback on democracy. But if he accedes to surging domestic and international pressure, Yanukovych risks losing the upcoming parliamentary election and, in turn, his grip on political power in Ukraine.
Asked who they would vote for if presidential elections were held this month, 16.3 percent of those polled by Razumkov on Dec. 9-16 answered Tymoshenko, three percentage points higher than Yanukovych. Former Verkhovna Rada speaker Arseniy Yatseniuk trailed in third place with 10.7 percent support.
The same poll showed that Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna party would get 15.8 percent voter support and 21.4 percent of those likely to actually vote. That is two percentage points higher than in October.
Support for Yanukovych’s Party of Regions fell since October from 16.6 percent to 13.9 percent, or 18.5 percent of those likely to vote. Trailing in third place again is Yatseniuk’s Front for Change party, which saw its voter support inch up since October from 8.1 percent to 9.6 percent in December. But, he is likely to get 12.7 percent of voters likely to cast a ballot.
Only two other parties, according to the Razumkov poll, mustered more than the 5 percent threshold needed for to get members into parliament through the party list mandate. They include the Communists (5.3 percent) and the UDAR party of boxer-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko (5.3 percent).
The right-wing Svoboda party and Deputy Prime Minsiter Sergiy Tigipko’s Strong Ukraine party would get about 3.6 percent of all votes, according to the poll. All other parties polled below 2 percent, but their candidates have a chance to get into parliament through the single-mandate district contests, which will account for half of the 450-seat legislature.
Some 13 percent of those polled struggled to answer which party they would vote for. About 12 percent said they would vote against all parties. Another 12 percent, according to the poll, would not cast a ballot at all.