So it’s pretty clear from the exit polls that Zelensky and Poroshenko are going to be the ones duking it out in the second round.
It’s also very likely that the next Ukrainian President is almost certainly going to be Zelensky.
The former might have had a chance if there was only 5% separating Poroshenko (19%) from Zelensky (31%), but a ten percent gap – one that is getting confirmed by incoming results – is too high a hurdle to clear, no matter the “administrative resources” at his disposal. This is especially important as almost all Boyko supporters (10%) and most Tymoshenko (14%) supporters will go over to Zelensky.
The only regions where Poroshenko won – according to the exit polls – is in the west and in Kiev. Incidentally, these are also the only regions that voted to exit the USSR.
Turnout has fallen massively in the west and center, a stark change from the elections in 2014, when the buoyant Maidanist regions had much higher turnout than the east. Now turnout has largely equalized. It is especially low in Zakarpattia oblast, which would seem to confirm some of what Beckow has been saying about the political apathy of people from that region.
Poroshenko’s platform is, in a nutshell, patriotic: “Army. Language. Faith.” Ironically, for this former functionary in the Party of Regions, he has become the candidate of the more svidomy regions. But it is neither very plausible at a personal level, nor has it been competently realized to any major extent, plus it takes a back seat to issues such as higher utilities bills so far as most people are concerned. So, just as pre-elections polls predicted, Poroshenko bombed.
Zelensky’s program consists of cool, hip liberal rhetoric: Streamlining bureaucracy, voting online, EU and NATO accession. The kind of program that appeals more to people outside Kiev and Galicia. As a comedian with no previous experience with politics, it also makes him part of the general populist wave sweeping the world, in which “outsiders” from Trump to Macron have been sweeping elections in the West in the past few years.
He has also said he wants to wind down the war in the Donbass; a position that has the support of an absolute majority of Ukrainians, according to other opinion polls. This does not mean he is any kind of “Russophile”, as some of Poroshenko’s partisans have ludicrously claimed – he is just more realistic. He contributed a lot of his own money to the ATO.
He is not an oligarch like Poroshenko or Tymoshenko (both of whom have also been implicated in corruption schemes over the years). However, it is openly known that Kolomoysky stands behind Zelensky, the Dnepropetrovsk honcho evidently having decided that he would be better suited for the Presidency than Tymoshenko, with whom he was previously allied. The stories of how Western educated technocrats and reformists have become disillusioned with the course of the Ukraine after 2014, and gradually abandoned or jumped ship, has become almost a trope of the more insightful Western reporting about that country. With Zelensky surrounded by oligarchs; financed and heavily shilled by one of them; and without the initial promise of the Euromaidan attracting human capital, his chances of success – transforming the Ukraine from an oligarchy into a “normal” country – don’t appear to be bright.