— Maxim Eristavi (@MaximEristavi) May 25, 2014
On Sunday Petro Poroshenko, a pro-EU billionaire known as the “Chocolate King” from his candy business, was elected president by voters in the western part of Ukraine. Poroshenko is one of Ukraine’s powerful oligarchs and appears to have enough of a majority over former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to avoid a run off.
The people of East Ukraine did not participate in the election raising serious questions about Poroshenko’s legitimacy and mandate to govern all of Ukraine. Not to mention Poroshenko is a president cut from the same cloth as ousted President Yanukoych – a creature of Ukraine’s corrupt politics. Poroshenko has claimed he will support the pro-EU agreements whose rejection became a trigger for a US and EU backed coup, though he also has his own business interests in Russia.
Mr. Poroshenko, 48, faces skepticism even among many of his supporters, who are wary both of his status as a billionaire businessman and because he is a veteran in Ukraine’s notoriously corrupt politics. He has been a longtime member of Parliament, where he briefly served as speaker, and was minister of trade and economic development under Mr. Yanukovych and foreign minister under former President Viktor Yushchenko…
Mr. Poroshenko has deep business interests in Russia and has previously served in pro-Russian governments, creating some optimism in Moscow that negotiations are possible.
A key issue for Poroshenko now is whether or not to call early parliamentary elections as many in Ukraine want to be rid of the gang in Kiev that was brought to power through violence and has minimal support even in West Ukraine. Agreeing to call those elections might cause further unrest.
And of course there is the question of what Poroshenko plans to do about Russia who is now demanding billions for unpaid natural gas bills and threatening to wreck Ukraine’s anemic economy if they do not get paid. Poroshenko’s pro-EU positions may become a stumbling block in energy negotiations with Russia.
The parts of East Ukraine that declared independence did not vote in Sunday’s election and no longer see themselves as part of Ukraine. For them the election was a foreign affair.