Poroshenko: “Too Early” To Talk About 2nd Term Candidacy

May 15, 2017

President Poroshenko gave his first open press conference in nearly a year on Sunday (May 14) at the presidential administration in Kyiv. The president addressed a wide array of topics, the most resonant of which was the still-unsolved killing via a car bomb of popular journalist Pavel Sheremet in central Kyiv last July. Poroshenko expressed his frustration with the lack of results in the case but defended his handling of the situation, stating that any attempt by his administration to establish a special investigative body outside the National Police to fast-track the investigation would be illegal and unconstitutional. The Sheremet killing received fresh impetus this week when investigative journalists discovered that a Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) officer spent several hours within sight of Sheremet’s vehicle on the night when two unknown individuals were recorded on camera planting the bomb. In terms of his relations with the new US administration, Poroshenko struck an upbeat tone, saying he has spoken several times with President Trump by phone and has had “very detailed” discussions with top diplomat Rexx Tillerson. He said that Washington is “involved and will continue to be involved” in the “Normandy format” peace negotiations over separatist-occupied Eastern Ukraine. Poroshenko also commented on the possibility that he will seek a second 5-year presidential term (the election is due in June 2019), stating that “at this time it is too early to talk about the composition of candidates for president… a lot has been achieved, but am I satisfied? No. There have been some personnel miscalculations, some lagging in the position of reforms.”

Although Ukraine does not have the luxury of being able to look two years ahead given its plethora of immediate problems at hand, we will set this reality aside for a moment. Overall, it has been a good 12 months for Poroshenko in political terms, and he sounds like a man who is planning to run again. In May 2016, we would have set the odds of Poroshenko being re-elected at rather poor, given the seemingly chaotic situation surrounding corruption among his associates, the fragility of the ruling coalition in Parliament, and the breakdown in cooperation with the IMF. However, the President has managed to bring the IMF program back on track, to return the country to positive economic growth, to isolate the conflict in the Donbass more or less at a stalemate, and maintain firm relations with the changing EU and US administrations, all the while allowing the nationalist-populist opposition led by Yulia Tymoshenko and a various cast of flame-throwers to discredit itself with their increasingly anti-Western rhetoric. In Western presidential republics, the active behind-the-scenes maneuvering for presidential elections begins at least two years before the actual event, and these factors indicate to us that at least for now, Poroshenko has to be viewed as heading into the race holding the upper hand against any potential opponent from the nationalist-populist wing of Ukrainian politics.

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