Posted on Apr 16, 2019
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, standing on a stage filled with young people, pumped his fist, danced to the music and waved to his supporters outside a soccer stadium in Kyiv on Sunday.
Sending a message to challenger Volodymyr Zelenskiy, ahead of Sunday's presidential election run-off, he told the crowd “I am pleased that so many young people are with us today. Volodymyr Oleksandrovych, you hear the voice of Kyiv, the voice of Ukraine, its youth. The youth is with us. The youth is the driving force of our state”.
Poroshenko has given his campaign a new focus after Zelenskiy won nearly twice as many votes as him in the first round of the election on March 31st, reaching out especially to younger voters disillusioned with corruption and the slow pace of change.
The president apologised for past mistakes like installing business cronies to high office, promised to be more transparent in communicating decisions and pledged to bring more young people onto his staff if voters gave him another chance.
At stake is the leadership of a country on the frontline of the West’s standoff with Russia following the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of a Kremlin-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine that has killed 13,000 people.
If elected, Zelenskiy has promised to keep Ukraine on a pro-Western course, pursue reforms and tackle corruption. Investors view him as something of an unknown quantity but his team has tried to assure them he will keep the country’s loan programme with the International Monetary Fund on track.
In an interview with Reuters on Friday (April 12th), Poroshenko said his strategy for the first round was reminding Ukrainians to be proud of their country and not listen to Russian depictions of its neighbour as a failed state.
Doing so allowed him to trumpet achievements like securing visa-free travel for Ukrainians to European Union countries, strengthening the army and helping establish a national Orthodox church independent from the Russian clergy.
But for the second round, he has struck a more contrite tone with voters while still painting Zelenskiy, as a buffoonish populist.
First of all, some people are disappointed. And we should open their heart, we should knock on their doors, we should deliver the information that ‘look, we hear what you mean. We understand what you need... Don’t believe populists, don’t believe in the simple decision to the complicated question. May I remind you, we are the country in a state of war
Zelenskiy, who failed to turn up for what was supposed to be a head to head debate with the Ukrainian President, is regarded by many Ukrainians as being in the pocket of billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoyski, and of taking a suspiciously soft line towards Moscow.
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