The approaching election campaign forces the Ukrainian oligarchs to determine the candidates they will support in the presidential election. Taking into account the political trends and the sociological polls, the main contenders for the victory in 2019 are Yulia Tymoshenko and Petro Poroshenko. Petro Poroshenko is supported by oligarchs who have special conditions for business estalishment, while Yulia Tymoshenko grouped the “offended” oligarchs and businessmen who have lost their businesses and control over state monopolies.
Other candidates (Oleg Lyashko, Vadym Rabinovych, Anatoliy Hrytsenko, Oleksandr Vilkul, Yuriy Boyko, Andriy Sadovy) showing the ratings around 3-7%, are interesting to the oligarchs as possible investment policy projects in the next parliamentary elections.
Group of support of the current President
Petro Poroshenko is supported by oligarchs using special conditions and preferences in business. The group of support of the current President include Rinat Akhmetov (earns using the formula “Rotterdam +”), Yuriy Kosyuk (receives billions for his business through subsidies), Pavlo Fuks (purchasing the assets of Yanukovych’s oligarchs and providing the majority in the Parliament), Kostiantyn Hrygoryshyn (together with Igor Kononenko entered the nuclear energy market instead of Mykola Martynenko), Oleksandr Tretyakov (lottery monopolist), Vitaliy Khomutynnik, Yaroslav Moskalenko, “Kontinium” business group. Poroshenko is also supported by large agrarian businessmen who receive generous subsidies from the state budget, as well as Kyiv developers.
In addition to the administrative resource and influential personal environment, Petro Poroshenko may enlist the support of the mayors of large cities who can be pressed with the help of security forces and anti-corruption control tools. It is also important for the President to complete the negotiations on merger of the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko (PP) and the People’s Front (PF) into a single party, in which the beneficiaries would be Vitali Klitschko, Volodymyr Groisman, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Petro Poroshenko himself. Poroshenko has high anti-rating and may lose the election without the support of the aforementioned power partners, because even 1-3% of the votes may be decisive.
An important task for the headquarters of the President is the political neutralization and bringing a comfortable opponent, like Oleg Lyashko or Vadym Rabinovych, to the second round of the election. It should be noted that Oleg Lyashko is fully under the control of Rinat Akhmetov, and thus has comfortable financial and media opportunities for conducting political campaigning. The same goes for Vadym Rabinovych, who positions himself as a candidate from the South-East of Ukraine. It is believed that Rabinovych receives support from the Presidential Administration and Pavlo Fuks.
«Offended oligarchs» support Yulia Tymoshenko
The leader of “Batkivshchyna” party is supported by the “offended” businessmen who lost their assets and are in conflict with Poroshenko. The headliner on this list is Igor Kolomoisky, who openly supports Tymoshenko and provides her with access to the main TV channel of Ukraine – “1+1”. Also, Tymoshenko’s allies include Serhiy Lyovochkin, who gives Tymoshenko access to “Inter” TV channel, Serhiy Taruta and the fugitive oligarch Oleksandr Onishchenko.
Another potential strong ally of Yulia Tymoshenko is the acting Minister of the Interior Affairs. Arsen Avakov is in a very complex, and sometimes conflictual, relationship with the President. The Interior Minister, in fact, is excluded from the negotiation process on the formation of a single party of power, where the main beneficiaries are Poroshenko, Yatsenyuk, Klitschko and Groisman. Avakov himself understands that only Tymoshenko can provide him with security guarantees, and perhaps even keep him on the post of Minister of Interior Affairs after the presidential election. In this regard, Arsen Avakov’s frequent statements that the structure of the Ministry of Interior Affairs in the presidential election will remain beyond the limits of political competition, and will prevent a possible falsification and abuses, deserve special attention.
Tymoshenko’s competitive advantages are an extensive party structure, strong representation in local councils, citizens’ memories of high social standards in 2007-2010, when she was a Prime Minister, as well as high anti-rating of the current President.
Another oligarch Victor Pinchuk also allows Tymoshenko to appear on his ICTV channel, and it is possible that he promised her informal support during the campaign. Victor Pinchuk as well provides informal support to the coalition of liberal forces, searches and supports new political leaders, and prompts Svyatoslav Vakarchuk for active political action.
Fight for the status of a single candidate from the South-East of Ukraine
The search for consensus around a candidate who could represent these regions in the presidential election is the key issue for the overwhelming majority of oligarchs. According to available information, there are several candidates – Yuriy Boyko, Olexandr Vilkul, Vadym Rabinovych, Vadym Novynsky and Vitaliy Khomutynnik.
Most of the sociological polls show that Yuriy Boyko is the leader of the Opposition bloc, and as a result, the representative of the oligarchic group of “Firtash-Lyovochkin” is demonstrating good results. However, Olexandr Vilkul being a part of the orbit of Rinat Akhmetov’s influence recently announced his presidential ambitions. It is interesting that, in the time of Viktor Yanukovych, Olexandr Vilkul was considered one of his possible successors for 2020.
Vadym Rabinovych (party “For Life”) is rapidly improving his electoral position in these regions using populist rhetoric and constant presence on the TV to win over the electorate of the Opposition Bloc. It is believed that Vadym Rabinovych is financed by Pavlo Fuks and the President’s Administration allows this politician to attend the leading TV channels. In general, Vadym Rabinovych is used by the Presidential Administration in its confrontation with Sergiy Liovochkin.
Another self-sufficient and influential player on the electoral field of the Opposition Bloc is the “orthodox oligarch” Vadym Novynsky. In addition to large financial assets, Novynsky has a very strong influence on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Vadym Novynsky is in long-lasting corporate conflict with Petro Poroshenko. Therefore, Novynsky may consider presidential campaign as a tool for his own protection from the authorities.
One young oligarch Vitaliy Khomutynnik being the coordinator of the “Revival” parliamentary group also probes public opinion of the inhabitants of the Southeast with the help of outdoor advertising. In addition to political ambitions, Khomutynnik has significant financial resources, but it is hardly possible to count on the serious influence in these regions.