Results of the first round of the presidential election held on March 31, 2019

The Central Election Commission has counted almost 94% of official protocols, according to which Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelenskyi entered to the second round. In general, the election was transparent and democratic.

In this issue, we analyse the main results of the first round of presidential election.

Petro Poroshenko gained almost 16% of the vote, which let him barely pass to the second round. He will compete with Volodymyr Zelenskyi who scored more than 30%.

  1. Petro Poroshenko took all possible power, financial, media and administrative resources to pass to the 2nd round. The resulting figure of 16% is the ceiling and the maximum that the President could count on in the current conditions.
  2. Surprisingly, Poroshenko survived the protracted corruption scandals that would once and for all destroy the career and reputation of any politician in developed democracies.
  3. Entrance of Petro Poroshenko into the second round became possible due to the conclusion of a political alliance with Svyatoslav Vakarchuk who refused to become a candidate and criticized Poroshenko’s opponents. Until the time Vakarchuk disappeared from sociological surveys, Poroshenko showed 4-5 place (in the beginning of January).
  4. Monetization of subsidies has made a favourable impact on voters and became a form of indirect voter bribe for budget funds. According to exit polls, mainly pensioners voted for Poroshenko.
  5. Poroshenko’s election headquarters involved a large number of technical candidates who attacked the opponents and provided the majority in election commissions. Yurii Tymoshenko being the double of Yuliia Tymoshenko played an important role in discrediting her and took over 100 thousand votes.
  6. Poroshenko’s headquarters were able to freely mobilize a large number of voters with the help of so-called nets. Interestingly, a large amount of money aimed at bribing voters was simply stolen by the coordinators of the nets and did not reach the main recipients. The leaders of the SSU and the GPU were directly involved in political competition on the side of the current President.
  7. In the current circumstances, anti-rating of politicians will play a key role. Petro Poroshenko has the highest anti-rating, and lost the first round to Volodymyr Zelenskyi by a significant margin. The gap between the candidates is almost 15%. Most oligarchs oppose Poroshenko; civil society and even the army do not give a full credit of trust in Poroshenko. Tymoshenko, Hrytsenko and Boyko have already openly opposed to Poroshenko. Therefore, it is important for the political elites to throw Poroshenko and his corrupt environment out of politics.
  8. Petro Poroshenko faces a very difficult and almost unrealistic task of honestly winning the election. In turn, Volodymyr Zelenskyi successfully accumulated the demand for new faces, the protest mood of the electorate, the crisis in Opposition Bloc and the anti-system attitude towards the old elites. In fact, for a different voter, regardless of the region of Ukraine, Zelenskyi became a mirror. Everyone saw what he/she wanted in Zelenskyi.
  9. With a high probability, Petro Poroshenko will begin to play the subject of Russian aggression, shake the Ukrainian society through linguistic issues, themes of war, religion and other issues of identity. According to information available, Poroshenko’s headquarters will mobilize voters from the West, the North and the Centre of Ukraine, precisely promoting national and identical issues, as well as the war and the threat of Putin.
  10. Separate analysts believe that Poroshenko may disrupt the second round of elections in general and intensify the conflict in Donbas.
  11. Regardless of the winner of the presidential election (Zelenskyi or Poroshenko), the new President will face a crisis of legitimacy. In the autumn, we expect intensification of political dialogue around the need for introducing political reform and amending the Constitution. Restriction of the powers of the new President is a key issue for political elites, and this topic will become the basis for political discourse over the next 6 months.

 

Yuliia Tymoshenko – 13,5%. Yuliia Tymoshenko took the 3rd place and appeared out of the second round  due to Poroshenko’s black technology, organization of election nets by headquarters of the President, as well as systemic problems in her own election campaign.

  1. Due to black electoral technologies (technical candidates, the double Yurii Tymoshenko), the headquarters of Petro Poroshenko shot down at least 2% of supporters of Yuliia Tymoshenko. Tymoshenko lacked this critical gap for the second round. Many voters mistakenly voted for Yurii Tymoshenko, and subsequently corrected their decision in the ballot. A large number of such ballots were found invalid while counting at the level of commissions. Over 100 thousand voters voted for the technical candidate Yurii Tymoshenko, which is a very high indicator.
  2. In addition, Petro Poroshenko used law enforcement bodies (the SSU and the GPU) in some regions, which completely destroyed and paralyzed the election headquarters of Yuliia Tymoshenko. As a result, Tymoshenko’s election headquarters in some regions could not effectively organize an election campaign. At the same time, Petro Poroshenko’s electoral nets worked uninterruptedly, and according to various media reports, around 5% of Poroshenko’s voters were mobilized with the help of nets.
  3. Yuliia Tymoshenko was the main object of informational attacks on the part of Petro Poroshenko, his administrations and armies of myrmidons. Especially in social networks and among information channels controlled by Medvedchuk and Poroshenko. In fact, Tymoshenko’s headquarters lost the information war to Poroshenko.
  4. Tymoshenko was also forced to be distracted from her own election campaign and constantly respond to the allegations of Poroshenko’s headquarters. Tymoshenko’s ratings stopped their growth after Volodymyr Zelenskyi joined the active phase of campaign. In addition, Tymoshenko’s election headquarters was unable to offer something new and creative at the end of the election campaign. The ideas of the “New Deals” and major forums at the beginning of the campaign whipped Tymoshenko’s ratings, though later the leader of the “Batkivshchyna” returned to the usual rhetoric about the reduction of gas prices, the impoverishment of the population, etc.
  5. Tymoshenko carried election campaign by herself. Regional party structures, parliamentary pyramids of all levels were passively included in the electoral process.
  6. Despite the third defeat in the presidential election in a row, the political future of Yuliia Tymoshenko has not yet ended. With high probability, Tymoshenko will take into account miscalculations and shortcomings in the election campaign, and lead her party “Batkivshchyna” to parliamentary elections in the fall. For Tymoshenko, it will be much easier to campaign against the opposition using theses “My victory in the presidential election was stolen”. Regardless of the winner of the election (Poroshenko or Zelenskyi), Tymoshenko will be able to claim leadership in the parliamentary race. It is possible that Tymoshenko will even be able to form a parliamentary majority and head the Cabinet of Ministers.

Yurii Boyko – 11,5%. If the “Opposition Bloc” did not split into two wings, Yurii Boyko could qualify for the second round. Now, the pro-Russian camp is split and its political success depends on whether Medvedchuk and Liovochkin manage to agree with Akhmetov.

  1. Together with the figures of another representative of the Opposition Olexander Vilkul (4%), the joint candidate for the South and East Yurii Boyko could receive at least 15%. In the long run, he could also partly take away votes from Volodymyr Zelenskyi.
  2. The high result of Yurii Boyko became possible due to the active presence on the TV channels of Viktor Medvedchuk and “Inter”. In fact, Boyko took an open pro-Russian niche in the electoral segment that was previously assigned to the Communist Party.
  3. A mobilizing factor for the electorate of Yurii Boyko was his joint visit with Viktor Medvedchuk to Moscow, where he met with the Russian leadership. Thus, Boyko signalled to voters that he was one of the politicians with whom the Russian leadership spoke in person.
  4. As of parliamentary elections, Yurii Boyko and Opposition Platform “For Life” have good chances to overcome the pre-election threshold and be represented in Parliament. Under such conditions, the representative of this project (Viktor Medvedchuk, Vadym Rabinovych or Nestor Shufrych) may qualify for a leading position in Parliament.
  5. Participation in the joint project of Akhmetov and his clients Novynskyi, Vilkul, Muraev, Dobkin, Kolesnikov and others is an open question. The result of Akhmetov’s candidate Oleksandr Vilkul (4%) is weak and insufficient to enter the Parliament. However, Akhmetov has another six months to promote Muraev and Vilkul, as well as to search for new faces who can strengthen and tighten the electoral positions of Akhmetov’s project. Interestingly, Vilkul did not manage to mobilize voters and use Akhmetov’s resources efficiently. In fact, the industrial east voted for Yurii Boyko.

 

Anatolii Hrytsenko – 7%. Hrytsenko’s failure can be explained by media attacks by Poroshenko’s headquarters, limited funding and weak election campaign strategy.

  1. Anatolii Hrytsenko had limited financial resources for the election campaign. After Viktor Baloha (who gave money to the elections) left from the electoral process, Hrytsenko’s network could not expand and conduct active propaganda activities. According to available information, Hrytsenko’s headquarters did not pay remuneration to the members of election commissions and observers in a number of regions. So far, there is still a debt to the network throughout Ukraine (the active core received only an advance payment). According to sources in the headquarters of Hrytsenko in Chernivtsi region, people of the odious Gennadii Korban (a former colleague of Ihor Kolomoiskyi) help covering Hrytsenko’s debts to the network.
  2. Hrytsenko failed to unite all the players of the liberal field and civil society. In particular, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk who secretly works on Poroshenko and promotes theses of Presidential Administration. In the course of the campaign, many toxic characters with a mixed reputation in Ukrainian society (including those from civil society, e.g. Vitalii Shabunin and David Sakvarelidze) gathered around Hrytsenko. Despite the presentation of his team and candidates for key positions, Hrytsenko’s campaign failed to set a positive dynamics. “Boring” messages and a weak campaign in the regions did not allow Hrytsenko to become the leader.
  3. The largest number of votes were “taken” from Hrytsenko by the security officer Ihor Smeshko who proved to be more effective in terms of organizing work and bringing messengers to voters. Hrytsenko also paid little attention to work with social media, and generally missed this aspect from his attention. Instead, Poroshenko’s headquarters used social networks, YouTube, etc. as the main discrediting tools against Hrytsenko.
  4. A large number of voters and supporters of Hrytsenko made a decision to vote for Poroshenko at the last moment, basing this decision on the fact that “Hrytsenko wouldn’t pass to the 2nd round anyway”. According to sociological surveys, the flow of votes between Hrytsenko and Poroshenko was the largest.
  5. Despite the alliance with Sadovyi, “Samopomich” did not help and almost did not coordinate actions with the joint headquarters of Hrytsenko. In fact, Sadovyi self-abandoned the election and did not help Hrytsenko either by staff, or organizationally, or financially. Even the “24” channel owned by Sadovyi was passive in relation to promotion of Hrytsenko’s program ideas. Therefore, Sadovyi gained more reputational benefit from such an association than Hrytsenko.
  6. Presidential elections showed that Hrytsenko is neither a top politician, nor has any great political perspectives. In the near future, Hrytsenko will face difficult negotiations with Sadovyi and “Samopomich” regarding a joint campaign for parliamentary elections. Given the complex and emotional nature of Hrytsenko, there are risks that the “Civic Position” will go to the elections on its own and end up losing again. Otherwise, Hrytsenko will be forced to accept the inconvenient conditions of Sadovyi and a very little quota for his people in the united list on the basis of the “Samopomich” party.

 

Ihor Smeshko – 6%. The unexpected high result of Ihor Smeshko are explained by several factors.

  1. Ex-head of the SSU, Ihor Smeshko, built his election campaign based on security structures pensioners (former employees of the SSU, MIA, GPU, etc.). In the vast majority, former law enforcers headed the regional and local election headquarters of Smeshko. This allowed him creating an effective agitating network and protecting the results of the election. Construction of an electoral campaign based on networks of retired security officials allowed Smeshko show uniform results across Ukraine – 5 to 7%.
  2. Ihor Smeshko became a media politician thanks to the constant presence on 112 and News One news channels. A well-known journalist Dmytro Hordon was Smeshko’s VIP-agitator and promoted the politician in social media and the Internet. According to various sources, financially Ihor Smyshka was supported by Viktor Medvedchuk and the Administration of the President Poroshenko. Medvedchuk and Smeshko know each other from the time of Leonid Kuchma’s presidency, when they worked jointly. In addition, Smeshko’s election headquarters did not steal funds aimed at propaganda activities and network support in the regions. Smeshko’s network received a full amount of money for work in election commissions and agitation projects.
  3. In general, Smeshko was perceived as a new face for voters aged 45+. Smeshko sold himself to voters as a smart specialist, a professional security officer, an economist and a predictable politician. At the beginning of the election campaign, Smeshko generally acted as a technical candidate against Hrytsenko. However, the growth of sociological ratings brought adjustments. Law enforcer Ihor Smeshko showed himself as an alternative to Petro Poroshenko and Anatolii Hrytsenko. In addition, there was no discrediting campaign against Smeshko as this politician remained out of the attention of all the players – Poroshenko, Tymoshenko, Hrytsenko, Lyashko and pro-Russian candidates.
  4. Now, Smeshko may begin building his own political project for parliamentary elections, or join the team of Zelenskyi or Poroshenko. There are great doubts that Smeshko will be able to repeat his result at the parliamentary elections, because in six months the political configuration will change rapidly, and competition for potential supporters will be much stronger.
  5. Currently, Smeshko may well capitalize the election results by announcing support and cooperation with Zelenskyi or Poroshenko. As an option, he may receive the post of the SSU head or the Defence Minister.

Oleh Lyashko – 5,5%.  In fact, Oleh Lyashko failed the election campaign and overcame the 5% electoral threshold with great difficulty.

  1. The presidential election struck the main political populist of Ukraine Oleh Lyashko who had one of the largest electoral budgets. According to available information, shadow funds were spent ineffectively and were stolen by the environment of Lyashko (Andrii Lozovyi and Ihor Mosiichuk). According to verified information, in the Volyn and Rivne regions, as well as in the Poltava regions, Lyashko’s network received 25% less funds than promised “due to poor work and low results of the candidate Lyashko”. According to the media, Akhmetov threatened to stop the financing and demanded Lyashko to withdraw from the elections. As a result of these elections, Lyashko can change the political patron and return under the wing of Serhii Lovochkin who brought Lyashko to top politics in 2011.
  2. The headquarters of Oleh Lyashko had problems with the communication and the messaging of the election campaign. The central election headquarters worked very poorly, as it was loaded with internal intrigues and conflicts. In fact, the campaign was run by Akhmetov’s people, Lyashko’s closest entourage, and external consultants such as Viktoriia Siumar and political technologists Serhii Lovochkin. The lack of a single management centre and poor coordination with regional structures have led to poor results. The network of local council deputies from the Radical Party also appeared weak. Many sources indicated that Lyashko’s headquarters did not fully fund local headquarters, demanding that they conduct campaign at the expense of their own resources and funds of potential candidates for MPs from majoritarian districts.
  3. The headquarters of Oleh Lyashko believe that the level of support of the main radical has fallen due to the activity of the showman Volodymyr Zelenskyi and Yuliia Tymoshenko, who took a part of Lyashko’s electorate in rural areas. Despite this, Oleh Lyashko worked as a spoiler against Tymoshenko and still took away critical voices that could help her reach the 2nd round. The current result, which balances at 5%, opens up a very foggy prospect for Oleh Lyashko and his radical party in the fall parliamentary elections. If Lyashko does not change the strategy and does not revise the concept of political competition, with high probability, he will be out of the big politics in parliamentary elections. Moreover, the question concerning the further cooperation of Lyashko and Akhmetov remains open, as Akhmetov invested a lot of informational and financial resources in Lyashko, including in the East of Ukraine. In the electoral sense, the expansion of Lyashko beyond the boundaries of rural and agrarian territories of the North, the Centre and the West of Ukraine did not take place.