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      Who's Who in Ukraine's Elections: A 'Chocolate King,' Banker, Businessman and a 'Gasoline Princess'

      Who's Who in Ukraine's Elections: A 'Chocolate King,' Banker, Businessman and a 'Gasoline Princess' Who's Who in Ukraine's Elections: A 'Chocolate King,' Banker, Businessman and a 'Gasoline Princess' Who's Who in Ukraine's Elections: A 'Chocolate King,' Banker, Businessman and a 'Gasoline Princess'
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      Who's Who in Ukraine's Elections: A 'Chocolate King,' Banker, Businessman and a 'Gasoline Princess'

      By Harriet Salem

      With just hours to go until voters start casting their ballot papers, Ukrainians have a variety of candidates to choose from for their next president including a tycoon deemed the "Chocolate King," a banker, a businessman and a "gasoline princess."

      Here's a look some of the most colorful candidates and their chances at the presidency.

      Watch all of VICE News' dispatches, Russian Roulette here.

      Petro Poroshenko
      Worth an estimated $1.3 billion according to Forbes, Petro Poroshenko has a reputation as a self-made man. The tycoon has made his money in a variety of industries including shipbuilding, construction and media, but is most famous for his investments in the confectionary business. Poroshenko’s company, Roshen, produces more than 300 kinds of sweets, cakes and biscuits, and the enterprise has earned him the nickname “Chocolate King."

      Opinion polls show the tycoon to be the frontrunner in Ukraine’s presidential race. But despite being steps ahead of his closest rival, according to Ukrainian law the candy billionaire must take at least 50 percent of the vote to avoid going to a second round showdown, a figure which he may well just miss.

      Hailing from humble origins in the southeastern port city of Odessa, Poroshenko who studied economics and international law, proved early on to have a head for politics as well as business.

      The tycoon was one of the founding members of the pro-Russian Party of the Regions in 2001, alongside the now exiled president Viktor Yanukovych, and has previously worked with Viktor Medvedchuk, the head of Russia’s fifth column in Ukraine and a close friend of President Vladimir Putin.

      But the "Chocolate King" couldn’t cut a more different figure from the bearish pro-Russia former president with whom he once cooperated. The former is softly spoken and speaks fluent English while the latter is known for his gruff manner. Poroshenko has also shown much more flair for political judgment, twice backing revolutions which ousted his once ally.

      Poroshenko’s ability to discretely navigate the rough-and-tumble of Ukrainian politics has led critics to label him as slippery. But with the other presidential candidates — all veterans of the country’s corrupt political scene and widely perceived as even more dubious than the Poroshenko, many say they will swallow a bitter pill and go for a lesser-evil vote for the "Chocolate King."

      Sergey Tigipko
      Sergey Tigipko, a 54-year-old Molodovan born businessman turned politician, was expelled from pro-Russian Party of the Regions earlier this year after they elected to back another candidate in the presidential race.

      But the split has, in the end, served him well. Many in the east of Ukraine feel betrayed by the president that run away and his corrupt party. Tigipko, certainly seems unconcerned about the snub, and even proudly includes the dismissal on his online CV.

      Currently opinion polls show him taking well under 10 percent of the vote. However, the widespread unrest in the country’s east — which will force many polling stations not to open — means that despite being the favorite candidate among the region’s Russia speakers, he is likely to do well than predicted.

      Mikhail Dobkin
      Known as the clown of Ukraine’s political scene, Mikhail Dobkin, the official candidate of ousted Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions, is famous for his appearance in flamboyant foul-mouthed YouTube video that went viral among Russian speakers.

      The 44-year-old businessman has strong ties to Russia and spoke out against the Euromaidan protesters and in favor of the separatists.

      “It is pointless to negotiate with them. They need to be disarmed, and those who will resist and kill people have to be physically destroyed" he said of the demonstrators in Kiev Independence Square.

      The controversial politician also once rocked up to a Ukrainian parliamentary session in a “Berkut” t-shirt — the golden eagle special unit is accused of using deadly violence during the Euromaidan protests.

      However in turncoat style typical of Ukrainian politicians, he later decried federalization. The comments won him a pelting with condoms, eggs and garbage when he visited Luhansk, a rebel stronghold in the country’s east.

      His election campaign, is believed to be funded by Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov; a steel and coal oligarch who is also rumored to be trying to keep a foot in both camps. Although he has been vocal in support of Ukrainian unity, critics claim the country’s richest man gestures could do much more than just making hollow gestures.

      Dobkin reportedly fled Ukraine after the Maidan protests toppled Yanukovych’s regime but later resurfaced at a large pro-Russia rally in the country’s east. His controversial statements have earned him a place on Switzerland’s list of more than two-dozen Ukrainians whose assets are frozen.

      EU adds more names to Ukraine sanctions list. Read more here.

      In March he was arrested on charges of leading a separatist movement. Ukraine’s interim government has called for him to stand trial at the International Criminal Court for his role in unrest in the country’s east.

      The latest opinion polls show the former governor of Kharkiv oblast and mayor of Kharkiv city, which he once said should replace Kiev as the capital of Ukraine, will take well under five percent of the vote.

      In a likely further blow his vote count, his core support is, unsurprisingly, in the east of Ukraine where many will be unlikely to vote due to violent clashes between the Ukrainian army, pro-Russia rebels and other paramilitary groups.

      Yulia Tymoshenko
      A leader in the Orange Revolution, Yulia Tymoshenko, the so-called "Gas Princess" was imprisoned for more than two years by political rival, then-president Viktor Yanukovych for seven years after being convicted of corrupt dealings in the energy sector.

      Most agree that the lengthy jail term was politically motivated, but also that the doll-like former prime minister was no angel either.

      Her release followed Yanukovych’s flight from the country in February this year. With hair wrapped in her trademark braids atop her head -- a traditional symbol of Ukrainian femininity — Tymoshenko made an emotional public appearance on Maidan almost immediately after she was freed.

      But the crocodile tears have failed to impress this time round and the blonde politician, widely rumored to use sexually manipulative tactics in the workplace, has sunk down popularity rating tables. According to recent polls the former prime minister is expected to take just under 10 percent of the vote.

      A recently leaked phone call in which Tymoshenko proclaims, “screw it, we should take up arms and kill the goddamned katsaps [a derogatory term for Russians] and their leader,” has further fuelled anger towards her in Ukraine's predominantly Russian speaking east — where she was always unpopular. Several rebel checkpoints in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts feature defaced blow-up sex dolls made up to look like the "Gas Princess."

      Other Candidates

      Seventeen more candidates will also make a run in the presidential election Sunday.

      But they are unlikely to garner substantial support in their bid for the country's top spot. Some of the candidates include Svoboda Party's Oleh Tiahnybok, Right Sector's Dmitry Yarosh and Olga Bogomolets — who all played a prominent role in the Euromaidan protests.

      Three other candidates dropped out of the race but are still on the ballot papers because they withdrew too late to be removed.

      Another potential president was stopped from registering under a Darth Vadar alias. The former Jedi Knight has, however, been allowed to run for the position of mayor of Odessa.

      Topics: ukraine, russia, elections, crimea, ukraine elections, war & conflict, chocolate king, gas princess, petro poroshenko, sergey tigipko, mikhail dobkin, yulia tymoshenko


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