Electoral support for Ukrainian comic Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s presidential candidacy is growing, according to the latest poll results published by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) on February 14.
Among decided voters, Zelenskiy has 26.9% support, compared to 17.7% for President Poroshenko and 15.8% for ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko, according to the poll conducted between January 31 and February 10 of 2,007 respondents.
Zelenskiy would earn 39.6% of votes in the second-round runoff, compared to 18.1% for Poroshenko (a 21.5% gap), according to the poll. Tymoshenko would earn 27.0%, compared to 18.9% for Poroshenko (an 8.1% gap).
The Central Election Commission (CEC) of Ukraine has registered a total of 44 candidates to run for the presidential election scheduled for March 31, which was the last day for adopting the decision to register. Zelenskiy, a close associate of controversial Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, was officially registered as a presidential candidate by the CEC on January 30. The comedian was nominated by his newly-created party the Servant of the People.
The registered candidates must submit an application to the CEC to refuse to run for president until March 7 inclusive, according to Ukraine's legislation.
In January, Zelenskiy disclosed the main points of his election programme, according to which the candidate is going to hold a referendum on the country's joining Nato. "Ukraine's progression to Nato and other security alliances is a guarantee of our safety, in which I believe and which should receive confirmation by means of a referendum," the document reads.
The army should be "a prestigious service, where the skills and knowledge obtained would be successfully used in the real sector of the economy as well," and the budget for the army should stop being a "feedbox" for "cabinet generals", but provide adequate service conditions and development for serviceman instead. "My objective is to ensure that servicemen's salary is at the level of the Nato standards," Interfax news agency quoted Zelenskiy as saying in his programme.
"Law enforcement agencies should cease economic pressure on the business community and return to fulfilling their proper duties of ensuring security of citizens. It's time we restore trust in law enforcement authorities which we cherished in the beginning of the reform. The SBU [Ukrainian Security Service] will not deal with economic crimes," the candidate added.
Zelenskiy is also going to introduce a one-time "zero tax declaration" for businesspeople who declare and legalise their incomes.
Meanwhile, Zenon Zawada at Kyiv-based brokerage Concorde Capital wrote in a note on February 15 that Zelenskiy’s second-round support against Poroshenko is even better than Tymoshenko’s. "With such a large gap in polls, there’s no political technology that Poroshenko can use to claim that he was legitimately re-elected," he added.
Zawada believes that no vote manipulations can cover that gap, nor the claim that Poroshenko supporters are ashamed to admit so for pollsters.
"Not only does Zelenskiy have more support, but his base electorate - young people of all walks of life - have a better potential to mobilize mass protests if they conclude the results have been falsified," he wrote in the note. "Given that Poroshenko will go to extremes to surrender the presidency to Zelenskiy - who has loyalty to Poroshenko’s intense business rival Kolomoisky - we believe the president must be considering his options in avoiding the runoff."