I recently had a look at the polling for the Ukrainian Presidential elections in March 2019.
They don’t look good for him, to put it mildly.
While austerity, stymied reforms and continuing corruption, and the lack of a resolution to the War in Donbass have been dragging at Poroshenko’s ratings for several years now, since the start of this year he has not even generally been getting assured of taking second place in the first round and going through to the second round.
For instance, here are the results of the latest KIIS poll:
8% – Yulia Tymoshenko
6,3% – Anatoly Gritsenko
6,1% – Oleg Lyashko
6% – Petro Poroshenko
5,4% – Volodymyr Zelensky
4,8% – Svyatoslav Vakarchuk
4,4% – Vadim Rabinovich
4,3% – Yury Boyko
He also loses all of the realistic second round runoffs:
Poroshenko is losing against Boyko, the head of the Opposition Bloc (reformatted Party of Regions), though this should not be mistaken for a pro-Russian victory because the party, apart from losing most of its support, is no longer even remotely as pro-Russian.
He is even projected to be beaten by Lyashko, probably the biggest lolcow in Ukrainian politics (and that’s saying something).
To be sure, there is still just under a year to those elections, and a lot can change between now and then. The economy will probably continue to recover at a modest pace. And Poroshenko has access to the “administrative resource.” I suspect he’ll still eke out a place in the second round. But there he’ll very likely be beaten by Yulia Tymoshenko (who is polling almost twice as much as him in a direct runoff), or perhaps one of the newer faces in politics, such as Vakarchuk, a young West Ukrainian rock musician who performed before the Maidan crowds and has a degree in theoretical physics – and is projected to get almost three times as many votes as Poroshenko.
(Speaking of young, pro-Maidan rock musicians. There is a small but not entirely negligible chance that the runoff will come down to two of them: Vakarchuk vs. Zelensky – they both have the highest net approval rating of any Ukrainian politician, and they dominate the youth vote).
It’s really hard to tell. Even ten months is an eternity in politics, and once campaigning begins, the current, strange electoral map – in which the eight leading politicians are all within a few points of each other – distillates into clearer leaders and laggards. However, the common theme is that Poroshenko has shockingly low figures, despite having the biggest name recognition of all the candidates along with Tymoshenko.
Incidentally, this is why if the Ukraine is to attempt Operation Storm, now is probably the best time for it.
1. If Russia intervenes = Poroshenko will lose in 2019, but as things stand, he is likely to lose anyway.
Meanwhile, Russia experiences a last minute collapse of the FIFA World Cup, and there is an annulation of the rifts (however real or fictive) that have been growing between the EU and the US.
2. If Russia doesn’t intervene = The LDNR is conquered, which as AP points out will propel Boyko to the second round, against whom Poroshenko has the best chances. Resolving the Donbass issue will also greatly boost Poroshenko’s popularity and almost certainly assure him victory.
Meanwhile, Russia suffers a humiliation that is highly unlikely to even lead to the reversal of Donbass-related sanctions. Russian nationalists move from an on average ambiguous position towards Putin, towards outright hostility; the Communists too will likely become far less happy with him.
That said, on balance I stick by my predictions at the start of the year that there will be no large-scale resumption of the Donbass War, because Poroshenko is a risk-averse politician. However, if it does happen this year, it will happen very soon.