By Taras Klochko, Espreso.TV, April 29
The Kremlin is more likely to insist on the illegitimacy of the presidential elections in Ukraine in the event there is no pro-Russian candidate. Oleh Tsarov’s withdrawal from the race and a similar declaration expected from Mykhaylo Dobkin are the first steps in this direction.
Today the pro-Russian candidate Oleh Tsarov announced his decision to withdraw from the presidential election, citing fears for his life and his inability to visit the capital, where he claims Right Sector fighters are lying in wait. At the same time, Tsarov recommended that other candidates who live in the Southeast do the same.
Mykhaylo Dobkin immediately responded to his colleague’s appeal and announced that the decision on his own possible withdrawal would be made by the political council of the Party of Regions in the near future. Dobkin explained his intentions the same way as Tsarov, referring to a recent incident with a blocked plane in Kherson. According to the front man for the Party of Regions, he is being forced to withdraw from the elections, and the elections are being disrupted in various ways.
In fact, the non-participation of the pro-Russian candidates falls in line perfectly with Kremlin’s pronouncements about the illegitimacy of the elections in Ukraine. According to Putin’s logic, elections without pro-Russian candidates are “elections without elections.” How could he avoid proclaiming once again that the “Kyiv junta doesn’t hear the Southeast”?
However, Russia understands one thing perfectly — that the most Dobkin can accomplish in the elections is to embarrass himself completely, attaining at best the fourth or, more likely, the fifth place, in competition with the Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko. The possibility of Dobkin’s participation in the second round is not even discussed, and in the struggle for the “bronze medal,” Dobkin is clearly inferior to his former party colleague Serhiy Tihipko.
The only regions where Dobkin can expect a more or less acceptable outcome consist of his native Kharkiv Oblast and the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. However, even here he can only hope for a clear victory. In Kharkiv, the standing of his recent opposition has always been quite strong, thanks partly to the current minister of internal affairs and former governor Arseniy Avakov. And the victory of Dobkin’s longtime henchman Hennadiy Kernes in the mayoral elections in Kharkiv could be called more questionable than certain from the point of view of legality. Besides, Kernes will not be able to manage his campaign now because of his injury . In the Luhansk Oblast, the “gas industry,” which is in a good position, has two candidates: Yuriy Boyko and conditionally Serhiy Tihipko. Therefore, Dobkin should not expect an easy ride.
Regarding the Mykolayiv, Kherson, Odesa, Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts, the chances of a decent result for Dobkin appear elusive. In these regions the sympathies of pro-Russian voters, who are much smaller in number that in Donbas and Kharkiv, are clearly for the more moderate Tihipko. It’s no wonder that Tihipko appointed as his chief of staff Odesa native Vasyl Iyeremia.
Therefore, in summary, we predict that Dobkin will gather around 5% of the votes and that he faces the likelihood of losing not only to Tihipko but also to the Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko. By placing fifth in the elections, the main pro-Russian candidate will only discredit the idea of the “Russian world” and “Slavic brotherhood.” This is why it’s more convenient for Russia to tell Dobkin to withdraw completely together with Tsarov, which will give Putin all kinds of grounds for discussing the non-recognition of elections while expanding his space for separatist maneuvers in Donbas to support the residents “denied the right to choose.”
Translated by Anna Mostovych