"Chocolate king": Ukraine's new president
Published on May 26, 2014 11:29 AM
KIEV - Chocolate baron Petro Poroshenko claimed a resounding victory on Sunday in Ukraine’s presidential election. The pro-Western self-made billionaire won close to 56 percent of a vote held while the ex-Soviet country is threatened by disintegration and financial collapse.
Just who is Petro Poroshenko? Here are five things about him.
The 48-year-old is known as the “Chocolate King” for his ownership of Ukraine’s largest confectionery manufacturer, Roshen. His vast empire also includes vehicle manufacturing and shipbuilding. He also owns 5 Kanal TV, the most popular news channel in Ukraine. Forbes estimated his wealth at US$1.6 billion (S$2 billion) in 2013.
He has vowed to sell the candy business if he was elected president, but said he won’t give up his television channel.
A 10-year political veteran, Mr Poroshenko comes from the mainly Russian-speaking Odessa region in southern Ukraine, although his political stronghold is believed to be in the central Vinnytsya region, where he started his business and political career.
He has been elected to parliament several times and has worked with both the pro-European and pro-Russian political camps in Ukraine.
He was foreign minister in Ms Yulia Tymoshenko’s government from 2009 to 2010, and briefly an economic development and trade minister in 2012.
He was also one of the main figures of the Orange Revolution that brought Mr Viktor Yushchenko and Ms Tymoshenko to power in 2004.
He is fluent in his native tongue, Russian, and English.
The main slogan of Mr Poroshenko’s election campaign was: "A new way of living".
He portrays himself as a pragmatic politician who sees Ukraine’s future in Europe, but hopes to mend relations with Russia, using the diplomatic skills he developed as foreign minister.
He has pledged to implement local governance reform, grant more powers to the country’s regions, facilitate economic reforms, and improve the investment climate.
Mr Poroshenko will inherit a country on the brink of economic collapse, with a separatist rebellion raging in its main industrial region, and a Russian neighbour that has annexed one part of the country.
His main goal is to unite Ukraine.
“There are no western Ukrainians or eastern Ukrainians,” he insisted. “There are no Russian-speaking Ukrainians or Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians – there is only one Ukraine, whole and indivisible.”
On Sunday, Mr Poroshenko immediately moved to paint himself as a conciliator, declaring that his first official act after inauguration would be to visit the heart of the separatist rebellion in the Donets Basin.
“The first steps of our entire team at the beginning of the presidency will concentrate on ending the war, ending the chaos, ending the disorder and bringing peace to Ukrainian soil, to a united, single Ukraine,” he said at a victory rally.
Mr Poroshenko has been a consistent supporter of Ukraine’s integration with the European Union, and he gained public sympathy when Russia embargoed his Roshen chocolates in a trade war targeted against him.
When he was foreign minister, Mr Poroshenko advocated Ukraine’s Nato membership, although he did not make that position part of his presidential campaign.
“No.” - When asked by a Ukrainian journalist at a post-election press conference whether he could guarantee the freedom of the press.
“I don't know. You should ask an oligarch about that.” - When asked recently if it was an advantage to be an oligarch when running for president.
“Because this channel two times saved the country, and, reason number two, because the channel is not for sale." - His two reasons for holding onto his TV channel.
"When I win." - He interrupted and corrected a question about what he would do if he wins the election.
SOURCES: AFP, BBC, CNN, THE TELEGRAPH, WASHINGTON POST