Ukraine will hold elections for a new president on May 25. This new president will serve a five year term and, hopefully, be a major step in the right direction for a country in need.
The current acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, took over after Viktor Yanukovych was ousted by Maidan protesters on February 22nd. Since then, Ukraine has dealt with internal turmoil, pressure from Russia, the secession (or theft) of Crimea, and even the loss of their dolphin commandos. This new leader will have a difficult task at hand, bringing Ukraine closer to the European Union and cutting off the historically unhealthy relationship with Russia.
Let's meet the candidates and review their predicted portion of the vote:
Petro Poroshenko (Independent)
The Willy Wonka of Ukraine, Poroshenko is leading in the polls with just over 40 percent of the vote. If elected, he plans to sell off his shares in his candy company, Roshen, to focus on politics. In the past, Poroshenko both backed the Orange Revolution and supported former president Viktor Yushchenko.
While he has strong economic ties with Russia through his candy business, he is a strong Ukrainian leader who hopes to push Ukraine closer to the Western world.
Overall, Ukrainians like him. He is a respected business man, one of the few in Ukraine who has not shown any corruption during a long career. Also, his candy is delicious.
Yulia Tymoshenko (Fatherland)
Known for her signature braids and prison stint, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is trying her hand at the presidency once more. She was the runner up in the 2010 election that Yanukovych won. When she isn't trying to become president, Tymoshenko is a natural gas tycoon. She was thrown into prison for abuse of power in 2011, but this February, the Parliament freed her at the height of the Maidan uprising.
Tymoshenko does have ties to Russia, and if elected, will push for free trade with Russia and a renegotiation of the gas trade. Her campaign has supposed "European values"; her main goal is making sure Ukraine joins the European Union.
While Tymoshenko does have honorable goals, many Ukrainians view her as a relic of the past, and too close to Russian officials for comfort. Because of this, she trails Poroshenko. She is tied for second place in poll predictions with just under nine percent of the vote.
Serhiy Tihipko (Strong Ukraine)
Also in second place, Tihipko nominated himself for his presidential candidacy. He has served as the vice prime minister since 2012. Unlike his two strongest competitors, Tihipko has a Russian allegiance. In the past, he has advocated for making Russian Ukraine's second official language. Language is a major point of contention for Ukrainians. In Western Ukraine, all higher education is in Ukrainian, and Russian speakers are frowned down upon. In Eastern Ukraine, it is the opposite. Poroshenko and Tymoshenko both give campaign speeches in Ukrainian.
Tihipko also hopes to join the EU if elected, and believes efforts to become a European nation are more beneficial than continued relationships with Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia.
He also supports the legalization of prostitution. And he's a billionaire.
Mykhailo Dobkin (Party of Regions)
Dobkin is a major supporter of Yanukovych, even recently accompanying him to Russia. He has attended pro-Russian rallies and speaks in Russia. (He also has a "boring face.") If elected, he plans to move Ukraine's capital from Kiev (in the center of the country) to Kharkiv.
He has just under four percent in predicted votes. Considering Ukraine just worked extremely hard to oust Yanukovych, Dobkin, quite frankly, does not stand a chance.
Oleh Tyahnybok (Svoboda)
Tyahnybok is a physician turned presidential candidate. He is pro-NATO, anti-Russia, and really wants to get Crimea back. (Probably for the dolphins. We get it, Oleh.)
If elected, he wants to add an ethnicity category to Ukrainian passports and introduce a mandatory civil service test in Ukrainian. (Presumably, to prove fluency in Ukrainian.) He would also make Kiev a nuclear power hub.
The idea of a nuclear power plant in the middle of Kiev didn't go over well, and it is predicted he will get less than 2.5 percent of the vote.
Oleh Lyashko (Radical Party)
Lyashko is a member of parliament. He is an eccentric candidate who, if elected, will introduce a visa program with Russia and push for an EU ban on entry by Crimean residents with Russian passports. He would also work to ban Communism and believes those with pro-Russian allegiances should be put to death. He has 6.4 percent of predicted votes.
Olha Bogomolets (Socialist Party)
Bogomolets is also a physician (and a musician too). She was born in Kiev, but studied in the States. She is a well respected doctor, and encouraged her students to take part in EuroMaidan protests. She has about four percent of the predicted vote.
Anatoly Hrytsenko (Civil Position)
Hrytsenko is the former defense minister. He broke from the Fatherland party in order to get better traction with his ideas, then merged with the European Party of Ukraine. He has about five percent of the predicted vote.