Zelensky may become president, but his role will be downgraded to ceremonial — analyst

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KIEV, April 2. /TASS/. If he gains the upper hand in the runoff, Ukraine’s presidential candidate from the Servant of the People party, Vladimir Zelensky, the indisputable front-runner in the first round of the presidential election, may suddenly find himself in the position of a monarch who reigns but does not rule. In Ukraine’s recent history there was such a precedent, when presidential powers were restricted during Viktor Yushchenko’s term of office, the president of the Ukrainian Analytical Center, Alexander Okhrimenko, told TASS on Tuesday.

“Zelensky’s chances look very good: the possibility of his victory is 70%, while his rival – the incumbent president, Pyotr Poroshenko, has no winning positions anywhere, except some regions (Ternopol and Lvov – TASS),” Okhrimenko said.

At the same time he believes that against the backdrop of Zelensky’s favorable prospects backstage talks are being held in Ukraine over the powers he may be granted. “Many consultations are underway in the entourage of Poroshenko, [Batkivshchina’s leader Yulia] Timoshenko, and [Opposition Platform – For Life Yuri] Boiko. At such meetings Ukrainian big business tycoons do agree that Zelensky may become president, but with drastically limited powers, in accordance with the Constitution,” Okhrimenko said. He recalled that Poroshenko had considerably abused his presidential powers. The Constitution says nothing about the National Security and Defense Council (which takes such major decisions as the introduction of sanctions – TASS), the president’s right to appoint chiefs of territorial administrations or interfere in the operation of the National Bank and the Prosecutor-General’s Office, etc., while the head of government in reality is answerable not to the president but to parliament. What the president can do is to propose a candidate for the prime minister’s seat.”

Okhrimenko believes that in accordance with such a scenario the Servant of the People party’s candidate may well become Yushchenko’s twin. “Zelensky will become a VIP figurehead. In other words, he will tour the world and distribute awards and medals, while all decisions – economic and political – will be made by the prime minister and the Verkhovna Rada. This is precisely what is happening now. Zelensky is being converted into another Yushchenko – version 2.0. This type of situation existed when Viktor Yanukovich held the prime minister’s seat during Yushchenko’s presidency. He had far greater powers and opportunities than Yushchenko,” Okhrimenko said, adding that such an outcome looked very plausible to him.

“Then it may turn out that Prime Minister Vladimir Groisman’s powers at the moment will be far greater than those of President Zelensky,” he speculated.

At the same time Okhrimenko suspects that Zelensky may fail in runoff.

“Poroshenko may win if Zelensky loses in terms of the available administrative resource or the ability stage intrigues. Poroshenko is an experienced politician who may frame him up and become president again, because Zelensky is utterly inexperienced in political gambling,” he said. At the same time the incumbent’s anti-rating is very high, which is Poroshenko’s weakness and Zelensky’s strength.

Ukraine on March 31 held the first round of the presidential election. After counting 98% of the votes the Central Election Commission said two candidates entered the runoff – Vladimir Zelensky, with 30.24% of the votes and Pyotr Poroshenko, with 15.93%. The second round is due on April 21.

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