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Meet Ukraine's Willy Wonka: The Man Who Could Be President

Businessman and politician Petro Poroshenko may be Ukraine's "chocolate king," but can he be the country's president?
Posted at 3:18 PM, May 21, 2014

After months of political upheaval, Ukraine is gearing up to vote for its new president this weekend. The clear front-runner? (Via Flickr / snamess)

A billionaire tycoon known as "the chocolate king." (Via World Economic Forum

Petro Poroshenko made a name for himself in the confectionery business — owning what's now Ukraine's largest candy company. His net worth is estimated at $1.3 billion. (Via Ukraine News One

But he's no oligarch — at least not in the conventional sense of the word. New Republic's Linda Kinstler writes: "Poroshenko's wealth is mostly self-made, an important if slight distinction in a country where oligarchic corruption is endemic."

Russia has since seized the accounts of his chocolate business, which Poroshenko says is proof he's on the right track politically. (Via European Parliament)

And he's no stranger to politics. He fashions himself as a veteran politician seeking to repair ties with Russia but also work toward European integration. 

Poroshenko emerged as a key leader in the protests that toppled Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's former pro-Russian president run out of office in February. (Via Euronews)

"I think this is one of the most prominent events I've ever seen in my life." (Via CNN

Poroshenko says he will never accept Russia's annexation of Crimea — a sentiment shared by many in Ukraine's European-leaning west. 

Also likely to go over well with western voters — this widely circulated video from March showing him being chased by a mob of pro-Russian militiamen in Crimea. (Via RT)

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty described the scene as "perhaps the high point of Poroshenko's performance in the latest political crisis."

Question now is, how will the western-backed candidate fare with voters in Ukraine's Russian-speaking east?

Christian Science Monitor reports Poroshenko has a reputation for paying high wages to his workers. "That could bode well for eastern voters, who are nostalgic for the days when heavy industry workers were rewarded as heroes of the Soviet Union."

Poroshenko is running against former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The two have a history. (Via ITN

He actually helped bring her to power during Ukraine's Orange Revolution in 2004 and went on to serve as her foreign minister. (Via Office of the Russian Prime Minister

The latest polling shows Poroshenko ahead with 38 percent of the vote and Tymoshenko trailing with 6 percent. But it's not a done deal yet — some 25 percent of voters remain undecided.