Klitschko Intensifies Focus On Ukrainian Presidency
By: Agency Report on August 31, 2013 - 5:04am
WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko is eying the Ukrainian presidency in 2015 with a vow to fight corruption and promote prosperity if elected. The Ukrainian heavyweight boxer and top opposition politician was quoted by the World Boxing Council to have revealed this.
The move which has yet to be confirmed by Klitschko would make him the first declared contender against incumbent Viktor Yanukovich, who is widely expected to seek a second term. There are possibly other opposition leaders eyeing the plum position.
Pollster Gfk Ukraine said in May that Klitschko had the same level of support as Yanukovich, with each politician backed by 16 per cent of voters as a potential presidential candidate. “Vitaly explains that he wants to keep participating in politics and run for the presidency of his country ... in 2015,” the WBC said on its website, quoting him speaking at a meeting with WBC President Jose Sulaiman in Mexico.
Klitschko, 42, launched his political career in 2005 by running unsuccessfully for mayor of the Ukrainian capital Kiev and setting up a pro-Western liberal party known by its abbreviated name UDAR which means “punch” in Ukrainian. But during the 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary election, Klitschko was elected into the Ukrainian parliament; when his party won 40 seats. And now he wants to further test his political strength by having a cut at the presidency.
Opinion polls since early 2011 show that the predicted percentage of votes that Klitschko would gain in the first round of the 2015 Ukrainian presidential election enlarged from 4.8% in December 2011 to
15.1% in February 2013. Last week, Klitschko stated “I responsibly consider the possibility of running for president, but I want to emphasise that I will make a final decision after consultations”; he added that that there should be a single opposition candidate.
The man regarded as one of the greatest boxers in recent history moved into politics after his retirement, claiming that current President Viktor Yanukovych and his government are “deliberately destroying the integration (into Europe) prospects of Ukraine and that Ukrainian politicians have no right to let them “rule after 2015.” Klitschko’s main concern is social standards and the economy of Ukraine. “I understand that people believe that they are impotent and can do very little,” replied Mr Klitschko, whose anti-corruption movement, the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, has just started campaigning for next year’s parliamentary elections.
“But I want to tell them: no fight, no result. Sport has made me realise that you have to be stubborn and to persevere to get the results. It might take longer in politics, but once you have the right goal and desire, you will reach it.”
While his party’s current poll ratings of around five per cent suggest that Klitschko the statesman is not yet the same sell as Klitschko the pay-per-view pugilist, it has steadily gained support for his guest to run for the Ukrainian Presidency. And the 40-year-old WBC heavyweight champion is certainly right about one thing: politics in Ukraine has many fitting comparisons to boxing, albeit of the bareknuckle kind. Bitterly divided between its pro-Western “Orange” corner and its pro-Moscow “Red Corner”, his new sparring partners - a mixture of Soviet-era apparatchiks and corrupt crony capitalists - are arguably far more dangerous than any he ever encountered in the ring. The regular punch-ups in the parliament itself, footage of which has made Ukraine a world-class contender on YouTube websites dedicated to politicians’ brawls, are at least among the cleaner bouts. Far more disturbing, from the electorate’s point of view, has been the infighting behind the scenes.
Firstly there was the feuding between Orange Revolution leaders Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko, whose incompetence as a president saw him lose office last year to Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Moscow hardliner he defeated in 2004. And more recently there has been the prosecution of Ms Tymoshenko, who was jailed last month on what are widely held to be trumped-up charges brought by Mr Yanukovych, who is fast regaining the authoritarian reputation he had when last in power.
Little wonder, then, that an electorate once full of democratic vitality is now deeply cynical, with Mr Klitschko trying to galvanise them like a corner coach to a punch-drunk boxer. “In sports you get disqualified if you violate the rules, but in Ukrainian politics no standards are at work,” he admits. the job. The son of a Soviet-era general, he speaks four different languages and holds a PhD in sports science - hence his nickname, Dr Ironfist.
Passionately pro-European as a result of spending much of his professional life in Germany, where he and his brother run a sports management firm, he made his first mark in politics in the ring in December 2004, when he wore an orange flag on his shorts in support of the protests that ousted Mr Yanukovych after he was accused of election fraud. Since then he has gained a seat on Kiev council - which he describes as “run like a banana republic” – and last year formed UDAR, whose initials form the Russian word for “punch”.
The party has since gained some 400 councillors and 10,000 members nationwide, campaigning on issues such as improving services and ending town hall corruption. Nationally, they are now the country’s fourth largest political bloc, pushing a liberal agenda to improve human rights, privatise Ukraine’s Soviet-era utilities and bring in “European” standards of governance.
It also wants to limit the power of the presidency, and trim the influence of the country’s powerful business cliques, who have long stood accused of having both pro-West and pro-Eastern politicians in their pockets.
He explained how he entered politics partly from seeing how badly Ukraine had fared compared to its fellow ex-communist neighbor Poland, which he visited as a young fighter in 1991. While both faced many of the same problems after communism, Poland had gradually overcome them, joining the European Union and becoming one of the most prosperous and stable of the former Eastern bloc states.
“Most Ukrainians think we are going in the wrong direction, with nothing really changing,” he told The Sunday Telegraph over lunch in an Odessa restaurant. “We have had 20 years already to become a democratic country already - we cannot wait another 20.”
Others, though, are more sceptical, saying that while Mr Klitschko’s personal wealth means he can be trusted not to plunder the state coffers, he lacks a coherent political strategy. The main challenge for Mr Klitschko, however, may be persuading the public to vote not for him, but his ideas. Like many countries emerging from totalitarianism, Ukraine’s immature polity has suffered all too much from parties based around personality cults - something he is keen to end, but which may prove all the harder in a movement led by a man who is already a superstar. So when a party supporter from a village outside Odessa asked him if he would come to pay a visit, Mr Klitschko gave him short shrift. Culled from www.telegraph.co.uK