Parliament, Prison, Emigration, and Revolt: The Main Scenarios of Petro Poroshenko’s Departure

Today it is possible to speak almost with confidence about the quick departure of Petro Poroshenko from the president’s post. He hasn’t yet taken any steps to reduce the approval rating gap between him and Vladimir Zelensky.

There are less than two weeks until the second round of the election. It’s unlikely that Poroshenko will be able to seriously reverse the situation in his own favour before then. Even if he will suddenly dismiss odious proteges like Semochko and Demchina, and will also send Svinarchuk-Gladkovsky to prison. And as an appetiser – to sell Roshen.

Therefore at the moment the question isn’t any more whether or not Petro Poroshenko will step down as president, but how exactly he will do it.

Especially since there were different precedents in Ukraine. Some presidents, despite their obvious sins, remained inviolable. But the predecessor of Poroshenko – Viktor Yanukovych – fled the country.

What are the three main scenarios that can unfold after the current guarantor losses in the second round?

Scenario 1. Peacefully go into opposition or to prison

The most conservative option is Petro Poroshenko loses the president’s post, however he leaves peacefully and will stay in the country, hoping to bring in 6 months his own faction into parliament. And after this he turns into opposition, having received parliamentary immunity.

Certain prerequisites for such a scenario exist.

As the first round of the election showed, the level of support for Poroshenko is currently higher than the 5% barrier needed to enter the Rada (even despite all the manipulations with vote counting, ballot stuffing, and bribery). And after the first months of the presidency of Zelensky, voters may experience the first disappointment with his policies.

And on this wave Poroshenko can expect to receive not such a bad result.

However, it is possible that things will happened differently.

Firstly, if Zelensky launches a number of breakthrough initiatives and will be consistent in defending them, then his popularity will hold on until the autumn.

Secondly, the current approval rating of Poroshenko is the approval rating of the current president. If it becomes opposition, then it’s unlikely that his approval rating will remain at the current level. Voters who support any government will abandon him. Plus, he will be left without his “additions” in the form of administrative resource and bribery. And in this case the remaining percentage may not be enough for this purpose to overcome the barrier.

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Thirdly, and most importantly, Poroshenko can end up in prison even before the parliamentary election. Especially since there are the grounds to do this. And it is profitable for many people. Beginning from Zelensky, who will maintain his approval rating with the help of a show involving jailing his predecessor, and finishing with numerous people who were aggrieved during his reign.

Will Poroshenko in such a situation obtain some guarantees of immunity for himself and for his business from western partners? It’s difficult to say.

I.e., the risk for him is high. Of course, Poroshenko go for it, hoping that there won’t be enough time to announce a sentence before the parliamentary election, and then he will enter the Rada, will receive deputy immunity, and will be released with fanfares as a“prisoner of conscience”.

But, as was written above, it’s not a fact that his party will be able to break the 5% barrier (especially since Poroshenko’s imprisonment will be accompanied by the mass circulation of compromising evidence), and that by this time his business won’t have been taken away by his numerous ill-wishers and his partners, who will have switched to the side of the new government.

Scenario 2. Emigration

On the one hand, Poroshenko has places where he can flee to. At least in sunny Spain, where the guarantor has a quite good villa, which was photographed by the “Strana” news agency.

And from there, being in relative safety, it is possible to prepare for a new life. Bargaining with the new authorities.

On the other hand, extradition arrest, should there be an official request from Ukraine, can spoil Poroshenko’s deserved rest. And it’s unlikely that the government of any more or less civilised country will have arguments to defend the owner of “Roshen”.

Of course, there are also more exotic options, like Northern Cyprus, the Kingdom of Bhutan, or the Solomon Islands, which have no extradition with Ukraine. Or Moldova, where the friend of Poroshenko – the oligarch Plahotniuc – actually governs. But this is an extreme option for the Ukrainian president.

The second problem with fleeing is preserving his business in Ukraine. Yes, during the years of his presidency, Poroshenko hastily moved assets into offshores – the scandal with the “Panama papers” testifies to this. But if the former president drops out of the political fight in Ukraine, then it will be extremely difficult to defend the chocolate and other business that is physically in the country.

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Eventually, Poroshenko himself introduced a mechanism of sanctions, when the work of enterprises was blocked extrajudicially by the simple decision of the National Security and Defence Council. But the Security Council will already be controlled by a new president.

And the third complexity – emigration (especially to “banana” countries) nullifies all the prospects of Poroshenko as a Ukrainian politician.

That’s why, theoretically, one shouldn’t dismiss also the third, the most extreme, option.

Scenario 3. Revolt in Western Ukraine

The option that provides the presence in Poroshenko of the determination and ability to run very big risks. This is an attempt to hold on to power judicially and by force, having declared the results of the election as illegitimate.

Afterwards the situation can develop in several ways.

Firstly, the legal way. It is possible to try to call into question the results through the court.

However, this looks unrealistic: after the first round the vertical of Poroshenko started to crumble, and also the curator of courts from the Presidential Administration Filatov is on the verge of resignation.

It is unlikely after defeat he will be able to force the courts to obey himself like before.

I.e., the judicial story will allow Poroshenko to win the most time – but not to cancel Zelensky’s victory in any way.

But the guarantor can also opt for a more radical scenario.

For example, to declare that “Putin is ready to capture Ukraine” and try to lean on those regions that gave the current president the greatest number of votes on March 31st. This is Lvov, Ternopol, and Ivano-Frankovsk. I.e., in fact to raise a revolt in Western Ukraine, which will refuse to recognise Zelensky’s legitimacy. And further – the situation will either become suspended and will head towards negotiations, or it will transition to a rigid standoff up to the actual separation of Galicia and the creation of a kind of WUPR-2 (West Ukrainian People’s Republic, created after the disintegration of Austria-Hungary in 1918-1919).

The recent billboards of Poroshenko “I or Putin” give the idea of such an option. On the one hand, many estimate them as the wrong pre-election move of Poroshenko. On the other hand, if to assume that Poroshenko plans to split the country, then they quite fit into it.

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It is possible that such propaganda is capable of mobilising a certain number of the population in support of Poroshenko. Especially in Western Ukraine, which creates the soil for the open non-obedience of this region towards Zelensky. Also, some military units can theoretically support such a revolt, having refused to swear an oath to Zelensky.

But the factor that Poroshenko is unpopular both in Western Ukraine and among the troops plays against this scenario. In the army units votes were divided between him and Zelensky almost equally. Yes, nationalistically oriented Ukrainians when choosing “Zelensky or Poroshenko” will vote most likely for the latter. But only as the lesser evil, and not as their chief and spiritual leader.

And it’s unlikely that most of them will opt for a revolt and open disobedience towards the central power for the sake of Poroshenko.

And Zelensky, despite all the efforts of Poroshenko, can’t at all be considered as a pro-Russian politician, and even most of the population in Western Ukraine doesn’t think of him as an “agent of the Kremlin”. He declares a campaign on NATO, surrounded himself with “Soros’s fledglings”, and promised “not to fob [the IMF] off”.

At lastly, the scenario of a revolt in Western Ukraine is possible only if this project is supported by the West. Or at least the US and Poland.

But so far nothing indicates that Washington is ready to play such a game and destabilise Ukraine, which, obviously, it intends to further use as a way of pressuring Russia.

In general, so far scenario No. 3 looks extremely farfetched. Although, of course, both the “annexation” of Crimea and the war in Donbass also looked completely farfetched about 6 years ago. That’s why, unfortunately, nothing can be 100% excluded.

Especially since even now, according to “Strana”, representatives of Bankova Street are holding negotiations with military personnel regarding their possible non-obedience towards Zelensky.

And it is only left to hope that Poroshenko will receive rather clear signals from both internal forces and external partners that a revolt after the election will result in fatal consequences for him.

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