KYIV, Jan 3 – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s popularity was eroding quickly and his lead in opinion polls has been shrinking rapidly on the strength of Yuriy Boyko, the leader of pro-Russian opposition group, latest data show.
Zelenskiy led with 27.7% support and was followed by Boyko with 20.8%, according to the poll released by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) on December 31.
One month ago, Zelenskiy led with 39.8% support, while Boyko had trailed behind with 15.4%, according to a poll by R&B Group released in November.
Former President Petro Poroshenko dropped to 14.2%, KIIS reported. His support in November was at 15.7%, according to R&B Group.
The rise of Boyko, the leader of the Opposition Platform - For Life (OPFL) party, is remarkable considering the party’s close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Moscow’s support for ongoing war in eastern Ukraine.
OPFL already overtook Zelenskiy’s party, the Servant of the People, as the most popular party in Ukraine in November, according to a poll by KIIS released on November 12. OPFL scored 22.1%, followed by Zelenskiy’s party’s 20.6%, the poll showed.
Boyko’s strength comes from massive media support after OPFL’s financial sponsors, such as Viktor Medvedchuk, a Putin ally, have acquired three popular television channels in Ukraine several years ago, during the presidency of Poroshenko.
Poroshenko was believed to have several secret joint business partnerships with Medvedchuk, such as in liquified petroleum gas (LPG) supply and distribution, among others, eventually leading to his political comeback in Ukraine after a decade of obscurity.
Medvedchuk, if added to the list of potential presidential candidates in a separate poll, would score 8.7% of support, which makes him the fourth most popular politician in Ukraine, compared with Boyko’s 14.7% and Poroshenko’s 13.7%, according to the separate poll by KIIS that lists Medvedchuk as one of the potential candidates. If Medvedchuk is removed from the list, his supporters flock to Boyko.
The growing rating of Boyko and Medvedchuk may actually benefit Zelenskiy and help him win the second term in office in 2024. Zelenskiy would most likely defeat an openly pro-Russian candidate in a runoff election, so he may seek to promote such scenario, analysts said.
Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko would score 7.3%, followed by former security service chief Ihor Smeshko’s 6.5%, Radical Party leader Oleh Liashko’s 6.2%, former Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman’s 6%, according to the KIIS poll.
The Kyiv International Institute of Sociology conducted the poll from December 17 to December 23, 2020, interviewing 1,200 respondents from all regions of Ukraine, except Crimea; margin of error is 2%. (tl/ez)