Petro Poroshenko (UDAR-backed)
The wealthy businessman and independent politician is a former minister of trade and head of the council that runs the national bank. Known as the “Chocolate King,” Poroshenko controls a large confectionery group called Roshen. If elected, Poroshenko has said he would sell off his shares. His other enterprises include car and bus plants, as well as Channel 5, a television station known to be critical of Yanukovych.
Often cited as one of the main financial backers of the Orange Revolution 10 years ago, Poroshenko is also a close ally of Viktor Yushchenko, president of Ukraine from 2005 to 2010. Poroshenko has a huge lead over the other candidates in opinion polls, but if he does not earn a majority of votes, there will be a runoff. Born near Odessa but raised in central Ukraine, the businessman has suggested joining NATO is not a good idea.
Yulia Tymoshenko / Fatherland
The Fatherland leader is former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a natural gas tycoon and widely respected populist with a trademark blonde braid. The Orange Revolution icon was runner-up in Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election. Like Turchynov, she was released from prison when Yanukovych was deposed. Found guilty in 2011 and sentenced to seven years in prison for abusing power, parliament voted on February 22 to free Tymoshenko and allow her to run for office again.
With a support base in western and central Ukraine, especially Lviv, the All-Ukrainian Union Fatherland (“Batkivshchyna”) party supports “European values” and easing the business climate. Fatherland has espoused higher wages, lower taxes and the creation of a new public construction company to build affordable housing. The party has advocated an anti-corruption campaign against government officials. Ukrainian membership in the EU is one of the group’s key goals. Visa-free travel to the EU is another important aim. Notably, the party seeks mutually beneficial free trade with Russia and better terms for gas imports. One of the more active groups in the Kiev protests, the party has opposed Russia's influence.
Serhiy Tihipko (Strong Ukraine)
The self-nominated candidate is polling at second or third amongst Ukrainians, having served since 2012 as a vice prime minister. After being expelled from the Party of Regions, Tihipko said the Strong Ukraine party would be re-established. The Moldavian-born businessman-cum-politician has advocated making Russian the country’s second official language and supported Ukraine’s decentralization. But he’s spoken against the separatist drive by pro-Russian armed groups.
Tihipko has criticized Ukraine’s foreign policy of creating a “cordon sanitaire” around Russia, suggesting this strategy has done damage to the country’s economic well-being. He has prioritized national unity and economic growth over joining the EU. He has also stated that, for the long term, European integration is worth more than working within the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. He has stated support for the legalization of prostitution. The billionaire declared to the election commission a 2013 income of $22.4 million.