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Ukraine ex-president elected party chief ahead of polls


AFP Kiev
Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko retained control over his political party on Friday as the former president and his allies seek to win back support two months before a crucial parliamentary vote.
Last month the pro-Western politician suffered a crushing defeat in presidential elections to comedian Volodymyr Zelensky amid popular anger over the country's separatist war in the east, corruption and poverty.
Poroshenko's party has since launched a major re-branding effort to recover from his ballot box defeat ahead of the snap polls set for July 21.
Last week the party -- called Petro Poroshenko's Bloc Solidarity -- announced it was changing its name to European Solidarity.
Poroshenko was elected leader of the renamed party on Friday.
"I am very grateful to you for electing me head of the European Solidarity party," Poroshenko said minutes after the unanimous vote that was broadcast live by a private Ukrainian channel.
The party -- seen as Poroshenko's political vehicle -- was previously led by Kiev mayor and former professional boxer Vitaly Klitschko.
Poroshenko said European Solidarity was Ukraine's only political force able to continue the country's pro-Western trajectory.
His party currently dominates the 450-seat chamber but that may change as Ukraine's new leader Zelensky seeks to secure seats for his movement, called Servant of the People.
According to the latest opinion polls, Poroshenko's party is in third place, with 8.8 per cent support before the election.
It is behind the pro-Moscow "Opposition Platform," which has more than 10 per cent in opinion polls.
Zelensky's Servant of the People party has no representation in the current legislature. But it is leading in polls with 44 per cent support.
Despite being elected party leader, it is not yet clear whether Poroshenko would himself seek a seat in the Verkhovna Rada legislature.
He said a list of candidates would be agreed in about a week, adding the country would see "new faces."

Poroshenko was elected president in 2014, after a popular uprising in Kiev ousted a Kremlin-backed leader, but Ukrainians soured on the political establishment amid persistent social inequality and graft.

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First Published: May 31 2019 | 8:50 PM IST

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