No debate, but a tribune: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko spoke on Sunday in front of thousands of his supporters in the compound of a stadium where he had called to debate his rival in the presidential race, the comedian Volodymyr Zelensky. A scene with two desks bearing the names of each of the candidates had been installed in anticipation of the debate in the press center of the Kiev Olympic Stadium, the largest in the country at the doors of the EU.
Outside, thousands of supporters of the outgoing president chanted his name and called Zelensky to debate, in vain.
Petro Poroshenko, 53, has accused his 41-year-old political novice of wanting to avoid difficult questions.
He said he would respect the "Will of the Ukrainian people" if Volodymyr Zelensky wins in the second round of the election next Sunday.
A spokesman for the team of Zelensky, quoted by the agency Interfax-Ukraine, for its part said that it was not expected that the actor is on Sunday. According to him, the debate will take place on Friday at the same stage.
Song and walkabout
Zelensky, who plays a president in a television series, is credited with 61% of the vote according to a survey released Thursday, against 24% for its competitor.
In the first round in late March, the actor won more than 30% of the vote, against 16% for Poroshenko. "I do not like the fact that the presidential campaign looks like a silent film"said the Ukrainian head of state ironically, next to Zelensky's empty desk. "I have to say it: the future of Ukraine is in danger"he said at the end of this one-hour speech.
Petro Poroshenko then spoke on a scene where he sang a song mocking his opponent. He then offered himself, speaker in hand, a bath of crowd near the stands of the stadium.
According to the police, at least 5,000 people came to support him, some of whom were crying. "If his rival, this buffoon, this clown, this Harlequin wins, then we will all have to hang ourselves", launched to AFP a soldier supporting Poroshenko.
Since the first round, the campaign has taken a more aggressive turn, the candidates exchanging insults and provocations, in a country in the worst crisis since independence in 1991. The arrival of pro-Westerners in power in 2014 was followed by the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia and by a conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east, which left about 13,000 dead.
After having each passed drug and alcohol tests, the two candidates argued at length about the organization of a debate.
Poroshenko notably accused his opponent of being the "Puppet" of the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, owner of the channel broadcasting the shows of Volodymyr Zelensky.
While Poroshenko is posing as a bulwark for Vladimir Putin's Russia, Zelensky, who has mainly campaigned on social networks, bases his popularity on the fatigue of the population in the face of slow reforms and the fight against corruption.
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LIBERATION with AFP