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Olga Konsevych

Presidents of Eastern Partnership Countries: Who Are They?

A few years ago, Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus, talking to representatives of regional media and said: “For you a presidency is a tsardom, and for me – a job and awfully hard work”. Eastbook.eu has decided to compare the presidents of the Eastern Partnership and try to describe them as leaders and personalities.

Віктор Янукович. Джерело: president.gov.ua

Viktor Yanukovych. Source: president.gov.ua

Viktor Yanukovych

President Yanukovych was born in a village near Yenakiieve in Donetsk Oblast. He was only 2 years old when his mother died. His father remarried and because of the bad relationship with his stepmother Viktor Yanukovych left his parents’ home and moved to his grandmother.

We cannot say that Yanukovych came out of nowhere. Of course, his opponents always remember about his conviction history (which later was expunged), but Yanukovych has some significant work experience. First he worked as an auto technician and climbed the career ladder to become a company director and later – a politician. An important point on Yanukovych’s political path was his appointment as the country’s prime minister. In 2002, then-President Leonid Kuchma dismissed Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh and offered the post to Viktor Yanukovych.

After the Orange Revolution, Yanukovych turned out to be in opposition, but then, during the crisis, ex-President Viktor Yushchenko had to accept the so-called “Second Yanukovych Government”, which included “seven ministers from Our Ukraine and President Yushchenko”. In 2010, Yanukovych was able to get his revenge and became president.

Yanukovych is trying to be “open & transparent”, and annually publishes his income statement on his website, but his income is constantly causing debates. It has turned out that he gets huge fees from publishers for his books. Just last year he was paid 15.5 million hryvnia (about € 1.4 million). By the way, the journalists could not find the president’s books in the stores. Interestingly, his book “Opportunity Ukraine”, issued in 2011 in English, was later considered plagiarism.

Yanukovych’s curiosities

The incumbent president of Ukraine loves  sport (tennis) and hunting, rears pigeons, keeps dogs, and enjoys driving fast cars. The Internet is full of his slips and funny videos. Of course, all politicians are made fun of, but to Yanukovych “strange things” happen just too often.

Олександр Лукашенко. Джерело: flickr.com, користувач zscout370

Alexander Lukashenko. Source: flickr.com, user zscout370

Alexander Lukashenko

Last year, in an interview with Reuters, Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus, said that he envied himself because he’s the last and the only dictator in Europe. Lukashenko, like Yanukovych, comes from a peasant family. Alexander never told anything about his father – he was brought up solely by his mother. Despite family problems, Lukashenko has managed to build a good career.

In politics, first time he was paid heed after his criticism against the first chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Independent Belarus Stanislav Shushkevich. Lukashenka built a reputation as a fighter against corruption, the image of a young and promising politician with big ambitions. He became president in 1994, after winning the second round of the election with 80.1% of the vote.

In 2004, Belarus had a referendum which resulted in the amendment that a president can be re-elected for an infinite number of times. As they say: follow the money. The last elections were held in Belarus in 2010. After the rally, opposition protests and arrests, the European Union has imposed a range of sanctions – prohibition of entry onto EU territory for some Belarusian officials and Lukashenko personally. The relations between Belarus and the West have become very strained.

Lukashenko stands out for his eccentricity. His public utterances become aphorisms. Just have a look: “My state will not follow the civilized world” or “Belarusians will live poorly, but not for a long time”.

Тімофті та ван Ромпей. Джерело: flickr.com, користувач President of the European Council

Timofti and Van Rompuy. Source: flickr.com, user: President of the European Union

Nicolae Timofti

Moldovan President Nicolae Timofti also has a rural background. He grew up in a large family and was a worker at the district roads administration. This then-fitter-motorist decided not to stop at blue-collar jobs. The president of Moldova has a law degree and built his career as a lawyer. First he worked as a consultant in the Ministry of Justice of the MSSR, then as a judge, and finally, in 2012, became president.

In Moldova, the president is elected by the parliament. Since 2009 the country the presidential post was vacant, as four attempts to elect a head of state failed because the candidates could not get the necessary number of votes – at least 61 out of 101.

“I have become a leader in a poor European country. Fighting poverty is a big challenge,” announced Timofti after his election. Recently the president said that there are no alternatives for Moldova’s European integration. Such a statement is not accidental. Moldova hopes to initial the Association Agreement with the EU at the Vilnius Summit and then sign it in 2014.

Interestingly, Timofti never was a public figure and never was involved in politics. He has three sons, one of them is an economics student, the second is a sports journalist, and the third lives in the United States.

Ільхам Алієв. Джерело: facebook.com/PresidentIlhamAliyev

Ilham Aliyev. Source: facebook.com / PresidentIlhamAliyev

Ilham Aliyev

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev looks pretty imposing against the stories about the “country boys”. He was born in the family of Heydar Aliyev – the head of the KGB counter intelligence department of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic – and inherited the power from his father, who led the country for almost 30 years. Ilham Aliyev graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, was a businessman, a deputy, and in 2003 both Heydar – who was at that time under medical treatment – and Ilham became candidates for the presidency. Then the state television showed the Father’s appeal, in which he announced his withdrawal from the presidential race in favor of his son.

Opposition forces complain that the Aliyev family has snatched control of the whole state. Last year Transparency International gave Ilham Aliyev the title “corrupter of the year”. Experts say not only about the companies owned by the family across the country, but also about Aliyev’s secret firms in other states.

Media report that the Azerbaijani head of state enjoys hiking, skiing and driving at high speeds. Well, in social networks you really can find a variety of pictures about “President and his Wife taking a rest”.

Мехрібан Алієва. Джерело: facebook.com/mahribanaliyeva

Mehriban Aliyeva. Source: facebook.com / mahribanaliyeva

Ilham Aliyev’s wife is in a league of her own. She could be given the title of “the most glamorous first lady of the Eastern Partnership”. Mrs Pashayeva has a bright appearance which she gladly shows on Facebook.

Серж Саргсян. Джерело: president.am

Serzh Sargsyan. Source: president.am

Serzh Sargsyan

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan was born in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan). Although he has received a degree in philology, there was time when he worked as a mechanic and also served in the Soviet Armed Forces. It can be assumed that his political career began in the Communist Party Youth Association Committee. There he took different positions – starting from the head of the department and ending with the first assistant secretary of the regional committee.After the collapse of the USSR, he served as Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister of Defense, Prime Minister. The list of his posts just lacked the presidency.

When Sargsyan became Armenia’s president in 2008 for the first time, Yerevan was a witness of a wave of rallies in support of other candidates. His main rival, the first president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan, was talking about election frauds. The opposition rallies ended in tragedy: brutal force was used against demonstrators – 10 people were killed. Last year, the elections in Armenia were also not very easy, but at least without victims.

Михайло Саакашвілі. Джерело: facebook.com/SaakashviliMikheil

Mikheil Saakashvili. Source: facebook.com / SaakashviliMikheil

Mikheil Saakashvili

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is a kind of exception here. He comes from a family of intellectuals, and it takes a lot of time to list all the places where he studied. In high school Saakashvili was deputy secretary of the Komsomol committee of the school. He studied law, worked as a lawyer consultant, trained at the Academy of European Law in Florence and at the Hague Academy of International Law, and worked at the Norwegian Institute of Human Rights in Oslo… It looks more like a dream, not a biography. Saakashvili speaks Georgian, English, French, Russian, Ukrainian, and Spanish.

In 2005 he became a deputy, and became president in the aftermath of to the peaceful Rose Revolution – Saakashvili won the early presidential elections held after the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze. His presidency during the first and second terms can not be called easy: the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, criticism of the opposition and tensed relations with Russia.

Now members of the parliamentary majority have accused the Georgian president of embezzlement of budget funds, and even of the Russian-Georgian war in 2008. The next regular presidential election in Georgia is scheduled for October 27, 2013.

Do you want to know more? Academic degrees, income, marital status…

Click the infographic to enlarge:

Presidents of EaP states

 

Biographical information and information about the monthly salary of presidents have been taken from the following sources: wikipedia.org, epress.am, onliner.by, day.az, panorama.amnoi.md, ghn.ge, president.gov.ua, mojazarplata.com.ua

Translation MA

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Olga Konsevych is currently studying for her PhD at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. She has 6 years of journalism experience and specializes in writing articles related to the democratic changes in Ukraine and Post-Soviet states. Also, Olga works with NGOs in Poland, Moldova and Russia as a journalist and media expert on EU-Ukraine relations and the political situation in Ukraine.

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