Friday, May 30, 2008

Kyiv local elections: Orange Split

On Sunday, 25 May, the capital of Ukraine Kyiv had early elections of Mayor and members of the City Council. Today the official results of elections are supposed to be announced by the Central Electoral Commission. The electoral company has demonstrated all the possible signs of falling down of democratic values in Ukraine. The use of dirty technologies, bribing of voters, “twin” candidates (registration of candidates for the post of Mayor with the same names), etc – all these features of Kyiv elections had place on the background of unfortunate split of coalition of the Orange democratic forces.

Political parties, which led the Orange Revolution in 2004, have lost the unity very quickly. The result of early election – sad for democratic forces – is a clear sign to worry about the outcome of next presidential election.

New Ukrainian President is supposed to be elected at the end of 2009, but in today’s Ukrainian politics there are a lot of unpredictable things. As some informed people say, early presidential election may take place. The same time the “Orange camp” is strongly divided. Contradictions between ex-allies are so deep and serious (up to personal antagonism) that the nomination of the unique candidate for presidential post seems impossible. It may cause a real danger for Ukrainian democracy.

Let’s get back to the Kyiv early elections. They were called by the initiative of Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko who accused the eccentric incumbent Mayor Leonid Chernovetskiy in corruption and illegal deals with Kyiv lands. She was sure she will win the prise, but lost. Mr. Chernovetsky stayed on his place and got a majority of Council’s seats.
“Orange coalition” failed to nominate the unique candidate for Mayor. Three candidates – members of coalition were trying to win this post independently, including a famous boxer Vitaly Klitschko. Multiple “democratic party lists” were nominated also for the election to City Council.

Yulia Tymoshenko took the biggest risk personally heading her Block’s list for city Council. Her “right hand” Oleksander Turchinov was a candidate for Mayor’s chair. President Viktor Yushchenko pretended that he doesn’t support any candidate for Mayor, actually being in favour of Mr. Chernovetsky. Ex-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions supported Vasyl Gorbal – millioner and Member of Parliament.

They say that in private conversation Viktor Yushchenko declared that Kyiv elections would be “a Stalingrad for Tymoshenko” (the battle of Stalingrad was a turning point of the World War Two, when the Nazi army faced a defeat from which it never fully recovered). But it happened that the elections became a “Stalingrad” for Orange democratic forces and for the principles of free and fair elections in Ukraine.

While the democratic candidates were busy trying to fight each other, the “anti-hero” Leonid Chernovetsky was systematically bribing the electorate (mainly the elder people), providing them with free food and money – on exchange for promises to vote for him. Some so-called “technical candidates” (who did not have chance to win but had the mission to split votes) also gave money to people. I know that the photo of ballot paper with “tick” near the name of some candidates could easily be exchanged for money – from 50 to 100 American dollars.

As a result, Leonid Chernovetsky has won almost 38 percent of ballots. The Chernovetsky Bloc is also leading in the city Council vote. Tymoshenko’s ally Oleksander Turchynov got only 19,1 percent of vote – we should notice that her Bloc won about 40 percent of the vote in Kiev in the parliamentary election last year. (The presence of Tymoshenko’s Block in Council is also reduced). World boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko gathered 18 percent of votes, while Mykola Katerynchuk, an ally of Yushchenko, has just 4 percent. Vasyl Gorbal won some 2,3 percent of votes. The most important sign is that the President’s “Our Ukraine People’s Union” didn’t even qualify for the City Council with the result of 2 percent.

Mr. Chernovetsky won back Kyiv for the next five years proving the split of Ukrainian democratic forces, which may cause a real danger for the future of the country. He proved also that anyone who has enough money can win the “free and fair” election in Ukraine.

I am sure that to save democracy in Ukraine the leaders of democratic forces should forget about their ambitions and build up a new democratic block (or single party) – to start to work for Ukraine’s best future. (And stop to call permanently for early elections). Otherwise country is in need of new faces and new political parties, based on ideology and democratic values, not on charismatic leaders and their personal or business interests.

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