Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Guesstimation. Who (and when) will be the next President of Ukraine? And what comes next?

It is my first post here after the first round of presidential election in Ukraine. Obviously, the result was predictable. But nevertheless every Ukrainian needed time to think over in order to understand, what happened. After January, 19, at least one simple thing is clear: there will be no miracle for Ukraine. And no hope for a big change. We’ve got a choice without choice – between two well-known faces.

The results of the first round of Presidential vote in Ukraine demonstrated a confident priority of leader of the opposition Party of Regions, anti-hero of times of the 2004 Orange revolution Viktor Yanukovych, who received a support of 35,32 percent of voters.

The Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko has got only 25,05 percent (a gap between two leaders is 10,27 %, which is a big challenge for the PM).

The 7th of February will be a day of a totally hopeless choice for Ukraine. President Viktor Yushchenko had mentioned recently that both candidates are almost equal. Yes, I must confess that there is not much difference between Tymoshenko and Yanukovych. First of all, they’ve got very similar programmes, mostly based on social promises and well-written slogans (it reflects a wider problem of absence of big ideological parties in Ukraine – all the main political forces differ by names of their leaders and oligarchic sponsors). Secondly, they have almost the same origin – East of Ukraine. It is very popular these days to say that Viktor Yanukovych represents Eastern and ‘pro-Russian’ (I don’t agree with that formulation) Donetsk region, and that he has a lot of difficulties with communication in Ukrainian language (though he’s not a good speaker at all). But lot of experts prefer to forget that only a decade ago Yulia Tymoshenko had a nickname “ a gas princess from Dnipropetsovsk”, and that she learned Ukrainian only at the beginnign of 2000th.

The choice between Viktor Yushchenko (who did represent Ukrainian mentality and traditions) and Viktor Yanukovych in 2004 was really a choice between values – Western and Eastern. But the current choice is totally different. It may be said that it is a choice between importers and exporters (as there are more representatives of the biggest export-oriented enterprises are accumulated around Viktor Yanukovych, and Yulia Tymoshenko’s biggest supporters are making their profits on import operations). but it’s not a clear statement at all. I would say, it is just a fight for power between two politicians and their establishments – it is naïve to expect the revolutionary breakthrough from any of them.

Who will win?

Most probably, Yanukovych.

Is it for better, of for worse? I don’t know what to say. No comments for this moment.

Let’s count. (It will be just a ‘guesstimation’ as the percentage strongly depends on the voters’ turnout. Besides, the less turnout we will have in the second round, the better it will be for Mr. Yanukovych, as he proved to have a very stable electorate).

Starting position:
YANUKOVYCH – 35,32 %
TYMOSHENKO – 25,05 %

Both the pretenders are fighting now for votes of supporters of other political heavyweighters.

First of all, it is Sergiy Tigipko who (with a help of a French political technologist Jacques Segela) showed the third result – 13,05 percent. Here I would like to mention that I don’t agree with experts who call Mr. Tigipko a kingmaker. Yes, he may become very and very influential, but only after the parliamentary election. As for now, Mr. Tigipko may hardly influence his electorate to vote for this or that candidate – it’s a specifity of Ukrainian voter, and especially of a well-educated urban voter, than he makes his own decisions, some times unpredictable.

Most of Ukrainians who voted in favor of Tigipko didn’t actually support him as a politician, but were hoping for change and the renovation of Ukrainian politics. On 7th of February a big part of them will stay at home, some will vote against all, and others will divide between Yanukovych and Tymoshenko. I would suppose that at least half of supporters of Tigipko will vote for Yanukovych as they represent Eastern, Central and Southern part of Ukraine.

So, we are adding 6,5% to Yanukovych – subtotal result 41,82 percent. Let’s also give around 4% to Tymoshenko – subtototally 29,05 percent.

Arseniy Yatseniuk with a very unsuccessful advertising campaign, mostly created by Russian team of PR-professionals, has gained only 6,95 percent. Some of his voters will also demonstrate the absenteeism, but the active part will surely vote for Yulia Tymoshenko. Let’s say it will be 5%. (YANUKOVYCH – 41,82 %, TYMOSHENKO – 34,05 %.)

The voters of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko (5,45 %) are also rather unpredictable. Taking to the account the rough fight between PM and President during last months, we may predict that part of them will not show up at the polling places. But I hope Yulia Tymoshenko may count on additional 4,5 percent. (YANUKOVYCH – 41,82 %, TYMOSHENKO – 38,55 %.)

It is for sure that the electorate of a Communist party leader Petro Symonenko (3,54%) will vote for Yanukovych. At least, 3 percent. (Subtotal result: YANUKOVYCH – 44,82 %, TYMOSHENKO – 38,55 %.)

In favor of Prime Minister may be also around 4 percent of voters, who supported other candidates – like Speaker of the Parliament of Ukraine Volodymyr Lytvyn (total 2,35%), radical right politician Oleh Tyahnybok (1,43%), and ex-Minister of Defense Anatoliy Hrytsenko (1,2%).

So, the forecasting figures look like YANUKOVYCH – 44,82 %, TYMOSHENKO – 42,55 %. (The gap is 2,27 percent).

But taking to the account the probable growth of the level of absenteeism, my own style of the vote-count, very favorable to the Prime Minister, and also the fact that Ms. Tymoshenko represents the acting power, I would predict that in reality the gap may be not 2, but 3-4 percent or even more.

Anyway, both candidates are preparing to challenge the result of election in courts. And here comes the next important question:

Is there any chance to have an inauguration in March?

According to the Law on Election of the President of Ukraine, the official results of second round should be declared not later than 17 February. But the court proceedings (which will be long and difficult in case of 1-2-3-percent gap between candidates, or in case of a high level of ‘against all’ votes) may postpone this date even for a month.

The inauguration shall be held in frames of 30 days after the declaration of official results, and some influential off-going forces may try to postpone this date. The elected President shall take the oath during the special parliamentary sitting, which may also be wrecked.

So, there is a chance that the inauguration of nobody-knows-who will be held in March 2010, but as I am informed the headquarters of both candidates has received the instructions to be ready to work till the summer. Maybe, to prepare for the early parliamentary elections, who knows.

Early parliamentary election: to be or not to be?

Analyzing the current alignment of political forces in Ukraine, I am 99 percent sure there will be no early parliamentary election on 30 of May 2010, despite of all the ‘promises’ of the top-politicians.

(The day of 30 of May is widely discussed as a possible date for early parliamentary vote as is an officially established day for the local elections).

The argumentation is simple: there is no parliamentary party in Ukraine, which would be really very interested in early election in 2010. Though, it is very possible that the early parliamentary poll will take place in 2011, even in January 2011, – about one year before the scheduled time.

Why the current composition of Parliament seems to be very livable? First of all, because two biggest factions wouldn’t run the risk of losing the precious parliamentary seats.

The party of Regions is again in the most confident position. In comparison to the results of last parliamentary election of September 2007, Viktor Yanukovych slightly strengthened the ranks of his supporters – on 1 percent (from 34,37%). But it is not clear, how Ukraine will vote for the ‘Regions’ in half of the year, especially if Yanukovych win the presidential position (Ukrainians are predisposed to give less support to the ruling authorities).

Yulia Tymoshenko, to the contrary, has lost more than 5 percent – in 2007 she had 30,71% of votes. And 5 percent is about 20-27 seats in Parliament (it depends on the quantity of parties, which will overcome a 3% threshold).

All the other political parties, presented in Parliament now, including the members of so-called ruling coalition, have very illusive chances to enter the Parliament after the early vote. The block of Viktor Yushchenko Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defense has already been falling into pieces, and ex-and-current-pro-presidential MPs are seriously thinking about their political future and risk not to become MPs again in case of the early election. Communist Party understands that it will never win 27 seats in Parliament which they have now. The block of Volodymyr Lytvyn (currently having 20 seats) seems as totally not able to pass the 3% threshold, so, the Speaker would surely form a coalition with a winner of Presidential fight, whoever it will be.

Does a new coalition already exist?

The vote in favor of dismissal of the Interior Minister of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko on Thursday, 28 January, has showed that a new coalition (pro-Yanukovych one) already exists in Ukrainian Parliament.

Who voted in favor? Here is the list, ahich may be considered as a draft of a 'new coalition':

The Party of Regions faction – 171 vote (out of 172 members of the faction)

The Block of Yulia Tymoshenko faction – 1 vote (out of 153 members of the faction)

Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defense faction – 11 votes (out of 71).
I have to add that part of these MPs represent ex-Head of Presidential Secretariat Viktor Baloha. A brother of Viktor Yushchenko Petro and a godmother of President’s child Oksana Bilozir also voted in favor of Minister’s dismissal.

The Communist Party of Ukraine – 27 (out of 27).

The Block of Lytvyn – 19 (out of 20 – as the Speaker decided not to vote).

Independent MPs – 2 (out of 6).

As the proverb says, we shall see how the cat jumps.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

All Flags at Half-Mast. One more quotation from the President of Ukraine.

“If Yulia Tymoshenko is getting into the second round, it will be the time to go to Maidan and dip the national flag”, the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko said during one famous TV-show on 15 January 2010.

Friday, January 15, 2010

There is a threat to Independence and Integrity. President Yushchenko addressed Ukrainian citizens.

Today on 21.00 the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko has made an extraordinary address to the citizens of Ukraine, translated by all the national TV and radio channels.

January the 17th may become the day, when country will be pushed to backward direction”, Viktor Yushchenko said. Among the main threats President mentioned “a threat of energy dependence and loss of the influence to the gas transit system”, “a debt load of tens of billions dollars”, “a threat of reconsideration and postponing the European direction”, and “a threat to the integrity and sovereignty” of Ukraine.

Also President has emphasized a threat of the falsification of voting results.

Viktor Yushchenko appealed to election commissions at every polling place (to respect the rule of law), to judges (“you will play the unique role”), and to the ‘shoulder-strap people’ (“your duty is to defend the people’s choice”).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

From 10 to 15 percent of votes may be fabricated during the presidential election – MP of the Yulia Tymoshenko faction

The idea of using the courts in making the decision on the result of the election of the President of Ukraine, using the 2004 scenario, is widely promoted by Ukrainian politicians these days. Especially by the political team of the Prime Minster of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko.

In particular, Sergiy Sobolev, Member of Parliament of Ukraine from the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko, said to the journalist of Ukrainian 5th TV channel on 11 January 2010 that ‘up to 10 percent of votes may be falsified’. ‘If we take to the account those voters who will vote at several polling places (which is possible due to some essential ‘holes’ in law on presidential election – T.V.), the fraud may raise up to 15 percent’, Mr. Sobolev added.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Expected Fraud. Is Yulia Tymoshenko preparing a ground to declare the results of presidential election as a fake?

The BYT (Block of Yulia Tymoshenko) parliamentary faction has accused the Central Election Commission in taking the decision, which will lead to the mass falsifications during the election of the President of Ukraine.

Controlled by the party of Regions majority at the Central Election Commission made a decision of 4 January this year on the procedure of vote at home, and inclusion of voters into the voter registers on election day, which contravenes the democratic standards for holding elections’, is said in today’s official statement of the BYT faction. ‘In such a way members of CEC, who are close to the Party of Regions, had de facto opened the unlimited opportunities for use of the mass fraud during the election of the President of Ukraine’.

“There is no doubt: the establishment of Viktor Yanukovych doesn’t believe in victory of its candidate in free and transparent election”, members of the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko declared.

By the way, all Ukrainian polls stated that the rating of Mr. Yanukovych is bigger than Ms. Tymoshenko’s one on 7-15%.

The BYT faction has proposed to hold an extraordinary sitting of the Parliament of Ukraine on 13 January – to change some procedures of vote, approved by the CEC, ‘to prevent fraud’. One shouldn’t be an expert to predict that the Parliament will fail to adopt any changes. But the fact of putting the question of electoral procedures on vote will surely give to one of the presidential candidates an extra-right to declare the result of vote on 19 January, and especially on 7 February (2 round), as a fraudulent.

Viktor Yanukovych has already commented the BYT initiative, saying that ‘we will fight, and we will not permit to make a decision on the result of election in courts’. But it seems to me that there may be a third round of election of the President of Ukraine – in the Arbitration Courts.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Political ZOO. White Bengal Tiger as a symbol of a presidential electoral campaign in Ukraine.

“Promise me you'll never forget me, because if I thought you would, I'd never leave.” Winnie the Pooh.

I am back to blogging since yesterday, and the same day the President of Ukraine gave me a reason to start this subject - the Tiger topic in Ukrainian politics.

While giving a speech in frames of his visit to Cherkassy region, Viktor Yushchenko – as usually – strongly criticized the Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko. Moreover, he proposed to the PM to leave the Ukrainian politics. Answering a question on the not-adopted-Budget-of-Ukraine for 2010, President, in particular, said: “It is time for her to have a rest, at least for a little bit, because every month of her work brings a colossal poverty to our country. Let her roll on the floor with the tiger, so far to end her working way in Ukrainian politics”.

I would love not to comment the quotation, but to tell more about The Tiger.

On 24 August, 2009, the Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko visited the popular child festival “Black Sea Games” in Crimea. During the visit PM received an original gift – a Bengal tigress of a white color. By the way, they say, the unique White Tiger on the territory of Ukraine.

Re-presented to the Yalta zoo, the tigress named TigerYulia (‘tigrulia’ in Ukrainian transcription) was not abandoned and forgotten. The symbol of 2010 according to the Chinese calendar, the White Tiger became a very active ‘face’ of the presidential campaign of the Prime Minister.

At first, on the 1st of September 2009 a lot of Ukrainian schoolboys and schoolgirls received new school diaries and notebooks with the image of TigerYulia with the famous braid on her (tigress’) head.

Then TigerYulia appeared on the billboards of the PM before and after the New Year.

By the way, Viktor Yushchenko also used a symbol of Tiger in his political PR. At the end of 2009, the press service of the President informed that the beloved cat of the President, named Tiger, run away from the country house of Viktor Yushchenko. TV-journalists immediately offered a helping hand to the Tigerless President – almost the same day he got a new little cute kitty, which probably received a different name.

 / Comment / Editorial - Ukraine’s dilemma

And here is the FT-editorial view on the situation in Ukraine, in rather interesting tone:

Five years ago, Ukraine’s presidential elections captured the imagination as Viktor Yushchenko emerged triumphant.

On Sunday, Ukrainians vote in the first presidential election since 2004 and in very different circumstances from the Orange Revolution. Mr Yushchenko’s failure to create stability, fight corruption or protect citizens against a rapacious bureaucracy has created widespread disillusion.

The gloom is compounded by the economic crisis, which has forced Kiev into an International Monetary Fund rescue programme.

Despite the political chaos, the Orange Revolution’s legacy has survived in a free media, openness to the outside world, and multi-party competition. Despite constant Russian interference, Ukraine’s sense of identity as an independent state has grown. And, despite the economic crisis, Ukraine is a richer place than five years ago, with a better stock of housing, cars and consumer goods.

But Mr Yushchenko’s political failures have left voters with a lamentable electoral choice. He stands no chance of retaining office. The top contenders are Viktor Yanukovich, the opposition leader, and Yulia Tymoshenko, the prime minister, Mr Yushchenko’s 2004 ally but now his bitter rival.

It is humiliating for Ukraine that Mr Yanukovich, whose 2004 presidential campaign was widely seen as fraudulent, has not been hounded out of politics. He has survived thanks to a cynical political culture and the backing of big business. Even Mr Yushchenko has done deals with him.

Ms Tymoshenko should, in principle, be a more attractive choice, given her Orange credentials. But she has proved herself shamelessly opportunistic and shares the blame with Mr Yushchenko for the failures of the Orange camp. Her economic policies show a unnerving penchant for populist intervention, eg with arbitrary price caps.

In international affairs, both would balance ties with Russia with a slow push for European Union integration. Not much to choose between Ms T and Mr Y on this score.

So, whom to back in Sunday’s first round and next month’s run-off? Given the candidates’ shortcomings, voters must focus on what is important. The key now is political stability. Only a stable Ukraine can achieve economic reform and recovery. Ms Tymoshenko is the polar opposite of a stabilising force. Mr Yanukovich, for all his manifest faults, may prove the lesser evil. Pity Ukraine that it has come to this.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010. Link to the article: / Comment / Editorial - Ukraine’s dilemma

Orange sunset as Ukraine poll heralds turn to Russia | World news | The Observer

The Observer: "Orange sunset as Ukraine poll heralds turn to Russia. Five years after Ukraine's Orange Revolution, its next presidential election is between two pro-Moscow candidates"

Both of the front-running candidates in the poll have indicated that firmer ties with Russia, whether for pragmatic or ideological reasons, will be a priority. The poll will thus ring the death knell for a pro-western revolution that degenerated into a morass of political infighting, compounded by economic crisis.
Leading the polls is Viktor Yanukovych, a former prime minister whose initial victory as the Russia-backed candidate in 2004 sparked allegations of a rigged vote. His only serious rival is Yulia Tymoshenko, the prime minister and Moscow's new favoured candidate. President Viktor Yushchenko, hero of the Orange Revolution, now has an approval rating below 3%. Last week he accused Yanukovych and Tymoshenko of comprising a "single Kremlin coalition", such was their joint desire for warmer relations with Moscow.
Whether Yanukovych or Tymoshenko wins, the goal of Nato membership, still aspired to by Yushchenko, is almost certain to be abandoned.
Yanukovych last week repeated his long-held stance that he would take Ukraine off the path to Nato membership. "Ukraine was and will be a non-aligned nation, as it is now," he told.

A Zero-Wind Chill. Only 7 days left before the presidential election in Ukraine.

Celebration of the New Year and the Orthodox Christmas has lowered the speed of the electoral campaign in Ukraine. All the major candidates were actively present at Ukrainian media-space with colorful video greetings, and on thousands of billboards near the main roads all over the country, but there was no sign of a real fight. One week before election, and a total calmness of a political sea.

The zero-wind air conditions may be caused by the predictability of the result of the first round of the election (17 January 2010). It is obvious that two winners who will meet in the second tour on 7 February 2010 are Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the leader of the biggest opposition Party of Regions Viktor Yanukovych. The distance between them is predicted to be around 10-12 percent, not in favor of the lady.

It seems that nothing may change the current correlation of political forces during the next week (though, it would be interesting to follow the last speeches of all the main pretenders to the presidential power, and I will do my best to share my impressions here, taking a week-off in the office). The most interesting developments are expected to happen within a time-frame between the first and second rounds, and also after the 7th of February – on the streets and in courts.