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Correspondent 40

More on the Elections

by Paul Miazga

Closer to home, and to give a bit of flavor to election coverage, it’s been interesting to see the kind of campaigning that goes on in Ukraine. Further to what I said last week, campaigning in Ukraine is not at all what it is in the West.

For starters, here there are few if any mail-outs of campaign platforms – if voters want to find out what a party stands for, the only way I can think of to get any info is maybe by perusing that particular party’s website – and even then: the website of the all-powerful governing party, the Party of Regions, simply does not load, and this is important given that they stand to win these elections and the fate of the country (i.e. the policies they intend to enact once elected) is completely unknown (the sites of the other political parties in turn offer very little by way of substantive information, especially those of the “western-leaning” or “reform-oriented” opposition parties. No wonder the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (www.cvu.org.ua) holds such a negative view of the current campaign trail.

Speaking of trails, the candidates themselves don’t exactly blaze a trail to anyone’s door to get their party’s message across. That’s because they don’t have to: all 450 deputies to the Verkhovna Rada (the parliament) are elected by party lists, not from regional constituencies or mandates, meaning Ukrainian voters, even at the polls, are terribly disenfranchised; you can’t really call some party tout from your region as your personal representative since they don’t really represent you. It’s odd that so much goes into these elections appearance-wise and yet the actual politicians don’t do any real work. After living here for a few years and having seen a few elections, no wonder the ballots still allow people to vote “Against all”. It’s hardly cynical; it’s strangely normal here that voters have a choice that some of us in the West might also prefer.

So what does a Ukrainian election look and feel like then? Well, on the streets of Smallville, Ukraine, you’ll see lots of colors and flags and information booths set up by the respective parties but all they offer are a few pins, ribbons and newsletters printed on that cheap newsprint with ink that rubs off on your fingers and stains your clothes. The thing I notice in Kyiv is that only those affiliated with the ruling party (Regions of Ukraine) bother to go through the trouble of printing posters and leaflets that anonymously attack the opposition. It’s incredibly petty, sophomoric and incredibly distasteful, but it’s not illegal and so, as with everything in these elections, everything goes.

Speaking of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU), I encourage all those interested to learn more about the elections in this country to check out their website. It’s incredibly thorough, interesting and put together by Ukrainians who really care about democracy, transparency and fairness. The general sense one gets from reading their pre-election reports is that the dirty tricks are subsiding in Ukrainian politics, but that’s also because they’ve become more sophisticated. Putting up an obviously negative or defamatory poster is easy to spot while the same cannot be said when factory foremen or shop managers tell their subordinates that when it comes time to vote, they’ll know if they didn’t vote for the boss’s party.

Elections aside

Strangely enough, these elections should be kind of fun in some respects. Again Ukraine will be visited by hundreds or even thousands of election monitors, which for me means a chance to catch up with some old friends and even visit with my girlfriend’s family. I just hope there’s no need for a big get together like we had in December 2004. It’s time this country moved past that point and the politicians finally got to work at rebuilding this country and helping it to become more closely associated with its more developed neighbors the Czechs, the Poles, the Slovaks, the Hungarians and even the Romanians. Now: may the best party win!

“Depending on who wins the Sept. 30 poll, Ukraine’s could be a very different place.” (http://lexlibertas.com)
“Depending on who wins the Sept. 30 poll, Ukraine’s could be a very different place.” (http://lexlibertas.com)


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