Mul­ti­ple vari­ables

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - An­driy Holub

What will drive the choice of vot­ers in the up­com­ing elec­tions in Ukraine

UAH 6,659, 11,951 and 7,451, an equiv­a­lent of $256, 450 and 280 – this is how an av­er­age Ukrainian sees de­sired sub­sis­tence, av­er­age wage and pen­sion across Ukraine, ac­cord­ing to SOCIS, a so­ci­ol­ogy cen­ter. Ac­cord­ing to the State Sta­tis­tics Bureau, the real num­bers are UAH 1,777, 8,725 and 2,479 re­spec­tively, or around $68, 335 and 95. Po­lit­i­cal ex­perts tend to be­lieve that so­cio-eco­nomic is­sues can­not de­liver vic­tory in Ukraine’s elec­tions. They claim that the vot­ers pre­fer to be of­fered an idea that will reach out to them emo­tion­ally. The truth is that no govern­ment yet has man­aged to de­crease the gap be­tween real and de­sired so­cioe­co­nomic num­bers.

These in­di­ca­tors draw far less at­ten­tion than politi­cians’ rates. What they do show is that, in the eyes of Ukraini­ans, the coun­try’s prob­lems and their own are not iden­ti­cal. Ac­cord­ing to Rat­ing’s June sur­vey about what prob­lems Ukraini­ans be­lieve to be key for the coun­try, 78% of the polled listed mil­i­tary con­flict in Eastern Ukraine, while 55% chose bribery and cor­rup­tion in govern­ment. 29% men­tioned un­em­ploy­ment.

When asked about the most im­por­tant per­sonal prob­lems, the re­spon­dents de­liver a dif­fer­ent re­sult. 54% choose grow­ing prices, 54% list grow­ing util­ity rates and 51% choose low wages or pen­sions, fol­lowed by only 29% in­di­cat­ing the war in the Don­bas. Bribery and cor­rup­tion are barely vis­i­ble in the list of per­sonal prob­lems in­di­cated by Ukraini­ans (15%). What mat­ters at the end of the day is whether the coun­try’s prob­lems or per­sonal is­sues will de­fine the choice in the vot­ing booths.

The same sur­vey by Rat­ing asked the re­spon­dents about where they ex­pect the next pres­i­dent to de­liver change in first and fore­most. In this one, the civil as­pect seems to be win­ning over the per­sonal one as 63% re­spon­dents said that they ex­pected the next pres­i­dent to stop the war in the Don­bas, fol­lowed by 49% choos­ing in­ten­si­fied fight against cor­rup­tion. 40% chose the re­vival of in­dus­try while 30% opted for higher so­cial stan­dards. As a re­sult, one might think that Ukraini­ans are not vot­ing with their wal­lets.

In fact, these fig­ures point to a dif­fer­ent con­clu­sion. A can­di­date of­fer­ing a re­al­is­tic plan for stop­ping the war in the East to­mor­row would be most likely to win the up­com­ing elec­tions. A can­di­date of­fer­ing an ef­fec­tive ac­tion plan for im­me­di­ate elim­i­na­tion of cor­rup­tion would win, too. How­ever, such plans do not ex­ist, nor will they ap­pear any­time soon. The only ac­tor that can stop the war is the one that started it – that ac­tor is not run­ning in Ukrainian elec­tions. The fight against cor­rup­tion is an ever-last­ing prob­lem – it can­not be erad­i­cated once and for all. In other words, new un­prece­dented recipes are im­pos­si­ble to in­vent even if the can­di­dates wanted to do so. That leaves us with re­al­ity com­prised of all those per­sonal prob­lems re­flected at the be­gin­ning of this ar­ti­cle.

There­fore, the key ques­tion of the up­com­ing elec­tions is whether those cur­rently in power have a re­source to de­crease the gap be­tween what Ukraini­ans have and what they want to have in their wal­lets. Hardly any­one can of­fer more in the time left un­til the elec­tions.

“To me, it’s ob­vi­ous that in the next round of elec­tions, pres­i­den­tial and Rada, Ukraini­ans will be vot­ing for the lesser evil,” so­ci­ol­o­gist Iryna Bekeshk­ina told in a re­cent in­ter­view for The Ukrainian Week. “We can see that ev­ery can­di­date has a sta­ble core of sup­port­ers who are im­pos­si­ble to in­flu­ence ei­ther way. No scan­dals, no dirt, or any­thing of that na­ture. How­ever, this core is not very sub­stan­tial. The rest will largely de­cide based on the sit­u­a­tion closer to the elec­tion.” The rates of all re­al­is­tic can­di­dates for pres­i­dency have hit the bot­tom and can­not go lower. This opens an op­por­tu­nity to take un­usual steps. So far, how­ever, none has man­aged to im­prove their rates.

Yu­lia Ty­moshenko as a lead­ing can­di­date among all oth­ers with gen­er­ally low rates has re­cently of­fered a “new deal” with many com­po­nents that sound alien to most Ukraini­ans. She spoke about “blockchain”, “Linux” and “con­sti­tu­ante” at the re­cent pre­sen­ta­tion of the “new deal”. The re­sult was quite pre­dictable: the speech trig­gered a surge of memes in so­cial me­dia and barely any­thing else that can qual­ify as an as­set in Ty­moshenko’s cam­paign. The “new deal” will hardly sur­vive un­til win­ter as a strat­egy while Ty­moshenko is more likely to fur­ther fo­cus on her usual role of guardian for the mis­er­able.

Those in power rep­re­sented by Petro Poroshenko are wait­ing it out while ex­per­i­ment­ing from time to time. On June 28, the Con­sti­tu­tion Day, the Pres­i­dent pro­posed to amend the Con­sti­tu­tion, in­clud­ing in it the norms about Ukraine’s in­te­gra­tion with the EU and ac­ces­sion to NATO. This trig­gered a fairly weak re­sponse and the news came largely un­no­ticed. One other as­set in his port­fo­lio is get­ting au­to­cephaly for the Ukrainian Church. Here, too, his ex­pec­ta­tions may be over­played. In late May, the Ilko Kucheriv Demo­cratic Ini­tia­tives Foun­da­tion held a sur­vey about how Ukraini­ans saw the es­tab­lish­ment of their in­de­pen­dent Church. 31% sup­ported the idea while 34% were in­dif­fer­ent. 14% didn’t know how they wanted to re­spond to this. Out of the sup­port­ers, only 33% said that this was a pri­or­ity is­sue. An­other 50% de­scribed it as “im­por­tant but not a pri­or­ity.”

The sec­ond line of the op­po­si­tion is more con­fus­ing. Firstly, how many can­di­dates will run as op­po­si­tion to those cur­rently in power? Ana­toliy Hryt­senko, a can­di­date that could be­come the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the en­tire group, has the high­est rates for now. He has two se­ri­ous stum­bling blocks ahead. One is the patho­log­i­cal in­abil­ity of the “demo­cratic” or “re­form-minded” camp to reach agree­ments. For now, at least two other pos­si­ble can­di­dates are on the fore­front, in­clud­ing Lviv Mayor An­driy Sadoviy and MP Vik­tor Chu­mak. Dmytro Hnap, an in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist who has re­cently an­nounced his march into pol­i­tics, does not rule out his own bid for pres­i­dency. All those in­volved de­clare that they are pre­pared to make com­pro­mises, but at a later stage. Hryt­senko’s other stum­bling block is that sooner or later he will have to an­swer the ques­tions he is cur­rently avoid­ing, such as who makes Hryt­senko’s team other than him­self, and what ex­actly he of­fers apart from crit­i­ciz­ing the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Wannabe “new lead­ers” are mak­ing their plans pub­lic, too. While singer Svi­atoslav Vakarchuk has some­what folded down his pub­lic ac­tiv­i­ties and placed “Noth­ing but mu­sic” as a slo­gan on the posters for his band’s up­com­ing gig in Kyiv, co­me­dian Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy has posted a video on so­cial me­dia that went vi­ral. It’s hard to un­der­stand what he is try­ing to say in that video, but he was cer­tainly ad­dress­ing Vakarchuk, com­plet­ing the video with the phrase: “If it’s me and you, that means us, do you get it? And if it’s us, it’s every­body.”

Var­i­ous can­di­dates from the ex-Party of Re­gions are the only ones in a rel­a­tively safe place. They can’t im­prove their cur­rent po­si­tion or make it worse. All they need to do is ap­pear in shows at TV chan­nels owned by friendly oli­garchs, talk­ing about their in­spec­tions of sum­mer camps for chil­dren, so­cial se­cu­rity de­part­ments and fac­to­ries. All this to make sure their loyal elec­torate re­mem­bers that they still ex­ist.

THE KEY QUES­TION OF THE UP­COM­ING ELEC­TIONS IS WHETHER THOSE CUR­RENTLY IN POWER HAVE A RE­SOURCE TO DE­CREASE THE GAP BE­TWEEN WHAT UKRAINI­ANS HAVE AND WHAT THEY WANT TO HAVE IN THEIR WAL­LETS. HARDLY ANY­ONE CAN OF­FER MORE IN THE TIME LEFT UN­TIL THE ELEC­TIONS

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