«The Ukrainians, give up!» The technologies the Kremlin wants to win the Ukrainian elections 2019 with

«Укра­ин­цы, сда­вай­тесь!» Ка­ки­ми тех­но­ло­ги­я­ми Кремль хо­чет вы­иг­рать укра­ин­ские вы­бо­ры-2019

Delovaya Stolitsa - - SPECIAL RESEARCH СПЕЦИАЛЬНОЕ ИССЛЕДОВАНИЕ - Yury VISHNEVSKY / Юрий ВИШНЕВСКИЙ

In comparison to the pre-war time, the Kremlin’s messages have been changed. We are no longer lured slyly, we are threatened openly. По срав­не­нию с до­во­ен­ным вре­ме­нем крем­лев­ские мес­седжи из­ме­ни­лись. Нас уже не за­ма­ни­ва­ют хит­ро, нам про­сто от­кры­то угро­жа­ют

Three and a half candidates

Now it looks like they will really fight for the release of three and a half candidates to the second round of the presidential election. The rest will solve other problems — someone will hold the PR campaign to get their party into the parliament next autumn, someone will perform the functions of a technical candidate.

Petro Poroshenko and Yulia Timoshenko are the first two of three and a half, of course. And the third one is a nominal candidate for pro-Russian electorate. Who will be the main one in this niche? It is a struggle now among the representatives of “Oppoblok” (Oppositional block) Yury Boyko and Alexander Vilkul and the leader of “Za Zhittia” (For Life) party Vadim Rabinovich. When Medvedchuk, Putin's kum, joined “Za Zhittia” party, the consolidation of “Za Zhittia” and “Oppoblok” parties started. Rabinovich turned to “Oppoblok” with a call to unite efforts, and Sergey Levochkin, one of “Oppoblok” leaders, immediately agreed with that.

Yevgeny Muraev, the head of “Za Zhittia” political council, declaimed theatrical walkout in protest against such development of events and announced his resignation from “Za Zhittia” and creation of his own “Nashi” (Our) party. The main goal of Muraev's party will be the mobilization of the most radical pro-Russian electorate. But the majority of pro-Russian voters, apparently, would prefer a single candidate from “Oppoblock” and “Za Zhittia” since the one has the greatest chance to get to the second round.

Boyko, Vilkul or Rabinovich will not necessarily become this single candidate. It is possible that “Oppoblok” and Medvedchuk will try to find some pseudo-new person — as it was in Russia with Pavel Grudinin who was found instead of annoying Gennady Zyuganov for Communist Party.

It can be the mayor of some town. The mayor of Zaporozhye Vladimir Buriak is a classic example. He comes from “Zaporizhstal” plant. Being a “business man with charisma”, he can easily create the image of “a man of action who knows the problems of towns and the real economy thoroughly and does not talk to the winds.” But in any case, real pro-Russian forces will eventually determine one main candidate, which has a good chance to get to the second round.

Finally, there is half a dozen of those who could potentially play the role of “half candidate” like Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, Anatoly Gritsenko, Vladimir Zelensky, Oleg Lyashko, Andrey Sadovoy and the unnamed candidate of “Sa-

mopomich” (Self-help), and someone from the union of far-right — “Natsionalny Corpus” (National Corps), “Pravy Sector” (Right Sector) and “Svoboda” (Freedom). Now none of them looks like a fullfledged candidate, able to compete with the first three. Rather, they look like showmen who will promote themselves and their political projects with the help of parliamentary elections.

However, visibility can be deceptive. And it is not excluded that one of those who looks like “the third and a half” now will turn out to be a full fourth. At least the Kremlin can be very interested in this.

The hierarchy of the Kremlin tasks

Speaking about the tasks the Kremlin sets for itself in the forthcoming Ukrainian elections, one can certainly say that the victory of an outspoken pro-Russian candidate is a maximum task. But this is an unrealistic task, certainly. Even Medvedchuk understands this, and Putin must understand it as well.

If we talk about realistic task, it means that pro-Russian candidate can get into the second round. By the way, both Poroshenko's and Timoshenko's headquarters are interested in having such a competitor coming out against their candidate in the second round, because in this case for both of them it's much easier to compete with him. And if the campaigns of Poroshenko and Timoshenko are focused against each other, the output of the Kremlin's protege in the second round will be almost guaranteed.

This would be a very important and, in fact, a self-sufficient achievement for the Kremlin. First of all, the pro-Russian forces automatically receive the status of the second largest political force in Ukraine. In addition, entering the second round means additional three weeks of agitation.

The parliamentary campaign begins immediately after the presidential election campaign. Therefore, those two parties, whose candidates will go to the second round, will get the agitation leg-up of all other parties as well as the image of the frontrunners of the parliamentary race. So the “Kremlin party”, if its candidate gets into the second round, will be able to get not only 43 seats in the new parliament, as now at “Oppoblok”, but three times more.

Remember that Ukraine is not a presidential, but a parliamentary-presidential republic, which means that the government is formed not by the president, but by the parliament with some participation of the president. Having a powerful faction, the “Kremlin party” will be able to try to unite around itself the majority of deputies. But even in the status of opposition, it will be an influential player, acting on the contradictions within the ruling coalition and putting a spoke in wheel at every opportunity. Victory in the presidential elections is a skinny crane in the sky, but a powerful faction in the parliament is a fat fowl in the hand.

However, it should be emphasized that the scenario described above is still not a maximum for the Kremlin, but rather a minimum realistic task. Maximum realistic task for the Kremlin is not to let Poroshenko to get in the second round, i.e. to let the pro-Russian candidate and Timoshenko to get there.

Such a scenario is extremely desirable to the Kremlin in any case, regardless of what policy Timoshenko intends to hold being a president. Even if she is going to continue the course to NATO and the EU, strengthen the Ukrainian army more intensively, etc., for the Kremlin it is important to inflict personal defeat to Poroshenko anyway. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, this is Putin's strongest personal motive. Secondly, it will show everyone — the Ukrainians, the West, and the Russians — that Putin always achieves what he wants. I wanted to “remove” Poroshenko (from the presidency) and, look, he lost in the first round. Well, for Timoshenko, this would be a lesson for the future.

Finally, Poroshenko's defeat at the elections is very easy to equate to the defeat of his entire policy. “The Ukrainians are tired of fighting and are ready to surrender to Putin's mercy” — not only the Kremlin propaganda will shout about this, the West will probably come to the same conclusion.

The fourth candidate can come in handy to implement this scenario, so that he can take as many votes from Poroshenko as possible and not compete with Timoshenko. This promoter must have charisma, so that voters “lap him up”, and ambitions, to believe in his own victory. In an ideal for the Kremlin scenario, this fourth would get the third place in the presidential race, ahead of Poroshenko by the number of votes collected. And then Poroshenko's fiasco would be especially humiliating. And the Kremlin would tell the whole world about total fiasco of Ukraine.

Tools for manipulation

Let us now go from goals to the fulcrum. It is known that any election campaign is a competition of political technologies. Although they are very diverse, you can divide them into two groups. The first one is about technology of results' distortion: administrative resources, buying of votes, falsification. Apparently, these technologies have been the main ones in Russia for a long time. Perhaps, they were the main in some regions of Ukraine, such as Donetsk and Luhansk regions. But according to almost thirty years of experience in all-Ukrainian campaigns these are still technologies of the second order. They are able to provide few extra deputies in the parliament, but not a victory in the presidential election. If to go too far, the final effect may prove to be opposite to what was expected — it was proved by Yanukovich and Medvedchuk during the first Maidan.

The reason is in the regional heterogeneity and political preferences, and in traditional for the Ukrainians lack of piety for the authorities. Recall that presidential candidates from government won only twice in Ukraine: Leonid Kravchuk in 1991 and Leonid Kuchma in

Two of four largest TV groups of channels can play on Timoshenko's side, while the other two can support the proRussian candidate. In this situation, of course, it can happen that these two candidates will be in the second round, just as the Kremlin wants

1999. In all other elections the opposition candidates won — Kuchma in 1994, Victor Yushchenko in 2004 (his victory, stolen by falsifications, was defended by Orange Revolution), Viktor Yanukovich in 2010. As for elections in 2014, there was rather unique situation: an ordinary deputy Pyotr Poroshenko won; he was not a member of any faction, and therefore formally he did not represent either old authorities or new regime.

In the Ukrainian conditions, the second group of political technologies has the greatest effect traditionally. It is the manipulation of public opinion. But it is necessary to distinguish three components here: firstly — the conductors of manipulation, that is media; secondly — the voice of manipulation, these are the “talking heads” of politicians and so-called LPOs (leaders of public opinion — we call them LOMs); thirdly — the semantic content of manipulations, these are mythologems that are voiced by the “talking heads” and LPOs. Success requires all three components.

Let's talk about media. In Ukraine within last three presidential elections four largest groups of TV channels plus accompanying pool of Internet sites and newspapers played the critial role. In 2004, the Orange Revolution won at the moment when “1+1” TV channel and the channels of Victor Pinchuk supported it (along with a number of other influential players). In 2010, Yanukovich's victory was predetermined, because there was a clear TV media advantage. Well, in 2014, all four of the largest groups of channels worked for one candidate. And this was enough to make the second round unnecessary.

So it is clear that for a confident victory it is necessary to have a pool of two large channels plus something else. Now none of the four groups of leading TV channels is supporting Poroshenko too much. Pinchuk's channels are still seemingly neutral, but they may bend towards Timoshenko, especially if the ratings create her an image of the leading candidate. TV channels of Igor Kolomoisky had been supporting Timoshenko and went against Poroshenko for a long time.

Sergey Levochkin's TV channels promote Yury Boyko now, but they can easily switch to another candidate if “Oppoblok” and Medvedchuk agree. The Kremlin still wants to force Akhmetov's TV channels to support the pro-Russian candidate. Now the Russian Federation has imposed Akhmetov's business from all sides: his assets in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, his exports to Russia and imports from Russia are under the threat of blocking, his trade with companies from other countries via Mariupol port has been blocked already by Russian ships.

Thus, if we take the maximum, two of four largest TV groups of channels can play on Timoshenko's side, while the other two can support the pro-Russian candidate. In this situation, of course, it can happen that these two candidates will be in the second round, just as the Kremlin wants.

The war of meanings

It is clear that the real scenario will be much more complicated. We can't ignore smaller TV channels and radio, print and online publications, social networks and the oldest type of media -rumors. But in any case, the mass media are only the conductors of meanings, and the meanings themselves, as well as those who will voice them, are important.

If we talk about the Kremlin's meanings and LPOs, then sharply increased the presence of Medvedchuk in the Ukrainian media deserves attention. Of course, this may seem funny: Medvedchuk is very explicit Putin's agent, so the Ukrainians can't trust his words and the way he acts.

However, the problem is that Medvedchuk appeared in the Ukrainian information space as the herald of Putin. The function of the herald is not to scramble the brains or to try to convince, but only state the king's command clearly and distinctly. And it is very simple: “The Ukrainians, give up, otherwise you are dead”.

And in general, there is a reason. It was possible to tell the Ukrainians fairytales about friendship and brotherhood before the war, to beckon into a new union with Russian level of salaries and pensions. Now it would be foolish to expect such manipulation. That is why now Putin sends us a messenger of apocalypse with a proper appearance.

We are no longer lured slyly, we are openly threatened. And it looks like it will be the main message of the Kremlin at the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine.

Perhaps this is mistake of Medvedchuk and Putin. It depends on the Ukrainians. If we do not intend to get scared and surrender at the mercy of Putin, then we need to break the Kremlin scenario. First of all, an outspoken pro-Russian candidate should not get into the second round.

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