Books on Ukraine
Update No: 348 -
Campaign heats up
Ukraine is in the thick of a vital
presidential campaign that could decide
the fate of the nation. It is entering its
final phase, the first round of the
elections falling on January 17.
It seems scarcely possible for the
incumbent, President Viktor Yushchenko to
win. Times have been very grim for most of
the population. Ukraine has felt the full
force of the global economic crisis, after
experiencing a post-Soviet style collapse
The two who are in with a chance are the
PM, Yulia Timoshenko, who is exceedingly
rich from her days as a gas mogul, and the
leader of the pro-Russian Party of the
Regions, Viktor Yanukovich, who has the
backing of Moscow. Neither want for
She can escape blame for the economic
crisis because she was was for long out of
power, under a cloud for being suspected
of acquired her enormous wealth ' by
crooked and devious ways.' She has
something of the allure of a Berlusconi,
of whom the same could doubtless be said.
People think of both of them, 'if they can
do so well for themselves, maybe they can
do well for us too.'
At least some people do. Whether enough to
win her the presidency remains to be seen.
Italy is after all a lot better off than
She is a good-looking, glamourous woman
with a feisty character, as she made plain
during the Rose Revolution in October
2004. "I am the person wearing the
trousers here," she said at the time,
permanently alienating her colleague,
Yushchenko, by adding insult to injury (he
had just been poisoned by the KGB).
Yushchenko on the stump
“If she wins, you’ll all lose, all of you.
And, most important, Ukraine will be a
major loser,” Pres Yushchenko said,
addressing a group of Timoshenko
supporters in the Volyn oblast December 8.
[Yushchenko typically refrains from naming
Yulia Timoshenko in his speeches,
preferring to refer to her as “she”, a
form of address implying lack of respect].
Yushchenko was met on his visit to
Smolyhiv, Volyn Oblast, not only by his
supporters, but also by a group of Yulia
Timoshenko fans with their trademark
banners. After the ceremony to unveil a
new food company, Yushchenko turned to
Timoshenko supporters, accusing them of
being paid for coming to the ceremony.
“I have to react to paid-for audiences as
I am your president. The least I would
wish is to have rent-a-crowd rallies
attended by small Ukrainians who care only
about being paid 100 or 200 hryvnias,” the
incumbent said. These words were met by
protesting shouts from Tymoshenko
supporters who said they showed up at the
“We haven’t had a worse premier [referring
to Timoshenko] with a worse record in
managing agriculture,” Yanukovich
If Ukraine deviates from his political
course, he added, it will lose its
independence in 2 years. He was referring
to the fact that Timoshenko has become
great pals with Putin, between whom there
seems to be a certain sexual chemistry.
They admire each other's strength of
character. Yanukovich is already Moscow's
A Timoshenko supporter's counter-blast
A riposte to this by a Timoshenko
supporter on the web is worth quoting:
“Ukraine hasn’t had a worse president
[referring to Yanukovich) A president who
has divided the nation, undermined its
democratic and economic development A
president who has betrayed Ukraine and
those who supported his election.
“A president who has breached his oath and
acted contrary to the provision of
Ukraine's constitution. A president who
has and continues to misuse and abuse
power and authority invested in him. A
president who vetoed proposed taxation
increased on the sale of tobacco products
compromising then health and welfare of
not only Ukraine but also their European
“A president who espouses the words of
democracy yet whose own actions, policies
and deeds are far from democratic. A
president who has caused more harm then
good. A president, who once commanded the
support of 52% of the nation and now has
less then 4%, Yanukovich was once
nominated for a Nobel Prize now he holds
the world record as the least supported
head of state.
“With a record like that he should not be
throwing stones - The pot calling the
There are almost certainly enough
Ukrainians who think likewise to sink
Yanukovich. It is becoming a two-horse
Yanukovich in confident form
Viktor Yanukovich is riding high. He has
been out of power for five years and
cannot be blamed for what has gone wrong.
It is inconceivable that Moscow would ever
cut off gas in winter to Ukraine under his
stewardship, as happened last winter. He
is the one candidate who has made it
abundantly clear that Ukraine should never
He still calls himself the winner of the
2004 election. "I have never denied the
influence of the Russian factor in
Ukrainian politics. We should always have
taken it into account," said Mr.
Yanukovich in his first interview with
Western media since he kicked off his
campaign in October.
In a survey conducted then by the Razumkov
Centre in Kiev, Mr. Yanukovich leads with
29% support for the January 17 vote, the
first round of the elections. President
Viktor Yanukovich trails in low single
digits, while his rival and former Orange
Revolution ally, Prime Minister Yulia
Tymoshenko, is polling in second place at
20%. No candidate is expected to gain the
50% needed to triumph in the first round,
and Ms. Tymoshenko and Mr. Yanukovich are
expected to proceed to a February run-off.
Compromise ruled out by Timoshenko
A possible compromise would be for
Yanukovich to retain Timoshenko as PM if
he wins, or for Timoshenko to appoint
Yanukovich premier, if she does. But she
has publicly ruled out the latter option,
which likely rules out the former one too.
She wants to be her own woman in charge,
without a suspicion that she is simple a
front for Moscow.
There is no doubt that this is a major
turning-point for Ukraine. All concerned
about its future await developments.