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Vakarchuk’s “third place”

Expert: “In reality, this scenario is of benefit to oligarchic circles which will thus be able to pressure Poroshenko and Tymoshenko. And the point is not in the very person of the singer…”
27 November, 2017 - 17:53
Sketch by Viktor BOGORAD

Sociologists have surveyed electoral preferences of the Ukrainians. The last time they did so was quite recently – a month ago, when several companies made public their results which essentially differed from one another. For example, it is interesting to see electoral support for singer Viacheslav Vakarchuk (among those who intend to take part in the elections): Razumkov Center – 6.6 percent, Sophia Center – 2.7 percent, Socis Center – 14.8 percent.

“To put it mildly, I doubt the impartiality of opinion polls,” Mykola TOMENKO, leader of the civic movement Native Land commented then to Den (No. 190, October 24, 2017). “It is in fact dangerous when the results of a surveying company show an element of political expediency (although I don’t want to blame somebody). It is impossible that serious companies, which have been working on the market for quite a long time and seem to be guarding their reputation, show a difference of four or five percent. It may be one or one and a half percent, but not so many.”

This time the nationwide public opinion poll was conducted by a joint effort of four sociological survey companies: Socis Center, Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, Rating, and Razumkov Center. This is supposed to increase trust. But this time we are not focusing on the quality of survey because we paid sufficient attention to this last time. “As a matter of fact, all ratings can be impartial, but what is published and highlighted for us is done, one way or another, to please the customer,” Valerii Honcharuk, chief of the Election Techniques Department at the Situation Simulation Agency (gs.fm), said at the time.

Let us take the fresh data. If the presidential were held on the nearest Sunday, Petro Poroshenko would receive the strongest public support – 16.1 percent of the respondents are prepared to vote for him. Trailing him are Yulia Tymoshenko (14.4 percent) and Sviatoslav Vakarchuk (12.1 percent). Other candidates would produce the following results: Yurii Boiko and Anatolii Hrytsenko – 9.3 percent, Vadym Rabinovych – 7.9 percent, Oleh Liashko – 7.5 percent, Andrii Sadovyi – 5 percent, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko – 3.3 percent, Oleh Tiahnybok – 3 percent, and Arsenii Yatseniuk – 1.4 percent. The ratings were assessed on the basis of the respondents who have made their choice and will take part in voting. On the whole, about 21 percent of the voters do not know at the moment for whom to cast their votes, and 18 percent do not plan to vote at all.

“The votes of people are shaped by the behavior of the politicians who speak on television and take a clear position in most of the burning questions of today,” political scientist Taras BEREZOVETS comments to The Day. “It’s no wonder that Poroshenko and Tymoshenko are on two of the surveys. Nor does it surprise me that Vakarchuk also enjoys certain support, for society is really disappointed with old-school politicians. Accordingly, Ukrainians are resuming the never-ending search for a messiah. They are looking for one among those who haven’t been in politics or at least have not made a name there and haven’t been linked to the old elites. Vakarchuk is beginning to meet this demand. But in reality this scenario is of benefit to oligarchic circles which will be able to pressure Poroshenko and Tymoshenko. And the point is not in the very person of Vakarchuk. Anybody could be in his place. For example, Volodymyr Zelenskyi (leader of ‘The 95th Quarter’ TV project), whom Ihor Kolomoiskyi supports, does not rule out running for the presidency. And, as far as I know, Vakarchuk is bearing a grudge against him for this, for he wants to position himself as sort of a Ukrainian Macron.”

“It is also telling that the abovementioned rating includes Vakarchuk but not Zelenskyi,” the political scientist continues. “This testifies to the selectivity of those who make up these ratings. They spotlighted Vakarchuk and began to hype him as a public opinion leader and expert. His appearance in the polls is the next stage of this promotion. If the media support him, Vakarchuk will be able to gain even more percentage points. This percentage is only a question of the amount of the invested money and the activity of the ones who deal with this. It is Viktor Pinchuk who traditionally supports Vakarchuk. The latter constantly appears at his forums, including YES. Kolomoiskyi could also invest in Vakarchuk, but it is open to question. In my opinion, it will surely be Pinchuk. Incidentally, this does not mean that Vakarchuk will necessarily be running for the presidency. This may be the hyping of a leader for the parliamentary elections, i.e., the formation of a brand new party led by Vakarchuk. This party may include some more Euro-optimists.”

“However, let us not forget that Vakarchuk is not only a charismatic, but also a choleric person, which is typical of art figures,” Berezovets adds. “This means that he can be rather unpredictable. It is a grave risk for the investors if they bring him to serious election positions. So it seems to me that oligarchs will be hyping up Vakarchuk not for him to gain a victory but in order to set up a parliamentary faction and successfully bargain for better conditions. It is possible to ‘drown’ all the old elites by means of Vakarchuk and then focus at a certain moment on, say, Tymoshenko if she and Poroshenko qualify for a runoff. To do so, it is enough to recall quite obvious things, such as special relationship with Putin, Medvedchuk, etc.”

Notably, Vakarchuk himself has made no statements about his presidential ambitions, but many experts have written about his wish to run for office. The front man of the Okean Elzy rock band is currently in the US. This is not the first time he is there, let us say, to learn to be a politician.

“Certain forces are searching today for potential opponents of the president,” says Maria ZOLKINA, an analyst at the Democratic Initiatives foundation. “As Tymoshenko is Poroshenko’s real political opponent, she is the main object of pressure. For example, she not so often appears on TV programs now. As for Vakarchuk, it is an attempt to find one who stays, so to speak, outside the current political system and, at the same time, enjoys the affection of the electorate and is a suitable opponent. If you look at this situation from a technological viewpoint, it would be very opportune to take a person who is not a professional politician and ‘make’ him one of the main opponents of the current president. Potentially, he can rob real politicians of some votes because no new real politicians are in sight, while the old ones are setting the Ukrainian voter’s teeth on edge. On the other hand, a non-professional politician will never defeat a professional one in the elections. Vakarchuk meets both of these conditions. I think the appearance of Vakarchuk in these ratings is caused by technological considerations. The ground is being explored to find a potential rival in the elections in order to nicely compete with and finally defeat him or her.”

Why is Vakarchuk drawing so much attention? Firstly, he is one of the three leaders in the abovementioned poll, to say nothing about the fact that the singer’s name began to frequently occur in all sociological surveys, even though, let us say it again, he has never spoken about his presidential ambitions. Secondly, Vakarchuk is really a new face among the aforesaid politicians. Thirdly, and mainly, it is important to understand what may be lying behind this all, for a country which is constantly cheated by politicians and is in a state of war for the fourth consecutive year, has no right to make mistakes.

We also want to draw your attention to the poll data the future candidates are sure to take into account. It is the attitude of people to the key problems of the country. For most of the respondents, the most burning issues are the war in eastern Ukraine (51.3 percent) and such socioeconomic problems as price hike (37 percent), low wages and pensions (36 percent), unemployment (27 percent), and high utility rates (26.9 percent). A considerable part of the population noted the problems of corruption in the central government (22.9 percent) and medicine (22.9 percent). This raises a question: are the politicians who wish to lead the country capable of resolving these problems?

“As we can see, one of the main demands of Ukrainian society is settlement of the situation in the Donbas, i.e., the end of the war,” Zolkina says. “But I doubt whether somebody will manage to do this because the mechanisms now being used to this end either are finding no support or understanding among the populace or are just ineffective. First of all, I mean the Minsk negotiations. In late December 2016, Democratic Initiatives explored the attitude of the populace to the way the Minsk Agreements were being carried out. Most of the respondents made negative assessments. I don’t think something has radically changed in the past year. The majority of those polled noted that international pressure on Russia was not strong enough to force it to do what it was supposed to. But neither Ukraine nor our partners are so far prepared to apply other methods. Yet I understand that the situation, when we emphasize that it is so good that Ukraine is observing ‘Minsk,’ cannot last forever. The latest developments, particularly the draft law on regaining sovereignty over the occupied territories, are just an attempt of the Ukrainian leadership to change the instruments of pursuing its official policy in the Donbas. This bill has a number of positive things, but, unfortunately, it is basically an attempt to fill the gap of the past. In general, the informational platform for what is going on in eastern Ukraine is very suitable for debating and manipulating. Moreover, this issue is suitable to all the players, for it can be endlessly discussed but not necessarily resolved. The opposition can shift the blame to the leadership and the leadership to Russia. Nobody is exactly in a hurry to resolve problems, especially those of the controlled frontline territories.”

By Ivan KAPSAMUN, Valentyn TORBA, The Day