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“Miracle on the river Dnipro” will save the government

Political expert Viktor Nebozhenko on the state of affairs before the election and the role of first-past-the-post candidates
19 июня, 00:00

The election campaign is approaching and it has already started unofficially, so political analysts and experts are paying more and more attention to the current innovation which is the first-past-the-post voting. The political consultant Taras Berezovets uses the football terminology and compares party list voting with Playstation that everyone can play and first-past-the-post voting with a real football match where one needs skills and professionalism. According to the polls Berezovets referred to during the press conference at UNIAN only 20 percent of the acting parliament, or 86 people out of 450, have some experience (not always positive) of first-past-the-post voting.

However, according to experts, membership of a party might play into candidates’ hands. “On the one hand, membership of a party is one of the last priorities of the electorate,” Oleksandr Chernenko, chairman of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine said, “however, on the other hand, when we had an experiment and wrote ‘Party of Regions’ next to the surname of an inexistent candidate, his rating went up quickly.”

Exerts also disagree about the meaning of this innovation: some think that the first-past-the-post voting is a step back, others expect global changes. Their forecasts about the role of the administrative resource and possibility for new people to come to the parliament also vary.

However, experts unanimously predict that Fatherland party will win the parliamentary election and the Party of Regions will take the second place. Besides, UDAR, the Communist Party and Svoboda will overcome the 5-percent barrier. “If the opposition loses it will result in preservation of the existing system for seven years,” Denys Denysenko, from the Political Consulting Center warned.

The parliament elected in October is unlikely to last longer than two years. Experts assure: no matter who becomes president in 2015, the parliament will be re-elected.

The Day discussed the prospects of the forthcoming election with the famous political expert Viktor NEBOZHENKO.

We won the first match against the Swedes and everyone is euphoric. Do you think holding Euro we prepared for so long will influence the authorities’ image?

“I do not think it will. Political aims are deeper than people’s mood and emotions. Besides, as soon as Euro finishes, rumors about terrible abuses and corruption will only strengthen. Ukrainians do not like having holidays for stolen money.”

The authorities often speak about their achievements in preparing and holding Euro-2012. They might use this in their election campaign.

“We cannot consider a great achievement what was prepared during five years and at least 70 percent of money was stolen. Now people worry about matches but as soon as football finishes, rational factors will matter. Only if the Ukrainian team beat everyone which will be called ‘a miracle of the river Dnipro’ there will be an exception. Then people might think that the authorities worked a miracle. However, it is unlikely to happen.”

Corruption needs to be proved.

“How can mass plundering be proved? The thing is that rumors about abuses are much stronger than propagandist tools of disclaimer the authorities have. Imagine that Hanna Herman will say tomorrow: ‘No, we did not steal anything.’ Who will people believe: anonymous sources on the Internet, radio and television, oppositionists, Western media or Hanna Herman?

“The authorities are so arrogant towards the people that they do not even think they should talk to them. Any information about the authorities stealing money is easily perceived by suspicious Ukrainians. If the authorities communicated with people, they would easily find arguments and tools to prove the opposite. In the current situation talks and rumors on mercenary and corrupt authorities will overshadow Euro.”

You have mentioned propaganda. Advertisements of political forces have been already launched. How would you assess it? Is it effective?

“Mass advertisements are the background for future forgery, just like creating initiatives or the bill on languages. The Party of Regions is not raising its support in the west, east or in the center of Ukraine. It is the way the governing group is going to use to win. The advertisement itself is no longer effective. The west of Ukraine, just like the east has exhausted the source of people’s propagandist naivety.”

This is what the language issue is for. Do you think the bill will be adopted in general?

“Of course, it will. It will be adopted in the second, third or even fourth reading – I am not being ironic. However, it will be done not in order to consolidate the west and the east as the opposition thinks. This bill has to be adopted to show the results planned by the president during the election. As soon as the bill is adopted, the head of the fraction Oleksandr Yefremov will say: ‘People who have degraded are infinitely grateful, they are having hard times but they say: adopting the bill on the language was the essential we did for them. You should just ignore the fact that life has got twice as difficult.’”

How should the opposition act in this situation?

“I do not understand: there are 150 people there and they do not know what to do! I remember the time when Chornovil and 120 other people twisted arms and gained their ends with the notorious Donetsk-Communist majority. Corpulent self-confident men voted just like Chornovil wanted. That is why the point is in the quality of the opposition and its principal position. For example, in Burma the opposition only makes a third of the parliament, however, it effectively resists the current authorities that prepared for the first public parliamentary election for 20 years.”

What is your attitude towards such opposition’s actions as distributing “Free Yulia” T-shirts among football fans? Is this efficient?

“It is a way to draw attention to Tymoshenko’s problem, however, I do not think it is efficient. Traditional ways of drawing public attention to any political slogans, names or values through propaganda on the leading television channels and thousands billboards all over the country do not work any longer. Another thing is that later a new politician might say ‘I had thousands of billboards and I got 5 percent due to them and not through forgery.’ The advertisement does not work but it allows hiding forgery.

“The situation with the Russian language is the same: the Party of Regions will say that they kept their promises and, as a result, people became twice as grateful. However, being a sociologist I can assure you that there is no connection between the arrogant, misleading, and formal publicity and people’s values. Once people believed billboards that promised to imprison bandits.”

Why do you think politicians treat people this way?

“Politicians take the advertisement as a dull public propaganda needed to hide the influence of the administrative resource to falsifying the results. They campaigned for half a year and got that ‘unexpected’ but wonderful result, not to mention that 70 percent of the budget assigned for mass publicity was stolen by the office of the candidate.”

How will the parliament change after first-past-the-post candidates enter it?

“First-past-the-post candidates are the most energetic, cynical and base people among the businesspeople and fresher politicians. They will promise the moon and the stars to the president Yanukovych and Head of the Presidential Administration and later they will do what they wish. I have been watching first-past-the-post candidates for 10 years and can say that these people use the current situation which is not good for any president. It does not matter if they are from the Party of Regions or from the opposition. Their membership of a party does not matter, maybe only in western Ukraine.”

By the way, will the opposition be able to divide the constituencies?

“There will be a scandal. They will only be able to divide the ones that no one needs.”

Will the first-past-the-post voting bring brand new people to the parliament?

“New people will definitely come and there will be different reasons for this. First of all, regardless of their average human qualities there will be strong and self confident people who will say: ‘We want to access to power.’ Secondly, the President Yanukovych is looking for a new president’s group he will be able to rely on. The president cannot count on the people from Donetsk any longer: they have made enormous money on him and demonstrate how Yanukovych’s corrupt environment is using him which is why he is losing his prestige. The president and the group of his family will look for new ministers, governors, new head of the Presidential Administration and new MPs to rely on.”

Will the latter go for it?

“First-past-the-post candidates do not have any political homeland. They will say that they spent 3 million dollars on their election campaign and will not want to consider Lytvyn or Yefremov. They will be right. The presence of ‘veterans’ of the parliamentary party work will not stop them. However, we should take into account that they are very flexible people: today they are loyal to the authorities but everything might change as soon as they get their mandates. They will be not ordinary people. I do not assert that they will change the situation in Ukraine for better but they are very likely to bring singularity. Once when Kuchma tried to motion the implementation of the referendum concerning the amendment of the Constitution first-past-the-post candidates promised to double their presence during the vote. In fact, some of them did not turn up although they owed the president their presence in the parliament. This time it will be nearly the same. First-past-the-post candidates are certain free radicals: today they act this way and tomorrow they will do something else.”

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