A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

UKRAINE: Electing a Mayor in Kiev

Aleksandra (Sasha) Williams, Pitt Law '10, files from Kiev:

Until yesterday any American voter disgruntled by the current presidential election process could find comfort in realizing that at least there are several candidates to pick from. For example, compared to Russian presidential elections, where the only plausible candidate was heavily endorsed by former President Vladimir Putin, American plurality appears very reasonable. Yesterday Ukraine added another assurance that having only two candidates for one nomination is really not that bad: the Kiev mayoral ballot had over 70 names. Moreover, a lot of the candidates ran in the election together with their blocs or political affiliates.

On Sunday, May 25, 2008, residents of Kiev voted for the Kiev Mayor and members of the Kiev Sovet (the municipal decision-making committee). The election was held on the same day as the "City Holiday" and several high school graduation parties. All of these events usually involve general excitement, public performers, crowded streets and increased alcohol consumption, so it was hard to determine what exactly was being celebrated at any given moment. Several Police and Special Forces units patrolled the city, but no substantial problems were reported. The day concluded with a magnificent fireworks display over the Dnieper River.

The official results of the mayoral elections will probably come out no earlier than May 30, 2008. However, according to the exit polls and several preliminary stimates reported by various local news agencies, Leonid Chernovetskyi will probably keep his job as the Kiev Mayor. So far he is said to have about 37% of the total vote, while his closest opponents Aleksandr Turchinov and Vitaliy Klichko gathered 17% and 18% respectively. The Kiev Sovet election showed similar preliminary results, but with a smaller gap between the Chernovetskyi bloc (29%) and its closest opponent (Julia Timoshenko bloc - 23%). The rest of the candidates barely justified printing costs for their campaign ads which ranged from austere soviet-style directives for building a better future to silly random promises of world peace, happiness, prosperity and cheap diapers.

For example the current prime-minister Julia Timoshenko (nicknamed by some as "the woman with a braid", which due to peculiarities of the Russian and Ukrainian languages also means "grim reaper") endorsed Turchinov by reminding voters that she worked very hard to get him on the ballot and urging them not to let her down. Another candidate, Nikolaj Katerinchuk, started his campaign on March 8, the International Women's Day, by announcing that Kiev women are the best in the world. He then posted blue signs with a single word "ashamed" everywhere and later replaced them with similar ones stating "you will not be ashamed of your Mayor." So far it appears that about 3% of the voters actually bought it. Many promised better care for the elderly, rosy future for the children, more women in the parliament and less traffic jams, but did not otherwise substantiate their pledges. Vasily Gorbal undoubtedly took the pinnacle of absurdity award by releasing ads where he silently parodied facial expressions of his opponents and ran around Kiev with a "Free Hugs" sign. The incumbent Mayor, Leonid Chernovetskyi, (nicknamed by some as "Lenia-Cosmos" or "the mayor of Martians") simply promised more buses, better hospitals and cheaper bread. This may explain his success among Kiev citizens tired of the prevalent political idiocy.

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