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A Crossroads…..or a path which splits but ends in the same destination?

January 18, 2010

Well the first round of voting is over dear readers……..

According to the Inter TV Channel’s exit poll, Yanukovych won 36.6% of votes, Tymoshenko 25.8%, Tigipko 13.5%, Yatseniuk 6.6%, Yuschenko 5.2%, Symonenko 3.2%, and Lytvyn 2%. A total of 1.6% of voters supported Oleh Tiahnybok and 1.3% Anatoliy Hrytsenko. A total of 15,000 people were polled with the margin of error being 0.7%

In the exit poll initiated by ICTV channel and conducted by GfK NO international company 35.06% said they voted for Yanukovych, 25.72% for Tymoshenko, 13.41% for Tigipko, 6.87% for Yatseniuk, 5.61% for Yuschenko, 3.17% for Symonenko and 2.32% for Lytvyn. A total of 1.98% of voters supported Oleh Tiahnybok and 1.30% Anatoliy Hrytsenko.

Yeh, I know, hardly a surprise now is it?

So what of 7th February when Ms Tymoshenko and Mr Yanukovych go head to head?

To take a line from a classic rock song…..”Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”………My thanks to Led Zeppelin and Stairway to Heaven.

How many voters who voted for the 16 failed candidates will vote differently this time?  Obviously not the hard core of either party.

So where do these 2 paths lead Ukraine and which will be most advantageous?

Both certainly lead to some form of agreement and intigration…..be it limited or full…….with the EU.  Neither currently would take it into NATO.  Warmer relations with Moscow are guarnateed.

A common starting point with both potential presidents…..and one that will be of but fleeting interest with the Ukrainian voting public in the scheme of things.

This election is all to do with internal matters and nothing to do with foreign affairs……no matter how much that will upset Baroness Ashton and the EU bureaucrats full of their own self importants…….or the Kremlin.

(They should ask themselves how many Ukrainians can name them.  Most will know or at least recognise the names of Ms Merkle, Mr Putin and Mr Sarkozy, a few Mr Brown……but the EU hierarchy?  Not likely)

So the question is which candidate will have the biggest effects on what Ukrainians care about?

The West of course, due to the rhetoric continually spewing forth from Ms Tymoshenko will see her as more democratic and eager to clean up the lawlessness and corruption in Ukraine.  After all she speak more frequently about the EU than Mr Yanukovych and therefore plays to their ego’s……..despite having had 2 terms as Prime Minister and failing to tackle either problem with the noticable exception of the gas intermediary RosUkrEnergo.

Of course this really had little to do with cleaning up gas intermediaries or fighting corruption……it had everything to do with RosUkrEnergo being strongly linked to the then President Yushenko and Mr Firtash, ally of Yushenko, billionaire and disliked in the extreme by Ms Tymoshenko.

An act of vengence and an act of insuring Mr Firtash knows who holds the power would be a more accurate description……even if veiled by the label of fighting corruption.

There has been many words and little by way of deeds from Ms Tymoshenko in the area of corruption and rule of law.

What of Mr Yanukovych then?  Seen…….wrongly I would add……by the West as Pro-Russian when really he should be seen as being not Anti-Russian or Anti-EU.  Well why would he be “anti” either, his oligarchy backers sell to both east and west after all. 

Strangely, during Mr Yanukovych’s spell as Prime Minister……a short lived slot between the two Prime Ministerial terms of Ms Tymoshenko under the Presidency of Yushenko…….things were seemingly less corrupt……I know, I was here.  It has also been commented upon in many political articles recently both in Ukraine and from the “West”.

Of course it is a vaneer of sorts…….for he is leader of the political party backed by the majority of the oligarchy…….who all have business interests and monopolies which they will not allow to be interfered with, regardless of how opaque some transactions may be.

It is probable then that only corruption improved at the bottom end of the pecking order……namely the average voter thought it was getting better……which it possibly was for them, but not saving Ukraine as a nation being raped and pillaged of its assets at the top.

……Of course I know that big business and politics are intertwined in every nation and corruption is endemic in all governments and business to some degree or another.

The fact is people in every nation know this happens, but as long as their living conditions are good, personal opportunities exist and aspirations are achieveable and not something they can only dream of obtaining after seeing them on TV……..well most of the public in any nation are generally quite apathetic towards high level corruption, particularly in business.

………Well obviously they are……Russia, Ukraine and Nigeria could still learn a thing or two about corruption from the EU.

This is the first major dividing line between the candidates.  Ms Tymoshenko states she will go after corruption and the oligarchy like a wailing banshee…….and she probably will…….as long as she has no shared interests with those she goes after either in business or politics.

Mr Yanokovych is more likely to start below the higher echelons……simply because the majority of the higher echelons are financiers or members of his party.

The question is which will have more effect on every day life in Ukraine.  From previous observations and experience, it will be Mr Yanukovych’s approach.

Admittedly, Mr Yanukovych’s approach will not grab the headlines by taking on and persecuting the top people as Ms Tymoshenko’s will……but most people don’t get to deal with those at the top……..they deal with the middle and lower order “administrative fees” on a daily basis.  This is where Yanukovych will triumph without any headlines if he continues along the same lines as he did in his short period as Prime Minister.

What is undoubtedly true is both will only tackle it to some degree…….and not top to bottom!

Both are popularist politicians whether they like they label or not.  It does of course mean that they are both in tune with the muffled voices of the electorate though.  You cannot be a popularist politician if you are unaware of what is popular.

This raises the question as to whether either of them have the ability or inclination to make unpopular decisions.

It was Mr Yanukovych which forced through a popularist raise in social payments against the wishes of the IMF and Ms Tymoshenko.  It was of course gleefully backed by Mr Yushenko and his supporters in a parting shot to undermine Ms Tymoshenko…..regardless of the effects it would have with the IMF agreement with Ukraine.

It is Ms Tymoshenko though, which during her election campaigning has made the most of being Prime Minister and to be seen to be giving keys to new state owned apartments and settling land ownership battles and giving ownership documents to the electorate to the detriment of land owned by the State.

Neither Ms Tymoshenko or Mr Yanukovych have any economic sense whatsoever…….regardless of any qualifications or business accomplishments they have achieved previously.

In this regard, Sergiy Tigipko is a sound proposal for Prime Minister under either……being a multi-millionaire banker and having served in the Economy Ministry before.  It is, after all, also the responsibility of the Prime Minister to runs the books of Ukraine……and not the President.

The question is will he be allowed to get on with that role under a new President unhindered or unimpeded…….probably not with Ms Tymoshenko and although likely to escape personal interference from Mr Yanukovych, his backers will be a completely different proposition.

What would suit Ukraine best as a nation?  Mr Yanukovych as President, Mr Tigipko as Prime Minister and the zeal and energy of Ms Tymoshenko as leader of the opposition……quite possibly……..but the politicians of Ukraine are a strange and mostly immature breed.

What is more important to Ukraine is that the RADA is allowed to function at all and the childish games of blocking it, locking politicians in offices, fisty-cuffs and banners are removed from the political chambers completely.  This at least would give the appearance of professionalism to the outside world and Ukrainians alike……even if nothing else changed.

Neither candidate inspire the external investor much.  Raising capitol to finances much needed infrastructure improvements, salaries of doctors, teachers, police and other State employees will be hard to find……particularly as Ukraine needs the world to recover to reinvigerate it’s export driven economy.

Further changes to or fights with the IMF agreement will certainly not help matters.

None of that changes the fact the Ukraine is an excellent prospect if internal issues can be dealt with for an investor.  It is a little know fact that the Ukrainian stock market out performed most stock markets last year……despite the crisis.

Ukrainian arable land is the best in Europe for crops.  The exisiting monotorium preventing the sale of agricultural land to foreigners is not necessarily a stumbling block.  The standard lease to a foreigner or foreign company for agricultural land is 49 years with first rite to renew.  This is hardly a prohibitive timescale.

There is an absolute abundence of highly skilled and very technically savy young people in Ukraine and yet there is no “high-tech” manufacturing base, Ukrainian or foreign.

Much can be done to modernise the exisiting mines, mills and chemical plants here.

Which President will do more to either encourage through initiatives or through inward investment?

With initiatives it is hard to say.  Again easy to say and difficult to finance. 

With investment I anticipate either doing well in attracting it from Russia, China and the Middle East in hard assets. 

The EU will continue to wastefully throw money at ideological initiatives in attempts to change attitudes and psyche as they have previously done with the judiciary of course and the flow of incoming “western corporations” will slow as the flow from China, Asia in general and countries like Libya increases.

Could it be that the more neutral stance of both candidates will make Ukraine a melting pot of investment from all directions…..alternatively it may make all wary with no east/west path politically identifyable. 

Sadly the NGOs here both native and foreign are ineffective to say the least.  Given the amount of money thrown at them, I am sure that my mother could do a better job of promoting Ukraine……certainly most of the permanently resident expat community could.

Given an Honorary Consulship for Ukraine, I would be travelling the globe selling Ukraine to the world like a pimp does a prostitute.  Any serious company or person looking at Ukraine would have me knocking on their door……in person!

(Before you ask why I am not doing it now……it was offered not long ago……..with a cash price tag attached.  I am hardly going to pay to then spend my time saying how wonderful Ukraine is am I?…..Something is missing in that logic!).

Returning to the two candidates…….well both “have done a bit of bird” within the Ukrainian prison system. 

Ms Tymoshenko on fraud and embezzlement charges for which she cooled her heels for 2 months before being released without any convictions……..unsurprisingly, as very shortly afterwards she became Deputy Prime Minister under president Kuchma.

Mr Yanukovych for theft……8 months and assault……2 years.  Both crimes committed as a jouvenile and have since been expunged from his record.  To be fair though, not 1 of the 18 candidates were whiter than white and none could put hand on heart and say they have not profited from dodgey dealings or backhanders along the way.

The same can be said of all RADA members. 

Maybe a winning campaign pledge is to grant absolute immunity for previous misdoings (less murder or rape) to all parliamentary members and then remove the immunity completely which they currently hide behind.

If your past no longer can haunt you, then only your deeds for today and those of tomorrow will make you have need of any immunity after all.

Certainly a potential vote winner with those who suffer corruption daily and it would draw a line under personal criminal history, alledged or true, being used as an effective campaign weapon of the future.

A major issue is the style of leadership.  Ms Tymoshenko is a very capable politician………unfortunately surrounded by idiots.  Mr Yanukovych is not by any means, the sharpest tool in the tool box, but he is surrounded by some very clever people…….fortunately.

One will be a very autocratic, hands on style……the other, well nobody will really know who is pulling the strings.

Everything points towards two different paths to the same location.  The question is, which is the best and fastest route for the average Ukrainian to see the benefits?

Much has been said in the local press that nothing much will change.  I am starting to think that that is quite wrong and that things will change under either new President and the only question is how quickly and what.  That very much depends on the differing strategies and priorities of either candidate internally for Ukraine.

The end result will ultimately be the same……but different from now. 

5 years of foreign policy neutrality and a struggle to find the money to change things internally.  Of course tangable change will be expected immediately by the voters…….and of course such change will not be delivered immediately………because that is impossible to do for any President or government within 6 – 12 months of taking office.

Anyway, the warm up act is over and the real election starts now.

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2 comments

  1. Glad your liking it matey…..seems I have many more readers since I turned political assassin.


  2. Absolutely brilliant, matey. Mr Odessablogger – The Political commentator extraordinaire!



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