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Odessa Mayor elections – very strange!

April 15, 2014

Yes dear readers I know there are matters of urgent national importance unraveling on a minute by minute basis in Ukraine at the moment – but – today is one of those few Odessa-centric entries.  A return to matters national tomorrow.

You may remember early this month I wrote an entry about the strength – or not – of Party Regions in Odessa post the implosion that followed the speedy exit of the Yanukovych clique.

After the failed coup attempt aty Odessa City Hall in that entry, the next is due today.  Whether it will have the same dismal result we shall see.

However, concluding that entry as I did with this penultimate paragraph – “The next political attempt to remove Oleg Bryndaka will now take on 15th April, just over a month before the elections for Mayor occur on 25th May. The mayoral elections are very likely to return Eduard Gurvitz – a current UDAR MP – to the mayoral position he vacated only a few years ago in a disputed election result.” – there is a need to expand upon it, as circumstances may change dramatically that call for a caveat.

Firstly I have become aware of a proposed law that will change the mayoral elections from a single round of voting into a two round affair.  This law due to be submitted and possibly adopted by the end of April.

I must admit I am never overly keen on electoral laws changing so close to elections, and I suspect many election monitoring organisations may not be too pleased either.  A healthy six month gap between new laws and elections always seems more appropriate to give all concerned the chance to fully understand any changes.

It also changes the chances of Mr Gurvitz whom I mention in the above quote.

Currently there are only really two candidates who stand a realistic chance of winning.  Eduard Gurvitz and Gennady Truhanov – though I understand that Igor Markov is considering running and that would make three.  No others either already entered or who would enter before 28th April candidate deadline will stand a chance worthy of a paragraph.

gurv

Having held the position of Odessa Mayor before and doing a far better job than his predecessor ot those that followed him in the eyes of many, Mr Gurvitz would certainly win the mayoral election if the law remains the same and the first past the post system based upon a single round of voting.

It appears he is so confident that he has not yet even started a media campaign.  That said he was seen with Sergey Kivalov, who lives just down the road from me, two days ago here in Odessa.  Sergey owns three local TV stations amongst his wide business empire.

Undoubtedly Sergey Kivalov would back Mr Gurvitz before any other candidate despite them coming from opposing political camps.  Business interests before politics as is usual in the feckless world in which they live.

Mr Gurvitz is also doing the rounds with the serious local business elite – but no media campaign whatsoever.  No TV, no radio, no posters – not even a flyer.

Perhaps soon early?  Not for his opposing candidates it’s not.

genn

In  contrast, Mr Truhanov has already started his mayoral campaign.  He is a candidate that would benefit from two rounds of voting and is likely to pick up quite a lot of votes of those eliminated in any first round.  He, like Mr Gurvitz, is currently a serving RADA MP.

Unlike Mr Gurvitz, or indeed Mr Markov who I will come on to, Mr Truhanov is also a very hard businessman and those who cross his business interests locally discover what a mistake that can be – even if simply protesting about the raising of car parking fees, an enterprise he controls across the city.  That is not to infer Mr Truhanov is personally taking part in any such “negotiation” per the above link – but it reinforces his reputation.

If the new law is passed and if the mayoral election went to a second round – Mr Truhanov’s chances improve dramatically.  In fact he may be favourite to win in such circumstances if only he and Mr Gurvitz go forward as the two remaining candidates.

igor

Then there is my neighbour, Igor Markov.  Just released from prison having crossed Viktor Yanukovych.  His RADA MP mandate now returned to him.  He would make the third (currently RADA MP) candidate with a realistic chance of winning.

Mr Markov is currently considering running but has made no decision yet.  He leads the Russia-leaning Rodina party in Odessa – though quite how Russia leaning it truly is (besides language issues) is hard to tell.  Secession of Odessa to Russia is certainly not on his agenda.

He is very good friends with Yulia Tymoshenko and has been for many years – Let not politics get in the way of their mutual business interests in Odessa.  Bizarrely he could be her favoured candidate of the three – despite being “Russia-leaning”.

Igor also owns (Russia-leaning obviously) Art TV amongst numerous business interests in the city.

(In case you are wondering there are only really 3 local unmistakably Russia-leaning local TV stations from about 20 local channels in Odessa.  They are Art TV, Reporter and Academia – a tip for election monitors that come to Odessa – National channels and their biases are a different matter for a different entry.)

If Mr Markov decides to run, and I suspect he will decide very close to the 28th April deadline, then I will be forced to revisit the chances of Messrs Gurvitz and Truhanov once more – upon entering the race his dynamic changes any two round election quite dramatically – particularly for Mr Truhanov who could possibly fail to get into the second round.

What seems quite bizarre is that it may very well be that this term in office runs only until October when a new city council is to be elected.  (Hopefully new national RADA elections at the same time too).  Normally and according to statute, which as I say may chance this month, the city council and mayoral elections occur simultaneously with terms of office running concurrently.

The forced resignation of the last mayor by the Yanukovych regime providing an apparent need to fill the vacant Mayor spot at the same time the constituency go to the polls for presidential elections for the current interim government.  The more unquestionably legitimate leadership figures, as quickly as possible, the better from their perspective naturally.

In summary the situation seems rather messy.  Questions of new laws – or not – within weeks of elections.  Popular candidates running without any media campaign whatsoever.  Two (or three) candidates (of which the most Russian-leaning would be Ms Tymoshenko’s pick) running for an office that may only be held until October, where upon there seems every likelihood further mayoral elections will occur together with the rest of the city council, unless the legislature are on the ball – which is unlikely given the competence of Ukrainian law makers.

It makes today’s second attempt to oust the current acting leader seem somewhat pointless – until we recall he is a supporter the of federalisation of Ukraine, and damage is easily done by such people if left in a position to do so in the current circumstances.

All really rather discombobulated!

A return to broad brush strokes and national issues tomorrow, as I know most readers prefer that than to read local tittle-tattle.

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