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Saakashvili calls out Kivalov for election manipulation (already)

September 10, 2015

Since the arrival of Governor Saakashvili, one of those ever-present questions that eddies beneath the apparent still waters of politics in Odessa was who, between the nefarious Mayor Trukhanov and the odious MP and Rector of Odessa Law Acadamy Sergei Kivalov, Governor Saakashvili would take on head to head.  (Though head to head is not necessarily the best way to deal with either.)

To be frank, with Mayor Trukhanov being about twice as popular as Governor Saakashvili, and MP Kivalov being far less popular than either of them, the dice were probably cast in advance.  That being particularly so as Mayor Trukhanov is at the very least prepared to be seen to go with the current political flow and be seen to be “on-side” (if not exactly trying to go on the straight and narrow, nor believing in the current political flow either).

So, if there is to be a head to head between the Governor and an infamous and entrenched political character from Odessa, Sergei Kivalov it will have to be (no others have the national recognition) – and as Mr Kivalov is known for his extremely nefarious hand in the election fraud that launched the Orange Revolution (amongst several other odious acts on a national scale) and locally for his grip on the judicial system, a better local opponent there probably could not be.

Certainly taking on both Mayor Trukhanov and Sergei Kivalov simultaneously would probably be too much of a task – but then taking on Sergei Kivalov who enjoys MPs immunity (and impunity) and who also has a strong influence over the local judicial system will not be easy either.

Thus choosing battles with Mr Kivalov wisely matters.  Indeed even shots across the bows need be well aimed.

Sergei Kivalov is the leader of a local Odessa political party called Morskaya.  His aim is to gain 10% in the city council elections – though that seems somewhat hopeful.  5 – 7% would be more realistic.  Nevertheless he will get his people into City Hall where they will do their very best to sabotage issues that would harm Mr Kivalov’s interests, chair a committee or two that progress his interests, and generally otherwise act as spies/informants to Mr Kivalov on daily City Hall matters, conspiracies and rumours.

Mr Kivalov will not make any headway in the Oblast Rada, but then he has no need to.  Almost all of his interests sit within Primorsky Rayon which falls within the City limits of Odessa and under the immediate custody of the Mayor – whom he knows well and has known for a long time.

However, not all of Mr Kivalov’s interests are within the city limits, but those interests elsewhere in the Oblast do not require Oblast Rada representation to protect them.  Targeting specific Village, or Town Councils will be enough to get the local decisions to go his way.

It is here that Governor Saakashvili has fired his first public shot directly and unmistakably across the Sergei Kivalov bow.

About one hours drive from the city of Odessa is a small town called Zatoka that runs along the beaches of Black Sea.  It is a Soviet era holiday resort, complete with (concentration) camps for children and numerous (now abandoned) hotels within a Soviet-looking Butlins holiday perimeter of large proportions.  (Indeed if film makers are looking for a Chernobyl (by the sea) looking deserted town minus the radiation, Zatoka fits the bill perfectly.)

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It is also Datcha-ville.

There are thousands of datchas in and around Zatoka, and the population of a few hundred most of the year, during the summer months grows to thousands and thousands.  As such land by the sea, or very close to the sea, is unbelievably expensive for a place that would otherwise qualify as a boil on the arse of Odessa.

It is here, Governor Saakashvili claims, Sergei Kivalov is already manipulating the local elections set to take place on 25th October.

With only a small number of permanently, and more importantly registered voters in Zakota, to sway the outcome of the Village Council vote by a sudden influx of registered voters is perhaps not so very difficult for a man that falsified the election results that led to the Orange Revolution in 2004/5.  This particularly so when there is a university full of voting age students who cannot really afford to upset the Rector lest their results become inexplicably poor regardless of the quality of their work.

According to the Governor, Mr Kivalov has been actively registering his students in Zakota, all of whom would naturally vote for Kivalov backed candidates, with the intention of inserting his people into the Village Council.  Once this is accomplished, prime land sales to Mr Kivalov, apparently at favourable prices, is the aim of this alleged grubby little plan.  The Governor further stating it was a classic example of election manipulation – which if true, it is at the very least a preparatory act.

The question is whether anything can or will be done about it.  Perhaps yet hundreds more students from the Odessa Law Academy will continue to be registered as voters in Zakota, or perhaps those registered will be subject to investigation following the Governor’s claims.

If there is any substance to the Governor’s claims, how to tie (more than circumstantially) the alleged events into anything substantial?  Certainly no “conspiracy” will stand up within a local court system heavily influenced by Mr Kivalov – who has MP’s immunity (and uses it with impunity) anyway.

The Rada were already due to consider stripping his immunity once, but the matter, for reasons unknown, slipped from the agenda on the day Sergei Klyuiev lost his.  Perhaps because Mr Kivalov generally, in fact almost always, votes in line with the coalition majority since it came to power – and individual votes will matter with several constitution changing issues before the Rada this session, and 300 plus votes being beyond the majority coalition alone.

So with the Governor having already alleged election manipulation some 46 days before voting day, what is going to be done about it – either proactively or reactively, and by whom?  Is it an act more than merely preparatory to the commission of an offence – or not?

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