Friction remains within Solidarity – Odessa

September 20, 2015

A week ago, an entry was posted relating to the on-going friction within the Odessa region Solidarity camp, friction that in no uncertain terms that has been aggravated by First Deputy Chairman of Odessa Regional State Administration, Vladimir Zmack (Governor Saakashvili’s Number 2, as appointed by Governor Saakashvili.)

Within that entry was this paragraph:

“Full disclosure – Your author was asked his opinion by those who sit around the Governor’s top table, and your author opined that regardless of the shadow influence some will have far beyond any official positions, Mr Zhmak should not be Number 1. A local with some “moral authority”, namely a scientist or cultural figure would be a much wiser thing to do. Undoubtedly other opinions will be very similar, and undoubtedly other opinions will be sought!”

Fortunately, whilst undoubtedly your author’s opinion had absolutely no sway of any decision within the party, Mr Zmack will not be Number 1 on the Solidarity Party list for Odessa.

The decision was made today regarding the individual that will be named Number 1 on the Solidarity Party list for Odessa – although that name will not be revealed until Wednesday.


As this identity currently remains secret, all that will be said is that it is a figure with some “moral authority”, albeit gained neither science nor culture as opined in the aforementioned quote.  It is a figure from Odessa known for exceptional sporting prowess at the very highest international levels who has just turned 67 years of age.

It has to be said a far better choice politically for Number 1 on the list than Mr Zmack, but certainly not the best choice either.  It is not a choice that projects a reformist agenda, nor a choice that will get any traction with the reformists, the middle class, or the youth vote.  It may however have traction with the pensioner vote that revere (rightly) such Soviet heroes of yesteryear.  It is also a choice that makes it very difficult for any opposition to slander or besmirch.  An uninspiring safe choice, but not a brave choice or one that projects a progressive Solidarity Party in Odessa.

The as yet unannounced Solidarity Party candidate to run as Mayor is also somewhat surprising.  An individual that last time you author saw him mad clear that being put on the party list was not what he wanted.  That said, despite the current incumbent having 55 – 60% popularity rating in the last (secret) polls, this Solidarity candidate is definitely a reformer and certainly not a crook.  Perhaps that 5 – 10% can be overturned if there are no other candidates with traction or candidates that would eat into the Trukhanov constituency.  (Should Kivalov run for mayor that would have an effect on Trukhanov’s numbers for example.)   Nonetheless a surprising candidate for Mayor, as the candidate only last week was ruling himself out of party lists altogether.

Needless to say, when the identities are revealed on Wednesday, the above will become clearer.

However, whilst the above maybe interesting simply due to the intrigue until Wednesday, what is perhaps more interesting is the other shenanigans regarding who was also included on the Solidarity Party list – or not.

Mr Zmack made a point of trying to remove certain current Solidarity Party Oblast Rada personnel from the party list for the impending local elections.  The pattern of attempted removals suggested an effort to remove some of the young reformers and those he associates with being more aligned with others than Misha/himself, or less loyal to Misha/himself – despite some of these people actually being very good, progressive and conscientious in what they are trying to do for the Oblast.  (Indeed such people exist in the Odessa Oblast Rada, your author knows several of them.)

Within any democratic political party there has to be differing views to spur internal discussion and debate.  It is extremely unhealthy to create an unquestioning “rubber stamp” entity.  Party discipline yes, unquestioning conformity, no.

“Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination for injustice makes democracy necessary” – Reinhold Neibuhr

The above quote is as true within a political party as it is within the political discourse it partakes in on a local, regional and national scale.

The actions of Mr Zmack suggest what he is trying to do.

He is well aware that titles and official appointments within Ukrainian (and Russian) politics in no way reflect the “shadow influence” that individuals hold – which can be far greater, or much less, than any official title or position outwardly portrays to the naive onlooker.

That “shadow influence” is entirely dependent upon access to “the body”, and that body is currently Misha Saakashvili as long as he is here.  Mr Zmack is therefore seemingly trying to assemble an entirely unquestioning and submissive Oblast Party that is loyal (or at least completely obedient) to him, thus any future governor then knows where the power lies (assuming Mr Zmack does not replace the current incumbent and remains in Odessa, rather than riding on Mr Saakashvili’s coattails to political adventures new).

To be blunt, he has his work cut out to achieve it, and the friction being caused trying to accomplish it is unnecessarily destructive – for him too.

Adding cohesion, and thus becoming a figure of compromise rather than an arbiter in any attempt to divide and conquer local politicians who are almost genetically suspicious of a Rosneft man may be a wiser way to insure his longevity in local governance.  Perhaps he thinks that would be far harder to accomplish than his current tactics.

Perhaps it will all settle down after the local elections – perhaps not.


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