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The political infiltration begins – Borovik to Odessa City Hall

September 24, 2015

A few days ago an entry appeared relating to a closed session of the Solidarity Party of Odessa and the thrashing out of candidates for Mayor of Odessa, number 1 on the party City list and number 1 on the Oblast list, as well as more generally who went on – or in some cases stayed on the party list despite nefarious efforts to take them off – as the internal shenanigans and power plays unfolded.

Whilst it was clear to any reader via the clues provided your author knew the nominated candidates identities and of the malarkey behind the scenes, the identities of the eventual candidates were not stated as their official unveiling was not to occur until Wednesday 23rd.

Not being a journalist, in no need of scoops, and certainly not about to breach a confidence when told one, only now can those identities be named, and a certain amount of the negotiations behind the Solidarity curtain be revealed.

The above linked entry stated – “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.

Anybody that interested in pursuing the clues provided would have correctly arrived at Mykola Avilov who will be Number 1 on the Solidarity Party Oblast list.

As stated then, and to be reiterated – “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.

With regard to the candidate for Mayor, the above linked entry stated “The as yet unannounced Solidarity Party candidate to run as Mayor is also somewhat surprising. An individual that last time you author saw him made clear that being put on the party list was not what he wanted.” and “this Solidarity candidate is definitely a reformer and certainly not a crook.” and “Nonetheless a surprising candidate for Mayor, as the candidate only last week was ruling himself out of party lists altogether.

The candidate for Mayor, as well as Number 1 on the City Council list for Solidarity is Sasha Borovik, a current advisor to Governor Saakashvili in charge of “projects” and a soul often thrown out in front of the media and at innumerate conferences and forums as the “second face” of the Governor’s Administration.

Sasha B

Without doubt, being the “second face” is certainly not something Mr Borovik had in mind when he came to work in Odessa as an advisor.  Neither, it has to be said, would the thought of running for Mayor or indeed entering politics as a democratically elected politician have been on his agenda.

Events a few days ago, it seems (and as outlined below), would suggest Mr Borovik has acted rather selflessly (and perhaps against his better judgment)  for the benefit of the Solidarity Party – and hopefully for the city and oblast too.

He was, however, per this entry weeks ago, the mostly likely candidate with any “pull factor” in your author’s mind when speculating over the Solidarity candidate for Mayor.

“The previous Mayor, Eduard Gurvitz? At 67 years old and a “colourful” history?

If not him, who? Who else has any current traction or political history with the city electorate (discounting Governor Saakashvili who features later)? Sasha Borovik?”

To turn the clock back to the weekend and the negotiations behind the curtain, as was stated in linked entries above, First Deputy Chairman of Odessa Regional State Administration, Vladimir Zmack, who wanted to be the Number 1 on the Oblast list, fortunately failed in that pursuit – in no small part due to having caused a lot of friction within the party rank and file since his arrival within the Saakashvili team.  Reap as ye sew.  Nevertheless the decision will continue to irk him and a close eye will be kept upon the people on the party list that he wanted to remove – but failed to.

For any that advocate the projection of a reformist agenda (be it real or perceived) the rather uninspiring selection of  Mykola Avilov is therefore not the best of choices – but is certainly not the worst of choices as far as internal party politics is concerned.

With regard to the candidate for Mayor, as previously stated, two weeks ago Mr Borovik was at best lukewarm to the idea.

Thus the Governor tried to forward a candidate called Burda – but Mr Burda refused.

To cut a long story short, eventually, Mr Borovik ended up as the candidate despite at the time of his selection being somewhat less than excited by the national Solidarity Party brand.  Locally that brand may be a little more exciting for him – or not.

Today however, and for the press, Mr Borovik was officially announced as the Solidarity candidate for Mayor and simultaneously Number 1 on the City list.  His nomination backed unanimously for the cameras and Mr Borovik humbly accepted the party nomination(s).

With the current Mayor Gennady Trukhanov likely to garner 55 – 60% of the vote, Mr Borovik as of the time of his candidacy announcement for Mayor can probably start from a solid 15% of the city constituency vote.

Mayor Trukhanov’s voter base seems unlikely to be split by any possible candidacy of Sergei Kivalov, who despite mutterings about running is very unlikely to actually run.

Therefore Mr Borovik’s campaign will need to mobilise the reformists and the 18 – 30’s voter base to insure he stands a chance.  After all Mayor Trukhanov does not appeal to a lot of voters of that age range.  If there is any candidate that can and perhaps will draw the most from that demographic (as ridiculous as it may appear) it is the candidate in the below youtube clip.

Does Mr Borovik’s campaign have sufficient time to energise the 18-30’s vote so that peak enthusiasm and turnout can be optimised?  Probably not, but who knows?  A solid, engaging and infectious campaign amongst that age group no Odessa politician has ever managed (or seriously tried).

There is no precedent for targeting that demographic, and Mr Borovik unlike any other candidate has lived the aspirations of this part of the voting constituency.  He has lived and worked abroad.  He is an academic and also an achiever in the foreign private sector.  When he talks about European integration and what it takes, he can talk about it as a candidate that knows very well what is required – and not as a candidate who thinks they know what may be required.

Nevertheless, regardless of the campaign for mayor, Mr Borovik will become a democratically elected City Council member being Number 1 on the City list for Solidarity – that is 100% assured.

As Number 1 he will also become the head of the Solidarity Party in the City Council which is likely to be between 25 – 30% of the council – perhaps slightly more as Mr Borovik through almost constant (if initially unwanted) media exposure has a “pull factor” of about 3 or 4% (those additional “pull votes” likely to be amongst the well educated “conference/forum goers” of Odessa.)

Maria Gaidar, another advisor to Governor Saakashvili is also running for election on the Oblast Solidarity list too.

Thus the infiltration of the Governor’s advisory team into the democratically elected politics of Odessa (both city and oblast) is underway.

With President Poroshenko having already stated there will be more local elections in 2 years time (probably to accommodate the expiration of the “Special Law” relating to the Donbas), 2 years in City Hall will certainly provide time to mount a far better challenge for Mayor – as well as make life far more uncomfortable during that time for Mayor Trukhanov’s people, the Opposition Block and Sergei Kivalov’s Morskaya deputies, all of whom will perceive Mr Borovik as “the Governor’s man” – particularly if he also continues to be an advisor to the Governor.

Whether Mr Borovik actually is “the Governor’s man” is a different question.

Whilst Governor Saakashvili is very much an “ends justifies the means” persona, Mr Borovik seems far more inclined to question whether the “means can justify the ends” (based upon your author’s time with Mr Borovik).  A democratically elected position independent of the Governor may lead to a far more identifiable Mr Borovik as Mr Borovik – and not Mr Borovik, advisor to Governor Saakashvili.

There will of course be some that see Mr Borovik (and Maria Gaidar) as people that “don’t know Odessa” which may or may not be true (for they have both been immersed in the political fires of Odessa where learning occurs quickly), but they at the very least offer a reformist bridge between the old local political elite of Odessa and the active political generation starting to emerge that is not yet ready to leave the political nursery.  As the perception of momentum is vital for reform, whether either actually “know Odessa” or not is perhaps a secondary matter.

Regardless, as the future Mr Borovik now has ahead of him is certainly not the future he envisaged when he answered Misha Saakashvili’s call, and perhaps it is a future that still sits somewhat uncomfortably, then one must wish him good fortune and fortitude for his forthcoming adventure within the snake pit that is City Hall.

Expect him to do rather better than many may expect when he gets there.

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