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Odessa Mayor elections will go to a second round (in all probability)

September 25, 2015

Before any of the runners and rider nominations for the Odessa elections were known an entry appeared with some guestimate figures and observations relative to the time (and unknown players).  Those figures will be updated in a week or two as the elections get closer and a “sense” of where the constituency is at becomes more settled.  A test of your author’s punditry despite it being a fools errand.

In that post it stated – “Obviously all numbers stated in this entry are “educated guesswork” but Mayor Trukhanov will probably garner anywhere between 55 – 60% of any votes cast for Mayor – possibly more being able to misuse city resources, owning almost all “big board” advertising space, having his on-line media, printed media, and TV channels – notwithstanding being the current incumbent and regularly in the local media as Mayor anyway.”

Last week another entry highlighted the nomination issues within Solidarity, and raised the possibility of Sergei Kivalov running and effecting the Trukhanov numbers – “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. 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.”

Yesterday’s entry confirmed the nominations of the Solidarity Party for Odessa and spent some time dwelling upon the possible fortunes of Sasha Borovik, the chosen candidate for Mayor.  Within that entry it stated – “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.”

No sooner had the “publish” button been pressed did your author receive a message stating that Sergei Kivalov has decided he will run for mayor.

This occurrence now makes thing more interesting – and protracted.

Had Mr Turkhanov received 55 – 60% of the vote there would be no requirement for a second round of voting.  51% would have been enough to win outright in the first round (no differently to presidential elections).

However, it is guaranteed that Sergei Kivalov running will split the Trukhanov vote, and will certainly manage to take enough percentage of the Trukhanov constituency vote to bring the current incumbent bellow the 51% required to win outright in the first round.

The second round of voting follows some 3 weeks later (although for presidential elections the time period is 2 weeks after the first round).

To be blunt Sergei Kivalov is very unlikely to win, or indeed make it into the second round as one of the top two candidates – a situation he will be well aware of.

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Sergei Kivalov

So why is he running?

Firstly, no matter how remote the chance, there is still a chance he could get to the second round.

More realistically there are two reasons.  The first is that his local political party Morskaya was predicted in the opening link to garner between 5% – 7% and thus just make it over the 5% threshold to take up seats on the city council.  Mr Kivalov wanted to garner 10% of the vote which is extremely unlikely.  In fact the 5% threshold is far too close for comfort.  Therefore by running for mayor, Mr Kivalov will hope to give his party a small boost in an effort to insure the 5% threshold is passed.  To be blunt he needs his party in the city council to sit on committees that will try and look after his (legitimate and also nefarious) interests.

The second reason is to deliberately force a second round of voting, even though he will probably not be in the second round himself.

As Mayor Trukhanov still seems certain the reach the second round, who else from the known candidates for mayor could he face?

Obviously there is a chance Kivalov will make it (albeit slim).  Sasha Borovik now stands a chance if he can muster even a 10% increase in the usual youth vote.  There is also Svetlana Fabrikant (a Kolomoisky charade under the Vidrodgennya label rather than Ukrop) who could come second in the first round – but Sergei Kivalov gains nothing from these candidates reaching the second round against Mr Trukhanov.

The last possibility is two-time previous Mayor of Odessa, Eduard Gurvitz.

Mr Gurvitz may have always been of the “Orange” political stripe and Mr Kivalov of the “Blue” political stripe, but Odessa is a mercantile city and business has always trumped politics.  Mr Gurvitz and Mr Kivalov are very, very good friends and have been for a long, long time.  Both are also known for their highly questionable dealings historically.

Ergo, putting Mr Kivalov’s slim chances to one side, the motivation for his running is twofold.  An electoral “bump” for his Morskaya party and also to split the Trukhanov vote with the intention of Mr Gurvitz getting to the second round.

(It is you author’s firmly held belief that if it came to a second round vote between Messrs Gurvitz and Trukhanov, the former would lose convincingly to the later.)

However, giving Mr Turkhanov a pass to the second round, the electoral race in the first round (although other candidates may appear to change this), is between Ms Fabrikant, Messrs Kivalov, Gurvitz and Sasha Borovik all of whom are capable of coming in second and progressing.

In percentage voting base terms as of today there is not much between these candidates – a guestimate would have Sergei Kivalov at approximately 15%, Ms Fabrikant at about 12%, Mr Gurvitz at about 17% and Mr Borovik at about 15%.

Depending upon who makes it to the second round against Mayor Trukhanov, depends upon how stark the voter choice will be.

A choice between Trukhanov and Kivalov is simply a choice between criminal master – or a choice between removing your own eyes with a spoon or removing them with a fork as either way the city will remain extremely corrupt and be robbed blind at every opportunity.  Mr Gurvitz perhaps a little less so, with only a single eye being removed by a very affable man.

Ms Fabrikant hands City Hall to Ihor Kolomoisky, but a vivid choice should it become a vote between Messrs Turkhanov and Borovik presents itself.

Clearly Messrs Trukhanov, Kivalov and Gurvitz have long term name recognition in Odessa – as well as owning local media by way of TV, radio, newspapers and on-line news sites.  Ms Fabrikant can rely on favourable Kolomoisky media, leaving Mr Borovik at a distinct disadvantage both in name recognition and in captive campaign delivery systems..

To remain with the Sasha Borovik theme of yesterday, and as he is the least known name amongst the local electorate, there will be things he will have to consider.

The first and most important will be how to mobilise at least 10% more of the youth vote if he is to progress to the second round – where upon the electoral choice will be stark and all those who do not support Mayor Trukhanov will have the choice of voting Borovik or not voting at all and watching Trukhanov remain mayor by their inaction.  A rapid marketing of the “Borovik” name is required.

Mr Borovik would have a 3 week window between the first and second round to convince the “not for Turkhanov” voters to vote for him rather than simply not vote in the second round.

With regard to the youth vote, Mr Borovik is yet to be seen in a suit, regardless of the occasion.  (He tells your author that is because his wardrobe is still in Germany and he has had no time to go and collect it.)  To be blunt, a “hipster” jeans and T Shirt dress code sits well with the youth – but it doesn’t turn a youth out to the polling station.  As no other candidate will target the 18 – 30 demographic, even an ineffective attempt may be effective enough to pull together the initial 10% required to reach the second round.

Some serious and swift thought has to be given to reaching the university/technical college voters.  Mingling with the truly inspiration (and chronically under-publicised) young people at the “Impact Hub” in Odessa is no bad thing – for they are a connected and dynamic network of young people.   In saying that, previous dismally failing attempts by historical candidates have taken on the form of the candidate talking as a “parent” to the student body/young professionals to the “child”.

Parent to child conversations will not get the youth to vote.  Adult to adult conversations (ie conversations being a two-way interaction) will stand a far better chance, and Mr Borovik speaks well and will gain some traction if a conscious effort to speak “adult to adult” is made.  It is a demographic for him to capture if he can get in front of it enough.

However, as your author is an experienced “politics watcher” in Odessa (at least to the point whereby election observers always seek out your author for insight) Mr Borovik’s faces a major challenge not so much in the candidates he competes against, but the very well oiled, almost militarily organised and professional teams behind those candidates.

All have very experienced local (and in some cases national) election teams behind them that keep their candidates on message, primed with answers to difficult questions and prepped with difficult questions for them to ask of others, slick PR that overcomes their candidate’s usually very nefarious past, captive media outlets and a “gloves off” approach to campaigning.  In short they have solid campaign structures behind them that are very much of the school where the ends justify the means, whereas Mr Borovik by nature and conviction is very much the means are equally as important, if not more so, than the ends.

Mr Borovik would do well to quickly assemble a team around him that knows how best to put him on a level playing field on the campaign front, and do so in a manner that will not cross his moral lines.  A campaign team that will push the fact that he is not only talking about reformist agendas – but that will continually highlight the fact that he has already made and implemented reforms within the few months he has been in Odessa – unlike the candidates who have never reformed anything in Odessa despite their lengthy political histories in the city.

Turning up and speaking at events as “Advisor to the Governor” which he seems to do almost daily, does little to promote his candidacy for mayor unless he turns up as “Candidate for Mayor and Advisor to the Governor” in that order (audience depending).  For certain win or lose as mayor, he will still enter City Hall when he will become City Deputy and Advisor to the Governor in that order (audience depending).

If he can mobilise a 10% additional youth vote over and above that which does turn out, and increase his name recognition factor,  if he can quickly assemble a campaign team that can run in the slick and seamless manner as those of his competitors undoubtedly will and are already mobilising,  and if he pushes the fact he has already made more necessary changes to Odessa than his longstanding rivals ever have, then there is no reason why he will not be the challenger to Mayor Trukhanov in the second round.

He will then have 3 weeks to present a very stark choice to the electorate.

Thanks to Sergei Kivalov (of all people) there will now be a second round of voting (in all probability), and one in which Ms Fabrikant, Messrs Gurvits, Kivalov and Borovik stand a far better chance of causing a political upset – albeit that chance currently remains limited.

However, if the Opposition Block put up a half-decent candidate, then that would really put Mayor Trukhanov on the back foot in the first round!

It could all get very interesting very quickly – or not!

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