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Back to the Odessa political shenanigans

October 13, 2015

Apologies to all readers for the zooming in on the politics of Odessa and then zooming out to the politics and policies of Ukraine so often recently that it must make a reader feel woozy – but there are certain IPs that read this blog from afar with particular interest in the local picture, whereas most readers are content with ruminations of a more national scale.  A feeble attempt is made to accommodate all.

A few days ago an entry appeared relating to the fact Sergei Kivalov had withdrawn from the race for Mayor of Odessa – despite the fact the will remain on the ballot as there is no way to take him off with the printers having already done their thing.

In fact, legally Article 47 of the Law of Ukraine states a candidate can withdraw only up to, and no later than, 18 days prior to the election date.  That date would have been 7th October, with Mr Kivalov withdrawing on 10th October and thus not only is legally obliged to appear on the ballot, he remains a legal contender.

Thus despite his announcement of no longer running, some people will still vote for him, and those votes will count.  (The only way off the ballot now for those upon it is to be found guilty of grave crimes, renouncing Ukrainian citizenship, or a slight case of death before polling day.)

The question is thus remains whether enough will vote for Mr Kivalov to split the Trukhanov vote to the point of forcing a second round of voting?

Any second round would therefore be between Trukhanov and probably Eduard Gurvitz.  Despite Sasha Borovik having some momentum in the polls, for a previously unknown candidate to seriously challenge the Trukhanov vote with only a month of campaigning is really on par with fanciful thinking such as riding a unicorn, jumping it over a rainbow, and landing in a pond of caramel syrup amongst the scantily clad, nubile young ladies of the Odessa beach volleyball team, when considering the realms of probability.

That said, Mr Borovik is guaranteed to enter the City Council and become a spanner in the works of the nefarious goings-on for the next 2 years (or for as long as he decides to remain).  If he becomes a local governance transparency mogul and recongised corruption whistle blower during those 2 years, alongside promoting sensible local policies, then a far stronger run beckons only 24 months(ish) from now.

The Governor’s advisor is surely not going to be a loser regardless of result in his first throw of the dice in the local politics of Odessa.  The interesting question is what constituency base he will have to build upon post the elections of 25th October.

Governor Saakashvili also has a man within the Guvitz camp (Dmitry Sashkin) on an “advisory basis”.  This for a candidate that has been Mayor twice and a runner four times, one can only wonder what advice can be given to Mr Gurvitz over an election campaign to an office he knows intimately.  One suspects something of a small “side-bet” by the Governor “just in case”.

All of that said, the current incumbent Gennady Trukhanov looks certain to remain mayor.  Ihor Kolomoisky will be pleased having him backed him in the previous elections and being behind him once again.  Their shared nefarious interests at the ports secured for another two years it appears.  Organsied Crime can relax a little.

Indeed in the clear absence of Solidarity Party cash and electoral machinery behind the Borovik campaign, and the lack of tacit (hedging) support for the independent Gurvitz campaign from the current political ruling elites, a decision has obviously been made to not seriously contest another Trukhanov (Kolomoisky) term as City Mayor.  Such a decision it has to be said, will have been taken at the very top – probably by Borys Lozhkin.

Meanwhile the highly organised (and very pleasant) Maria Gaidar looks fairly certain of winning her seat in the Oblast Rada – which will be no bad thing depending upon what committees she then ends up upon and how much influence she gains or loses vis a vis that she has now as part of the Saakashvili Administration.  (One has to suspect she will be placed on the right committees and will do very well though.)

Thus these and other leading lights of the Saakashvili advisory/administrative team will be democratically inserted into the political life of Odessa before the Governor moves on – and he will certainly move on sometime before May 2016.  Probably sooner rather than later.

To where he will move, who can say?  The much muted “Prime Minister Saakashvili” is a possibility, but it would depend upon who else is on the table.  If “Prime Minister Natalie Jaresko” is on the table, then forget the Saakashvili option.  She is domestically far more popular, a far safer and predictable pair of hands, and a Prime Minister that would cause no waves of discontent in any capitals west or east.

Simply for the entertainment value, Attorney/Prosecutor General Saakashvili has a chaos appeal, undoubtedly causing earthquakes within the establishment that continues to operate with impunity above the law – which is why it is very unlikely.  After a perceived as failed lustration process and three terrible Attorny/Prosecutor General appointments in 18 months, an acceptance that neither President Poroshenko nor Prime Minister Yatseniuk are not at all serious about tackling corruption amongst the highest echelons of Ukrainian political/business society is fairly clear to all despite –  their continuous rhetoric to the contrary.

To challenge those widely held negative perceptions requires not one, but half a dozen of the very biggest of fish to be fried and/or a willful, visibly independent and thus politically uncontrollable AG/PG appointment – neither of which seem very likely to happen.   As has been written before, the current leadership can only take Ukraine so far due to mutually held kompromat upon each other, and thus new leadership unsullied amongst the oligarchy cesspit will have to complete the journey for Ukraine.

Therefore what will be the next role for Governor Saakashvili currently remains unclear – as does any replacement for him.

Whatever the case, the mayoral, city and oblast elections are likely to see only a marginal improvement in the quality of democratically elected representatives.  A few more better candidates in and a few more poor candidates out – but not enough to significantly tip the balance away from nefarious and feckless governance toward transparent and constituency first governance.

Amongst the many reasons for this, remain the refusal of parties to purge themselves of their worst, a distinct lack of electoral manifesto, and more broadly a distinct lack of identifiable ideology to attract a strong party membership that would provide a strength and depth from which to pull good candidates, and the lack of foresight in realising that 26th October, the day after the next elections, is in fact the first day of campaigning for the next elections which will be but two years hence – where actions now will speak far louder than words then.

Nevertheless, in such an ocean of fecklessness, the competent will float upon the surface and clearly stand out.  Perhaps they will take it upon themselves to drive some identifiable internal party policy in a local context – eventually.

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