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Let’s play “Pick-a-Prime Minister” on the back of the local elections

October 26, 2015

The local elections are now due to swap from polling (where carousel voting, duplicate lists, fake exist polls, candidate agitators etc has been almost blatant, and with Odessa likely to see at least 30% of polling stations having irregularities recorded against them by election monitors prior to the polls closing – plus a transitional period to that of ballot counting whereupon yet more irregularities will be recorded due to deliberately slow counting, disappearing electoral commission members (with mobiles in hand), ballot box stuffing, stop and start counting again, vanishing ballot boxes, and then when everybody is so tired to pay due attention diligently, a rapid (and irregular) count is completed providing court-worthy considerations that may cast a darker and lasting shadow over events – possibly until 15th November and any second round voting for mayors.

Left outside an Left outside an Odessa polling station today - for stuffing perhaps?

Left outside an Left outside an Odessa polling station today – for stuffing perhaps?

This notwithstanding having gone through almost the entirety of electoral legislation which has been brazenly breached over the past month during the Odessa campaigning.  (No exaggeration, barely a law has been left unbroken.)

One wonders just what is going to appear in the official reports of the official observers – for this election has been nowhere near the standards of the presidential, nor Verkhovna Rada elections of 2014.

Indeed it has been so consistently illicit in its nature that it belongs with elections from a decade past.

Of course the content of the official reports very much depend upon who actually writes the reports – and equally upon who decides who writes the reports.  So openly dirty, illicit and unambiguously grubby has this election and the associated campaigning been in comparison to those elections held last year, there is going to be more than a little room for doubting any official report that states anything to the contrary.  The entire election campaign in Odessa (and clearly in other regions too) has been an affront to the rule of law from start – and it seems, to finish.

Yet, somehow, it will be seen to pass the international “official sniff test” despite the rank odour the campaigning has given off from the very start.

Admittedly, and it is right to note, not all of the recorded irregularities over the preceding months and today/tomorrow, are irregularities that would or could change the voting behaviour of the constituency.  Nor effect the ballot counting.  Minor irregularities clearly will not sway a voter or an electoral count, but they are nonetheless irregularities.  Some irregularities certainly will be of that very serious category however.

Whatever the case, it seems likely that the elections will pass the “official sniff test” so as not to put (another) hurdle in the way of decentralisation.  (This despite months ago stating it would be incredibly hard (though not quite impossible) to garner the constitutional majority of 300+ votes to facilitate decrentralisation as the situation stands in the occupied Donbas anyway.)

As has also been written more than a month ago, the local elections are a litmus test for populist politicians such as Yulia Tymoshenko.  Depending upon how close to Solidarity her Batkivshchyna Party gets, ultimately will decide upon her timing for leaving the majority coalition – or not.

She may decide to stay if she feels she remains too far adrift to gain anything by forcing an early Verkhovna Rada election.

Certainly the Opposition Block (soon to be Party of Peace and Regional Development) post local elections will be trying to force a new Verkhovna Rada election – especially if they can force the decentralisation laws through with the President’s party, for they are the presumed beneficiaries of any elections in the currently occupied Donbas for the Verkhovna Rada – The “separatist parties” simply won’t get reach any national 5% threshold and thus only a few single mandate, first past the post, seats would be theirs – at best.

Indeed, if and when the occupied Donbas reenters the Ukrainian political system and economy, it seems extremely unlikely to be accomplished through Solidarity, Batkivshchyna, or anybody other than the Opposition Block politically, and Rinat Akhmetov as the largest employer in that region.  (This political and economic reality may help explain why both Akhmetov and Opp Block leader Yuri Boiko remain in circulation rather than in prison – they may yet prove to be useful.)

Whatever the case in the occupied Donbas, Ms Tymoshenko will try (again) to leverage her position to Prime Minister on the back of the local election results either by trying to force a new Verkhovna Rada election (along with the Opposition Block), or via a Cabinet reshuffle citing her improved societal vote.

So, let’s play “Pick-a-Prime Minister” with the inevitable demise of Arseniy Yatseniuk some time next year – probably by the Spring.

Oleksandr Turchynov has a chance if Solidarity successfully assimilates the National Front and can maintain a majority that can operate without over reliance upon other existing coalition partners.  To remove a NF prime minister and reappoint a newly assimilated post-NF prime minister may be required as part of the assimilation deal.

The above, however, may ultimately lead to the uncomfortable possibility of a “managed democracy”, in which case Mikheil Saakashvili, Boris Lozhkin, Ihor Kononenko, and Volodymyr Groysman are all also in the frame post NF assimilation.

Groysman was Poroshenko’s preferred Prime Minister from the offset.  Kononenko is definitely part of the “grey government” and is very influential at present.  Lozhkin has been making noticeable noises and shuffles behind the curtain to the point that his ambition to hold the role seems quite clear – and that would explain why somebody has already tried to cut that ambition down to size by having Austria now question funds held in that nation that are attributed to Lozhkin.  (A smell has now deliberately been wafted around him that involves Austria and thus the EU to let him know his limitations.)  As for Saakashvili, if  Ms Jaresko was interested, he would have no chance – if he actually has any chance at all (ignoring media hype).

To be blunt, Ms Jaresko would be the only realistic possibility that could gather a domestic political consensus and also enjoy the support of friendly external supporters and donors -but is she interested?  She would probably take the role out of a sense of obligation to Ukraine to avoid internal implosion, but that does not equate to wanting the role.  Notwithstanding a serious corruption fumble between now and any ouster/resignation of PM Yatseniuk, she is perhaps the only “consensus: alternative.

However if the growing gap between Samopomich and an ego driven Yulia Tymoshenko continues to widen, then there is the option, (particularly if the reintegration of the occupied Donbas is to occur via an Akhmetov/Opp Block combination), of a coalition with the Opposition Block.  That would put Serhiy Lyovochkin as a solid candidate for Prime Minister.  (Poroshenko’s Solidarity is not exactly short of ex-Regionaires amongst its ranks after all.)

Alternatively, the oligarchy is now nowhere near as weak and flat-footed as it was this time last year.  A rallying around, for example (choose any political vehicle) the “Renaissance Party” by Kolomoisky, Lyovochkin, Firtash (vested interests before political stripe) – and with the fickle and entirely self-serving Tymoshenko being offered the Prime Minister’s role (and thus Batkivshchyna cooperation/coalition) would present yet another scenario that is not beyond the realms of possibility.

Nobody would be surprised that if Tymoshenko became PM in a grubby deal with the oligarchy, that the relationship with the IMF would sooner (rather than later) end – no differently than it did last time when she was PM and Ukraine had an IMF deal.  In fact a Tymoshenko PM would see continued unaffordable subsidies, recaptialisation and bad debt write-offs that fill the trough from which the oligarchy guzzle with unreserved gluttony.

Being extremely blunt, Ms Tymosehnko would be the worst of all possible potential candidates listed above for the position of Prime Minister should she decide, following the local elections litmus test, to try and force her way into that role one way or another.

A low voter turnout and/or a low Batkivshchyna vote however, may well remove any dreams for Ms Tymoshenko, so hopefully one or the other – or both -will occur.

Meanwhile, returning to the local elections, we can perhaps try and guess at the final percentage of ballot stations that will have irregularities officially recorded against them.  The opening paragraph stated at least 30% in Odessa.  It is almost guaranteed to be higher by tomorrow morning, when assuming vote counts have finished, perhaps 35% – 40% will have official irregularities recorded against them.

Higher irregularities than other regions?  We will soon see!

On a more positive note, it seems highly likely that Mayor Trukhanov will have to face a second round of voting against Sasha Borovik – which presents Odessa city voters with a very stark choice come 15th November – and Mr Borovik will have a further 3 weeks to campaign as well as having the political momentum to try and eat away any genuine (rather than nefariously acquired) lead the incumbent will have entering the second round.

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