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Khvylya – A Saakashvili party without Saakashvili

July 18, 2016

A few weeks ago an entry appeared relating to a new political party, then unnamed, that is clearly a political vehicle/platform for Odessa Governor Saakashvili – when the moment arrives for him to leave the Ukrainian civil service.

Among the “initiative group” behind the new party, aside from Messrs Sakvarelidze and Kaskiv, perhaps the best known personality is Viktor Chumak (who a reader may expect will become something of an unofficial spokesman for the as yet officially unnamed but nevertheless now existing political party).

Undoubtedly Governor Saakashvili will have had a significant role in the creation of this political party looking at those within the above photograph who now form it.  His fingerprints are all over it!  Clearly being a civil servant Misha Saakashvili cannot be publicly and directly associated with its creation or operation whilst still holding the role of Odessa Governor – that he will not only be associated with it, but also lead it (from behind the scenes rather than actually within the Verkhovna Rada)) if/once he has left that position is almost without doubt.

The new political party has now been named – it is called “Khvylya“.  (It means wave (as in the sea) in Ukrainian).

Khvylya will position itself as a political “Euro-optimist” force – as will the newly invigorated Democratic Alliance (pending name change).

Both will be anti-corruption, rule of law parties with no fondness toward the current oligarchy or their nefarious schemes within and without the Verkhovna Rada.  Both will fight against the “captured State”.

Both will seek the same voters base.  The SMEs and entrepreneurs, the 18 to 40’s demographic far less tainted by Soviet legacy and far more likely to look further into the future than the end of today.  Those that seek to plant the seeds that will grow into the trees under which their future generations will sit comfortably in the shade are the target constituency.

Both will aim to gather at least 10% of the national vote.

It is however, The Democratic Alliance, (or however it will soon be renamed) that may find achieving (and perhaps surpassing) that figure more easily.  Upon its party list in all probability will sit names such as Sergei Leshchenko, Mustafa Nayem, Svitlana Zalishchuk, Victoria Ptashnik, Deputy Economy Minister Maxim Nefodov, Deputy Minister of Ecology Svetlana Kolomiets, a former Deputy Minister of Education Oleg Derevyanko, the participants of the Civil Platform Valerii Pekar, Andrei Dligach and Taras Kozak, as well as Basil Gatsko and Maxim Cherkasenko.  All well known names, vocal and social media savvy advocates within their target voting constituency – and beyond.

It remains to be seen who will appear upon the party list of Khvylya.

Misha Party

There will be some fairly well known names of course – the likes of Viktor Chumak and Vitaliy Vasko.

The names of Mikhail Saakashvili and Davit Sakvarelidze however won’t be listed.

Article 76 of the Constitution of Ukraine quite simply disqualifies Mikhail Saakashvili and Davit Sakvarelidze from being parliamentarians – until at least May 2020.  It clearly states parliamentarians are to be Ukrainian citizens living in Ukraine for the past 5 years.

As neither of these headlining grabbing names have been Ukrainian citizens, nor living in Ukraine for the past 5 years, simply put they are ineligible to stand and be upon the Khvylya party list – despite the Georgian fingerprints all over the creation of the Khvylya Party.

A reader may well ponder how the voting constituency will perceive this when it becomes clear to them that when voting Khvylya, they are not voting either Governor Saakashvili nor Mr Sakvarelidze into the national legislature – their names will be entirely absent from the party list (at least before 2020).

Unfortunately much of the electorate still vote for names (self-proclaimed and/or society anointed national saviors) and not policy.  Perhaps they have little choice when policy is generally noticeable by its complete absence in Ukrainian electoral campaigns.

To be fair, Samopomich has not fared that badly without Andriy Sadovy upon the party list thus far – but it is clearly understood that Mr Sadovy has his eye upon the next presidential election and not a parliamentary seat within the Verkhovna Rada.

Another issue for Khvylya will be the transparency of party funding.  The Democratic Alliance battling for the same voting constituency is outstanding in its transparency when it comes to the party funding.

Khvylya as a Ukrainian political party simply cannot be seen to rely upon funding from Georgian politician and businessman, “Mr Koba” – a man who is, and always has been, extremely generous toward the “Saakashvili machinery” since its arrival in Ukraine.

It would seem a far harder sell to a contested 18 – 40, western looking, SME/entrepreneurial constituency demographic, that voting for Khvylya is a vote for Saakashvili when it’s not, unless he takes upon himself the position of Grey Cardinal behind the decision making without public mandate,  or is it perhaps an easy sell that a vote for a reformed Ukraine manifested in Khvylya relies predominantly upon either transparent or opaque party funding from Georgia (via “Mr Koba”).

This is the demographic that seeks, among other things, to remove Grey Cardinals from politics, extinguish control over domestic politics by the rich party backers, and seeks to remove external agency and direct interference from domestic political outcomes – indeed that is what Khvylya will have to purport to do too in order to gain maximum traction within this target demographic.

With Misha Saakashvili named atop the Khvylya party list, nationally 10% or more of the constituency may well have voted for it.  Without his name atop, what percentage?  3%?  5%?  Will the party cross the political threshold to enter the Verkhovna Rada via the proportional representation vote at all?

The Democratic Alliance has a lot of political work to do when campaigning upon policy to mitigate the usual “personality politics” many Ukrainian voters opt for if it is to better more than 10% of the national vote – and 10% would be dramatic improvement in its political fortune – but it now has a significant number of names associated with “western aspirations”. upon its party list.

Khvylya will have to work far, far harder when its most recognised names cannot be on the party list (until 2020) – regardless of how much overt (illegal whilst Governor), or tacit, or inferred support those domestically (and internationally) known names may give.

Although just scraping over the electoral threshold to enter the Verkhovna Rada via the proportional representation part of any voting will not be the vision of Khvylya – 15% or more would be the goal – a reader may ponder how achievable that will be until the Saakashvili name can appear on the party list.  Perhaps even then that will prove to be ambitious.

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