Archive for November 12th, 2017


A march or a stroll – Rukh New Forces, Kyiv

November 12, 2017

When Misha Saakashvili was Governor of Odessa, the blog met him many times.

More importantly it met with numerous advisers upon numerous occasions, some of those individuals fairly frequently indeed.

By nature having always preferred to work in the boiler room making those public facing look at the very least competent, there is an affinity, or perhaps empathy, with those who work in the boiler rooms behind other public personalities – particularly those behind the more passionate, charismatic, emotional, and spontaneous of public personalities, for they are the ones least likely to hear advice and/or analysis even if they appear to be listening.

In short, it is not what they are told, but what they hear that matters in any briefing – and it is then a matter of clearing up the mess left behind if they chose to “listen” but not “hear” sage words of wisdom before making impassioned but embellished/not entirely accurate public statements.

Thus with former Governor Saakashvili, despite some moments of genuine cleverness, there were other moments of entirely avoidable folly.

The 12th November witnessed Rukh New Forces, the Saakashvili political vehicle, hold a march in central Kyiv in support of various policy objectives – the creation of an anti-corruption court, laws to impeach etc.

The event was policed by approximately 300 police officers, the organisers having informed the authorities they anticipated more than 1000 people attending.

A reader might rightly consider a policing to marcher ratio of 1:3.3 rather disproportionate – and it would be if there were not the constant threat of violence erupting among those motivated to attend (whether it be violence promoted by agent provocateur or simply the most radical participants).

The turnout however was between 400 (police figures) and 500 (Rukh New Forces figures) – therefore a policing ration of 1:1.2, which without knowing the anticipated, rather than actual number of marchers, would appear entirely disproportionate – almost repressive.

To be clear, as of the time of writing, no reports of violence have been recorded – to the credit of both the policing and march participants.

Many of the 400 – 500 participants, according to the police, came from the regions of Ukraine rather than from the capital.  How true that is a reader may ponder, however, clearly the march was something of a failure given the organisers expectations which led to the decision to deploy the police in the numbers that they were.

To anticipate 1000+ and actually have 400 – 500 turn up is surely something of a disappointment for Rukh New Forces and the parliamentarians (Yuri Derevyanko, Sergei Leshchenko and Yury Levchenko) who made speeches prior to the march.

That is not to say that such a disappointing turnout is necessarily representative of those that support this political structure across Ukraine.  As is often the case in politics and society, a motivated minority can take a less motivated majority along with it.

However it is hardly a State secret that Mr Saakashvili and Rukh New Forces are not currently polling particularly well.    Notwithstanding the fact that whilst now legally in Ukraine, Mr Saakashvili currently is not a Ukrainian citizen, but is in fact officially stateless. (a matter that would bar him from any political (or civil service) position in Ukraine), that poor polling was a feature when he was still a Ukrainian citizen.

Ergo, that disappointing turnout is perhaps to be expected.  Indeed the anticipated 1000+ march attendees may be perceived as hardly a number that would suggest particularly high expectations from the organisers.  Kyiv after all is a city of several million people, and if the police are correct in stating the majority of those that turned up are from the regions, it would suggest very little (current) interest by the constituents of the national capital.

That said, a march on a dull and grey Sunday November afternoon, when there are no politicians within sight or hearing to influence, in comparison to a rally outside the voting chamber over a particularly contentious law, are by their nature perhaps likely to gather differing levels of support and attendance.

The circumstances behind any gathering matter when judging the ability of politicians and/or policies to focus and motivate the public.

Thus, questions arise relating to the timing of this particular march, the intended outcomes of it, and whether it was (political/public opinion) powder best kept dry, rather than spent in such a seemingly lackluster manner.

It is difficult to see what political and/or policy influencing gains are to be made from a march on a dull, grey, November Sunday afternoon with the political class absent.  It is certainly not akin to having the populace sitting down around the Verkhovna Rada during a working and/or voting day.

It is also, given the disappointing turnout figures against those anticipated by the organisers, not exactly an event that will underline the relevance – or perceived relevance – of those involved.

In fact some will view it as an act that projects irrelevance if turnout be a benchmark – but there is a problem with such a benchmark.

In well over a decade of attending political rallies where leaders of The Communists, Svoboda, Batkivshchyna, Party of Regions, Our Ukraine et al have attended to preach to the assembled hoi polloi, at no time was there ever more than a few hundred people present for any of them.  In some cases only a few dozen people turned up.

The voting constituency is far more likely to turn out and demonstrate against a contentious policy than it is to answer a politician’s/political party’s call in huge numbers to hear the orate, or to expedite generally supported policy that is yet, but expected to occur.

Thus any expectations any Ukrainian politician (or Mr Saakashvili) may have of turning out thousands of people will not be achieved (especially on a dull, grey, November Sunday afternoon) protesting for a course of action as opposed to protesting against a course of action.

Thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands (Revolution of Dignity), occasionally millions (Anti-Iraq war in the UK) will turn out to express their displeasure at an intended policy – regardless of, or despite political calls to protest and/or civil disobedience, or political attempts to co-opt such gatherings.

It is a far rarer sight to see them turn out in large numbers in support of a policy simply to expedite it (discounting scheduled voting).

Ergo if Mr Saakashvili and/or his Rukh New Forces want to give the perception of relevance, expending political energy (and perhaps money – where ever it may come from) upon a Sunday stroll through Kyiv, then it is as likely to be subjected to the rule of diminishing (political) returns, as it is a foundation for growth.

To become relevant, if substantial relevance is attainable at all, there will have to be far more clever thinking than a Sunday afternoon stroll in central Kyiv.

Perhaps in his favour, and if hope springs eternal for those that support Mr Saakashvili/Rukh New Forces, Ukraine is a nation where politicians can never be truly written off.  Political fortunes often see a revival.  Political careers in Ukraine don’t simply die – unless the politician actually dies of course.

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