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Ukraine's Presidential Hopefuls Lay Out Their Programs

Party of Regions chief Viktor Yanukovych (left) and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko are the two leading candidates for the January vote.
Party of Regions chief Viktor Yanukovych (left) and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko are the two leading candidates for the January vote.
By Taras Kuzio
The deadline to register candidates for Ukraine's presidential election was November 9, after which the seven candidates who were refused registration were given two additional days to resubmit their applications. On November 13, the Central Election Commission will confirm the final list of candidates for the January 17, 2010, presidential vote.

The main reason some candidates were denied registration was their failure to prove they had provided the mandatory $300,000 deposit, which candidates that fail to make it to the second round of voting will forfeit. Although the deposit is large, political forces might have good reason to back the registration of so-called technical candidates. First, they mean additional representatives on the election boards that count the votes and, second, they could emerge as a potential ally in the second round.

In 1999, 13 candidates vied for the post, while in 2004, there were 24. This time around, 18 people will attempt to become the next president of Ukraine. Those 18 candidates can be divided into three groups. First, there are the two leading contenders -- Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Party of Regions head Viktor Yanukovych, each of whom are polling about 20-30 percent support.

The second-tier candidates include incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko, former Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, former Ukrainian Central Bank head Serhiy Tihipko, and parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn. Support for these candidates is in the 3-8 percent range.

The rest can be considered technical or spoiler candidates, including former Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko, nationalist Svoboda party leader Oleh Tyahnybok, Free Democrats party leader Mykhaylo Brodsky, and eight others who have the backing of no more than 1 percent of the electorate.

Setting Out Programs

It's interesting to take a look at the domestic- and foreign-policy programs of the first- and second-tier candidates. The platforms reveal many similarities, particularly in the realm of populist social initiatives. The programs of four of the candidates bear distinct hallmarks of Soviet nostalgia.

With an eye on the former Communist Party supporters that have defected to the Party of Regions over the last five years, Yanukovych has adopted rhetoric about economic growth and political stability that echoes what one hears in Russia these days.

Former Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has left the pro-Western camp.
Yatsenyuk's campaign, which has been widely criticized for adopting a military-camouflage color scheme, is dominated by Soviet-style slogans such as "New Industrialization" and "A Healthy And Educated People." Lytvyn's program also looks backward with an eye toward gaining the support of former Socialist Party (SPU) voters in the small towns and rural areas of central Ukraine. SPU leader Oleksandr Moroz discredited himself and his party when he defected from the Orange coalition in July 2006.

Former Central Bank head Tihipko, who is also a successful private banker from Dnipropetrovsk, is predictably emphasizing the central role of economic policy, thereby echoing the 1994 campaign of former President Leonid Kuchma. Tihipko's slogans include, somewhat strangely, "The Economy Above All Else" and "Ukraine's Interests Above All Else." Yanukovych likewise emphasizes "A Strong Economy -- A Strong Country."

The eastern Ukraine candidates -- including Tihipko and Yanukovych -- place less emphasis on democracy, the rule of law, and corruption. In fact, Yanukovych's program does not even mention corruption.

Popular Populist Measures

Traditionally, Ukrainian presidential candidates promise to battle corruption energetically, but once in office they do little to realize this pledge. Combating corruption requires political will that exists in Georgia, but not in Ukraine.

The German think tank Transparency International has reported that Ukraine made some progress against corruption in 2005 and 2006, but since 2007 has fallen back to the dismal ratings of the Kuchma era. In contrast, Georgia has improved its rating each year since 2004. In the 2008 ranking, Ukraine came in at 134th, while Georgia had risen to 67th.

In 2004, Yushchenko promised "to send the bandits to jail," but five years later Ukraine's elites remain above the law and Ukrainian "bandits" have gone to jail in the United States and Germany, but not in Ukraine. This time around, only Tymoshenko's program explicitly condemns the capture of the Ukrainian state by oligarchs.

Incumbent Viktor Yushchenko has support in the single digits.
Populism is a traditional hallmark of Ukrainian presidential elections. In 2004, Yushchenko offered his "10 Steps" program that included many social populist initiatives. The Party of Regions recently introduced legislation in parliament to increase social payments, repeating a tactic then-Prime Minister Yanukovych used in 2004 when he doubled pensions. That initiative was backed by all parliamentary factions except Tymoshenko's and was signed into law by Yushchenko.

The measure casts doubt on whether the International Monetary Fund will disburse the fourth tranche of a stand-by agreement loan before the election, opening up the real possibility of default. Nonetheless, Yanukovych's current program cynically declares the 2010 election is an opportunity to "clean out the populists and political adventurers from the Ukrainian government."

Of the seven main candidates, only Yushchenko and Tymoshenko prioritize national and religious matters. As in 2004, Yanukovych supports elevating Russian to the status of a second state language, a step also supported by Symonenko, Tihipko, and, possibly, Lytvyn. As in 2004, the second round will most likely again give voters two positions on the state language: Ukrainian (Tymoshenko) versus Ukrainian-Russian (Yanukovych).

Foreign Policy


In the foreign-policy domain, none of the candidates mentions NATO in any form, a pattern that repeats earlier elections (Yushchenko and Our Ukraine have never included NATO membership in their election programs). Of the seven main candidates, only Tymoshenko and Yushchenko support EU membership. Symonenko and Yatsenyuk oppose it, and the other three are ambivalent.

Yanukovych and Symonenko support Ukraine's full membership of the Commonwealth of Independent States' Single Economic Space (SES). Countries cannot be in two customs unions at the same time and therefore joining the SES is impossible if Ukraine signs a free-trade agreement with the EU next year, an important nuance that will be missed by the average Yanukovych supporter.

Yatsenyuk's proposed Eastern European union of Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan with Kyiv as its capital is surprisingly similar to the SES. Yatsenyuk's program calls for joint programs by these eight countries in the fields of energy, transportation and communications, industrial production and exports, science and technology, and the military-industrial complex.

Three leading candidates have distinct foreign-policy proposals. If elected, Yanukovych would pursue a pro-Russian multivector foreign policy, in contrast to the largely pro-Western multivectorism Kuchma pursued in his two terms in office. Tymoshenko has outlined a pro-European foreign policy that links domestic progress in reforms to Ukraine's integration into Europe.

Yatsenyuk moved from his pro-Western position as foreign minister and parliament speaker to a Ukrainian third-way "isolationist-nationalist" platform that has been developed by Russian consultants in his team since June. Although elected to parliament in 2007 as one of the top five candidates of the pro-Western Our Ukraine-People's Self Defense bloc, Yatsenyuk now opposes NATO and EU membership.

Taras Kuzio is a senior fellow of Ukrainian studies at the University of Toronto, adjunct research professor at the Institute of European and Russian Studies at Carleton University, and editor of the bimonthly "Ukraine Analyst"
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by: Yulia from: London
November 13, 2009 18:55
I cannot believe that you have published an article by Kuzio. He is known the world over as a paid supporter of Tymoshenko. Just read about him in the Ukrainian news press, such as the Ukraine-English-News site. This article just does - in a slightly more subtle way - what Kuzio has been doing for the past year - suggest a two-horse race. Some polls put Tymoshenko on 15% and Yatseniuk on 13%. With Yanukovych nearer 30%. Kuzio distorts the truth as always. You disgrace the name of your site "Free Europe" producing propaganda for a multi-billionairess - the oil tycoon, Tymoshenko.

by: Borya from: Chernivtsi
November 14, 2009 09:08
Not once while reading this article did I get the impression that this was a pro-Tymoshenko writer, nor have any of his articles insinuated this. All of the credible polls show Yatseniuk and Yushchenko in the single digits, with Tymoshenko and Yanukovych higher. And speak to any Ukrainian here out West, and you'll soon find that this really is a two-horse race. Yulia, I think the fact that you're in London removes you from getting an accurate picture of how much support Tymoshenko actually has, especially in the west. Or maybe it's the propaganda that you're reading in the Russian language that is distorting your picture. If you had said RFE/RL tends to have a bias or slant on some issues, maybe I'd agree. But to call it propaganda is ridiculous.

by: Yuri-Kharkiv from: Odessa
November 14, 2009 18:58
Its clear that you don't read many different sites such as Kyivpost, to see what this Kuzio's all about. I have been reading his one-sided comments and opinions for a few years now. Anyone that gets near to causing problems for Tymoshenko will be smeared and battered by Kuzio. Go to Kyivpost and look at the comments from his opinions and see what people think about him. I have friends that have families living in Lviv. He has told me more than a couple of times that people in Lviv don't think highly at all about Tymoshenko. She needs someone like Kuzio to pump her deceiving reputation she has, so she looks like a clean princess. Go to this link in ukraine-english-news.com/forum and you'll see an entire post on Kuzio and his legacy. Or do a google on: Kyiv Post, or Yulia Post? Kuzio's legacy: Comments hidden. I think you'll come back a changed person. Plenty of proof in the forum about Kuzio and his paid propaganda about Tymoshenko. Do you recall how he immediately trashed Yatseniuk when it was revealed his was going to run against Tymoshenko and was closing in on her points? He had to emphasize Yatseniuk was a Jew. What the hell did he have to do that? You tell us Borya. And I'm not Jewish.

by: Yuri-Kharkiv from: Kharkiv
November 14, 2009 19:10
Its clear that you don't read many different sites such as Kyivpost, to see what this Kuzio's all about. I have been reading his one-sided comments and opinions for a few years now. Anyone that gets near to causing problems for Tymoshenko will be smeared and battered by Kuzio. Go to Kyivpost and look at the comments from his opinions and see what people think about him. I have friends that have families living in Lviv. He has told me more than a couple of times that people in Lviv don't think highly at all about Tymoshenko. She needs someone like Kuzio to pump her deceiving reputation she has, so she looks like a clean princess. Go to this link in ukraine-english-news.com/forum and you'll see an entire post on Kuzio and his legacy. Or do a google on: Kyiv Post, or Yulia Post? Kuzio's legacy: Comments hidden. I think you'll come back a changed person. Plenty of proof in the forum about Kuzio and his paid propaganda about Tymoshenko. Do you recall how he immediately trashed Yatseniuk when it was revealed his was going to run against Tymoshenko and was closing in on her points? He had to emphasize Yatseniuk was a Jew. What the hell did he have to do that? You tell us Borya. And I'm not Jewish.

by: UkrToday from: -
November 14, 2009 22:02
I think your division into categories is flawed.

Ukraine has a flawed two round first-past-the-post voting system only two candidates will progress to the second round of voting. Any candidate with less then 15 % is wasting not only their time and money but also their vote.

There are four candidates associated directly with Our Ukraine each one fighting over the scrapes of the same bone. All will fail to progress to the second round.

Likewise the left candidates, Moroz and Symonenko and to the same extent also the ultra right nationalists fall into the "flying the flag" category they are running to keep their face in the spotlight, they will fail as voters attention begins to realise that a vote for them is a wasted vote.

another category is self promotion egoist candidates nominating to have their name recorded in history as the biggest loser.

The others fall into two other broad categories, technical (those designed to add to the votes on the central election commission and secure some media air time )

And last the all important spoiler candidates (It is possible to have a foot in more then one category at a time)

Spoiler candidates play a negative role and are a limitation of the first-past-the-post election system. Their nomination is designed to take votes away from more serious candidates in the hope to influence the outcome of the second/third place struggle if it is to arise. They fight amongst themselves and take votes away from like minded candidates reducing their chances of rising to the top of the pack.

Under a first past the post system any vote for a minor candidate is a wasted vote.

The candidature of Vasyl Protyvsikh (Which is a complete con and makes a joke of the presidential system) is designed to weaken the support of all minor candidates, and will only benefit the two main contenders as it directs any protest vote away from other candidates. Only fools and the disillusioned would be sucked into thinking that a vote for Protyvsikh is a protest vote.

At a cost of over 1 billion dollars the whole concept of a direct elected head of state is misconceived and will never deliver good governance in Ukraine.

It is false and misleading to assume that a direct election model is democratic.

Ukraine is best off strengthening its parliamentary system and electing its head of state by a constitutional majority of the parliament as is the case in Moldova, Greece and the EU. Canada's head of state (The Queens representative - the Governor General) is appointed on the nomination of the parliament.

If Ukraine's head of state MUST be directly elected then Ukraine would be best holding a single round preferential ballot where minor candidates can have a positive influence on the outcome of the election as opposed to a negative spoiler role. Voters have the opportunity to rank in order of preference candidates of their choice, If no candidate has an absolute majority of votes then the candidate with the least votes is excluded and their votes distributed according to the voters nominated choice, Instead of being disenfranchised they are empowered. Minor candidates also have the opportunity to play a positive role in advocating a second preference choice in support of like minded candidates- One round of voting, results known in days not months, More stable and more democratic then the two round first-past-the post system and at half the cost.

The best option still remains a constitutional parliamentary majority. Cost of election $0 and the person elected will have the support of a significant majority of Ukraine.

by: cherkasy5 from: Lviv
November 14, 2009 22:20
Taras Kuzio is part of a well-financed Tymoshenko public relations campaign to fool Western policymakers into believing that Tymoshenko is a pro-reform, pro- Western democratic candidate. It's widely assumed in Kyiv circles that Kuzio is a paid agent of Tymoshenko, whose political opponents he has been relentlessly attacking with his writings for the last 3 years or so (in this article, he once again goes after Yatseniuk and Yanukovich). Kuzio himself has refused to address the issue of conflict of interest. I guess the word about this hasn't spread to the editors at RFE/RL Jamestown - or maybe they simply don't care.

Tymoshenko and her likely choice for prime minister, Alexander Turchinov, recently showed their true colors during the flue panic by starting a massive harassment and threat campaign against small privately owned pharmacies. Tymoshenko is a statist control freak who will likely nationalize key sectors of the economy and turn them over to the control of bankers and businessmen with whom she has friendly relations or has cut deals for election support.

The reason Ukraine has paid for its gas on time this year, is NOT due to any systemic energy reform under Tymoshenko, but rather from massive foreign borrowing that is on its way to bankrupting the country.

Tymoshenko doesn't care about what happens after the election, because if she wins, she'll grab authoritarian power for 10-15 years and she is ready to do a bailout deal with Moscow on the gas debt that will curtail Ukrainian sovereignty and cede the gas pipeline system to Russian control.

by: Andrew from: Ukraine
November 14, 2009 22:56
Missing from Kuzio's assessment is Symonenko and Moroz Both f which will attract more then 2% of the vote with Symonenko (Communsit party of Ukraine) out polling incumbent Yushchenko.

You also underestimate the Socialist Party of Ukraine who has a good local network of activists and supporters on ten ground. With Vitrenko out of the way there vote will increase. Still not sufficient to win but they will like Yushchenko and Yatseniuk be spoiler candidates..

Research and Branding Ukrainian Presidential Poll 20 Oct to 12 October 2009 shows

V. Yanukovich 31.00%
Y. Timoshenko 18.40%
A. Yatsenyuk 9.60%
V. Litvin 2.30%
P. Simonenko 3.50%
V. Yuschenko 3.50%
S. Tigipko 3.60%

by: Political Dissident
November 15, 2009 00:28
It's anti-Russian gibberish to suggest that there's some kind of a Russian sponsored PR move to denigrate Tymoshenko.

In western Ukraine, Tymoshenko will be a fall back candidate for a good number of voters, should there be a second round, with Yushchenko and Yatseniuk out of the race.


by: Borys from: Australia
November 15, 2009 04:18
Ah Kuzio, Tymoshenko's paid apologist! What a surprise seeing him here on your refrl publication now.

Normally he lists enough information so as to give his remaining propaganda the appearance of the overall article being factual. Ha, ha, ha.

It has me baffled where he solicits/obtains his data from, as invariably he does not reveal its source and after the event history proves otherwise.

Anyone with a brain realizes that Yulia has been so wrong so many times and made so many mistakes with her predictions/forecasts that it's now not funny anymore.

by: UkrTomorrow from: Amsterdam
November 15, 2009 14:22
Borya, may I suggest a quick check of the net for recent articles by the baised Dr Kuzio. Amongst his many "expert" comments you can find such delights as Yatsenuik's Jewish origins affect the man's ability. The doctor's speciality is to highlight others shortcomings while completely overlooking any that are caused by or the responsibility of Ms Tymoshenko. It is small wonder that many believe he is a paid spreader of disinformation.
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