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Analysis: Yushchenko Vows 'People's Election Campaign' In Ukraine

Speaking on Radio Liberty on 3 August, Oleksandr Zinchenko, the manager of Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko's presidential campaign, said this campaign will be different from that of his main rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

"The people's president will have a people's election campaign," Zinchenko asserted.

Unfortunately, Zinchenko provided few enlightening details regarding this type of campaigning. He claimed, however, that Yushchenko has "hundreds of prepared campaigners in every town and village."

The presidential campaign for Yushchenko formally began on 4 July when the Central Election Commission registered him as a presidential hopeful. It is apparent to virtually everybody in Ukraine that Yushchenko cannot count on the propagandistic resources of much of the electronic media in the country. Indeed, the only television channel sympathetic to Yushchenko's presidential bid -- 5 Channel owned by Yushchenko political ally Petro Symonenko -- has recently reported that its programs were removed from several cable distribution networks in eastern and southern Ukraine. Other television channels -- whether state-owned or private -- remain generally biased in favor of Yanukovych's presidential bid.

Under such circumstances it appears that the only efficient way for Yushchenko to promote his presidential platform is to hold as many face-to-face meetings with voters in the regions as possible. Therefore, on 3 August, Yushchenko started his campaign tour of Ukraine in Odesa Oblast. Yushchenko's campaign staff, judging by press reports, has been prepared for such an eventuality. But some aspects of the mechanics of his campaign provoke anxieties on the part of his sympathizers, who fear that this campaign might lack the impetus and energy it needs to be fully efficient.
It appears that the only efficient way for Yushchenko to promote his presidential platform is to hold as many face-to-face meetings with voters in the regions as possible.

Yushchenko started his presidential campaign with an impressive rally of some 50,000 people, who saw him off submitting registration documents to the Central Election Commission in Kyiv on 4 August. Credits for such a remarkable start were generally given to Zinchenko, whom Yushchenko appointed as his campaign manager in mid-June (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 22 June 2004). Yushchenko was generally praised for this nomination, which he reportedly made under pressure from some Our Ukraine activists who have became dissatisfied with the performance of Roman Bezsmertnyy, head of the Our Ukraine staff.

However, further developments -- primarily an inconspicuous start of Yushchenko's regional tour of Ukraine -- have somewhat diminished faith in Zinchenko's capabilities to sufficiently organize Yushchenko's election campaign. First of all, some observers maintain that Zinchenko and Bezsmertnyy have not shared their responsibilities within the Our Ukraine bloc as smoothly as was expected.

According to the Kyiv-based weekly "Zerkalo nedeli," there is a multilayered system of responsibilities in Our Ukraine as regards its leader's presidential bid. The highest "legislative authority" in the bloc is a Coordinating Committee, which consists of Yushchenko (chairman), Yuliya Tymoshenko (first deputy), Zinchenko (campaign manager), Bezsmertnyy (head of the bloc's staff), as well as prominent Our Ukraine leaders and activists: Yuriy Kostenko, Mykola Martynenko, Anatoliy Matviyenko, Petro Poroshenko, Viktor Pynzenyk, Ivan Plyushch, Borys Tarasyuk, and Oleksandr Turchynov. Every member of this committee is simultaneously a coordinator of Yushchenko's campaign in specific regions.

It is noteworthy that the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc -- a staunch political ally of Our Ukraine in the presidential campaign -- has to take care of the most populous Ukrainian regions.

Turchynov coordinates Yushchenko's campaign in Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Luhansk, Kyrovohrad, Sumy, and Volhynia Oblast, while Matviyenko is responsible for Khmelnytskyy and Kharkiv oblasts.

Zinchenko personally leads the "executive" arm of Yushchenko's presidential campaign: press services, speechwriters, election experts, and the administrative apparatus of the bloc. He is also responsible for working out a campaign strategy, negotiating with potential political allies, and maintaining relations with the media. Zinchenko and Bezsmertnyy reportedly share equal responsibility for staging rallies, advertising Yushchenko's presidential bid, coordinating Yushchenko's representatives in regional election commissions, and solving legal problems in the campaign. Yushchenko is the only one allowed to directly comment on the political campaign or, following a prior agreement with him, Tymoshenko, Zinchenko, Poroshenko, Martynenko, Kostenko, Pynzenyk, and Tarasyuk can as well.

According to "Zerkalo nedeli," Bezsmertnyy's sole responsibility is financing all campaign actions and measures, which he does in cooperation with Our Ukraine's "cashier," lawmaker and businessman Davyd Zhvaniya.

Because of this complicated distribution of political and organizational responsibilities in Yushchenko's bloc, his presidential campaign has not yet settled into a smooth rhythm or acquired a satisfying scope. "Zerkalo nedeli" suggests that many local leaders of Yushchenko's campaign treat working on it only as a convenient opportunity to spend campaign money. At the same time, the weekly emphasizes that Yushchenko's people have not yet been able to tap his main asset in the campaign -- the enthusiasm of ordinary citizens who are ready to work for him without any expectation of payment or other compensation.