26 October 2004, Volume
POLLSTER SAYS LUKASHENKA LOST REFERENDUM.
Pollster Gallup/Baltic Surveys conducted an exit poll during Belarus's 17 October referendum on lifting the constitutional two-term limit on the presidency and giving President Alyaksandr Lukashenka the chance to run for a third term in 2006. In a memorandum publicized after polling stations were closed, the group said Lukashenka's proposal to clear the path to a presidency-for-life in the country was supported by just 48.7 percent of all eligible voters, leaving it below the 50 percent threshold required for such a constitutional amendment. The memorandum, signed by Gallup/Baltic Surveys Director Rasa Alisauskiene, stated that 13.3 percent of all eligible voters said "yes" in the referendum during early voting on 12-16 October and another 35.4 percent added their "yes" votes on 17 October.
The Gallup/Baltic Surveys findings differed sharply from the preliminary referendum results announced by Belarus's Central Election Commission on 18 October and the final results released on 21 October. According to the commission, Lukashenka's hopes for a third presidential term were supported by 5.55 million people, or 79.4 percent of all eligible voters. There was also a discrepancy, albeit of a lesser degree, between the referendum's turnout figures determined by Gallup/Baltic Surveys and those from the Central Election Commission -- 87.3 percent and 90.3 percent, respectively.
The Gallup/Baltic Surveys exit poll is the strongest evidence to date suggesting that the Belarusian authorities fixed the referendum results on a large scale. RFE/RL's Belarus Service on 21 October aired an interview with Gallup/Baltic Surveys' Alisauskiene, who explained how her organization conducted its survey. The interview was conducted by RFE/RL's Belarus Service journalist Yury Drakakhrust. What follows is an excerpted version of that interview.
RFE/RL: My first question is about the referendum turnout estimated by you. You have 87 percent, while the Central Election Commission said it was higher than 90 percent.... Were you not mistaken in estimating the referendum turnout?
Alisauskiene: We were polling people about their participation in the referendum from the beginning of September [until the end of voting]. For estimating the final turnout, we took the highest figure from those obtained during the entire polling period. During the early voting period, we asked people whether they had already voted or, if not, whether they were going to vote and when -- on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, 17 October. Proceeding from answers to those questions, we estimated the electoral activity.
During the early voting period, we interviewed 19,000 people, including nearly 4,000 people who had voted -- they made up 21.3 percent of those polled. Our interviews during the early voting period allowed us to estimate the numbers of those who voted before 17 October and those who were going to vote on 17 October. There is no other way to measure election turnout [under such circumstances] than determining the electorate's intentions by using a precise scale.
We took the maximum estimate of turnout by summing up the numbers of those who voted early, of those who firmly declared that they would go to vote, as well as of those who said that they might or might not go to vote. This total estimate was 87.3 percent. As regards the officially released turnout, it is possible that the number was somewhat inflated in order to have a higher ratio of those voting "yes."
RFE/RL: Ms. Alisauskiene, on 17 October you polled some 18,000 people who were leaving polling stations in 20 electoral districts [out of a total of 110]. To quote from your concluding memorandum: "According to the exit poll on 17 October, 53.1 percent of those who took part in the voting voted 'yes,' 28.55 percent voted 'no,' 1 percent spoiled their ballots, 0.69 percent took part only in the parliamentary elections [which were held simultaneously], and 16.63 percent refused to say how they voted.' I have a question regarding this last number. Nearly 17 percent of voters did not provide any answer to your interviewers. Perhaps some portion of them voted "yes" as well. If they had, the final estimate [of voters saying "yes"] should have been higher, don't you think?
Alisauskiene: If it had been the only poll, it would have been hard to determine how those refusing to answer our question voted. But because of the complexity of this [polling] project and the conditions under which the referendum was held, we began this project much earlier. We conducted a so-called tracking poll; we polled people every other day throughout September; and, as I have already told you, we polled them during the early voting, thus watching the dynamics -- changes in moods, changes in the number of those refusing to answer, and to what social categories those people belonged. And we discovered interesting things.
During the early voting period, the voters refusing to answer our questions were much numerous than those doing so on the main voting day, 17 October. We think the reason for this was that we interviewed people at home, and they were sometimes afraid that we would write down their home addresses. On the main voting day, they were interviewed after they left polling stations, so they had a feeling of being more anonymous and therefore answered more frankly.
Having analyzed all interviews that were taken before and after the voting, we saw that the voters who refused to answer our questions -- let's put it straightforwardly, those who were afraid to answer them -- actually said "no" in the referendum. Close to a polling station, even a portion of those who voted "no" might have said they voted "yes," because the situation was tense.
An analysis of 37,000 interviews during the exit poll and 12,000 interviews during the previous tracking poll allows us to conclude that in summing up the "yes" votes we need to take into account only those cases in which voters firmly said that they had voted "yes."
RFE/RL: In your previous analysis of the pre-election situation in Belarus, you wrote that an honest victory in the referendum for Lukashenka is practically impossible. In your text published in the beginning of October, you quoted the result of a poll predicting 39 percent backing for Lukashenka in the referendum. I also read your report on the tracking poll, which was concluded literally on the eve of early voting in Belarus. The result of the poll -- 41 percent in support of the constitutional amendment -- also meant that Lukashenka's honest victory was impossible. And now we have the result of your final survey -- 48.7 percent of voters said "yes." It is anything but a [real] victory; it is very close to 50 percent. How did Lukashenka almost win a victory that was impossible according to your predictions?
Alisauskiene: Looking at the activity of voters and at how they voted during early voting and on voting day, we could see that their activity was stronger in constituencies where administrative pressure was stronger, where they were bussed to polling stations, where the authorities had more opportunities for exerting pressure on voters. The 48.7 percent backing was primarily due to early voters. A standard exit poll is taken on voting day, and early voting is not included in such surveys. If we had restricted our exit poll to the main voting day, we would have had just 35 percent of all eligible voters [saying "yes" in the referendum].
To fend off all suspicions that the results were somehow undervalued, we took into account all possible sources of "yes" votes. I want to draw your attention to the fact that the percentage of voters saying "yes" during the early voting period was higher than that on 17 October [Editor's note: 62.6 percent and 53.1 percent, respectively]. Most likely this can be explained by the fact that people were less free in making their choice during early voting, when many people had to tick their ballots not in a polling booth but under the eyes of those present at the polling station. Such cases were observed by our interviewers.
As I already told you, while polling people during early voting, we asked them not only whether they would vote on Sunday [17 October] but also how they would vote on Sunday. It is noteworthy the result from the early voting period -- 55 percent of voters declaring that they would vote "yes" on Sunday -- was actually confirmed by our interviewers on Sunday, when they registered 53.1 percent of "yes" votes. It was a double check. Two surveys confirmed [statistically] the same figure. [Editor's note: the margin of error for the exit poll was +/-1 percent.](end of transcript)
Alisauskiene also told RFE/RL that the Baltic branch of the Gallup Organization has been operating for 14 years. The pollster conducted many election surveys in the three Baltic countries -- Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia -- as well as in Russia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan. According to Alisauskiene, the results of past election polls by the Gallup Organization/Baltic Surveys have closely approximated the official election results -- with an accuracy of 1-2 percent, depending on the polls' margins of error -- in all countries where they were conducted. The 17 October referendum in Belarus represented the first ballot in which such a major discrepancy occurred between the official and Gallup polling results. (Jan Maksymiuk, in cooperation with Yury Drakakhrust)BUYING MONARCHY: WAGE HIKES BETRAY A POLITICAL PATTERN.
The way the Belarusian authorities conducted this month's referendum on allowing President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to stay in power (seemingly) indefinitely may create the impression that the country was forced into submission exclusively by the iron fist. Not necessarily.
A large number of Belarusians sincerely voted for Lukashenka, and, moreover, he did his best to make them willing to support him. Monthly payments for Belarusians have been steadily improved by the government through a series of wage hikes; in July, the average wage in Belarus reached 367,100 Belarusian rubles ($169) -- growth of 18.8 percent in real terms from the same time in 2003. (The average wage grew by around 50 percent in U.S. dollar terms, up from $110.)
If Lukashenka denies that wage hikes were administered with a view to the presidential referendum, there is an easy way to prove him wrong. In the past few years, there were two periods of remarkable wage hikes, both seemingly tailored to political events. The first increase happened in 2001 just on the eve of presidential election, when the average monthly wage was raised beyond the level of $100 over the course of several months (at the end of 2000, it stood at some $60).
In the economic plan "General Guidelines of Socioeconomic Development" adopted in 2001, there was a promise to raise the average monthly wage to $250 by 2006. Thus, the current hike was supposed to be part of a continuous process. But it wasn't quite so. The dollar equivalent of the average monthly wage in the meantime stood stagnant for roughly two years, as it barely exceeded $110 in July 2003 (and, with dollar devaluation, the real value of the wage actually declined -- so did Lukashenka's approval rating in 2001-03).
The second wage hike, which came earlier this year, actually helped Lukashenka partially to restore his popularity just before referendum and help him win more real votes than he would otherwise receive (no independent opinion poll showed he would get more than 35 percent of the vote before the second half of 2004; the independent exit poll conducted by Gallup Baltic Services showed that just 48 percent of all eligible voters said "yes" to him in the referendum on 17 October). A new round of pay raises is expected to begin on 1 November. By the end of 2004, the average monthly wage should stand at $195.
Not everyone has reaped equal benefits from the state's generosity: There is a substantial differentiation in wages paid among different economic sectors. Thus, according to the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis, farm employees earned 174,000 Belarusian rubles ($80) in January-July, whereas banking-sector wages amounted to 627,000 ($290). Industrial wages reached 360,000 ($170). A substantial wage increase meanwhile happened in the "budgetary sphere": doctors' and teachers' salaries reached 480,000 rubles ($230) per month by July 2004, which is 1.5 times as the average level.
The largest wage hike, however, took place within the civil service and public administration; however, these data are not readily available to the public (perhaps for political reasons: the only data released by the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis is that real wages grew by 22 percent within the state apparatus in the first quarter of 2004, compared to 12 percent nationally). It is not uncommon, however, for wages up to $400-$500 per month to be paid nowadays among state institutions, police, and the military. In fact, this is a serious reversal from the earlier policies of Lukashenka, who used to keep the state bureaucracy on a tight budget for populist reasons. Nowadays, however, he needs more cooperation and compliance from state organs in consolidating his authority rather than genuine public support.
However, the core electorate has not been abandoned, either. Take, for instance, the pensioners, who survived on the equivalent of $47 just one year ago. As of 1 November, the state will raise the average monthly pension to the equivalent of $90; this will be the third pension increase in a year. Different sorts of payment for crucial segments of Lukashenka's support base increased as well. The head of a collective farm in northwestern Belarus, speaking to the author on the condition of anonymity, explained that last year the kolkhozes were paid just $37 per ton of procured wheat; this year, the price jumped to $109. This allowed him to pay his farmers wages in excess of $100 per month this year and repay the loans his farm took from the state. "Is there a reason to wonder that my people will vote for Lukashenka without any compulsion?" he asked.
A question arises: Where does the state find money for such wage and pension hikes? Skeptics will claim that Lukashenka intentionally slowed his wage policies in the two years following his 2001 reelection just to boost payments before the referendum. Some will even presume that he is disbursing money from his special "presidential funds" to cajole the electorate. However, there are prospects for boosting living standards presented by the economy too.
First, as we explained in our previous report, the 10 percent economic growth claimed by the authorities might be just slightly lower than the actual figure (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 19 August 2004). The state does have some money, then.
Second, the real wage increase is not as large as it looks in the dollar equivalent because the dollar is much weaker than it was three years ago (the euro-denominated average monthly wage grew in the past three years from 120 euros to 137 euros, or by 14 percent). Lukashenka is benefiting not from the Iraq war -- and the war on terrorism in general -- which has brought an unprecedented increase in oil prices, provoking rapid economic growth in Russia (and, on its coattails, in Belarus). Lukashenka is also benefiting from the continuing decline of the U.S. dollar, which allowed him to spend less in real terms to fulfill his generous promised made to the electorate in 2001.
Third, the state does spend more compared to what it used to do, in proportion to GDP. The consolidated central budget absorbs more than 36 percent of GDP, up from 32 percent four years ago. The tax burden in Belarus considerably exceeds that in neighboring CIS countries; for example, it is higher by 8 percent -- in proportion to the country's GDP -- than that in Russia. Wage hikes take place in compliance with direct administrative orders of the government. For example, Lukashenka threatened last month to close down any private companies that fail to meet the targets set by his decree.
International experts call this policy extremely dangerous for the Belarusian economy. Luca Barbone, the outgoing World Bank director for Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, told the Belarusian press in August that this makes Belarusian economy "extremely vulnerable." She added: "The fundamental imbalance is created by the unjustified wage hike. None of the countries could afford doubling real wages in two years without serious consequences for the economy. It is impossible." And yet one should not expect economic problems in Belarus in the short term.
First, the "doubling" of the real wage announced by Barbone is grossly exaggerated, according to Belarusian statistics. Wages grew by 14 percent in real terms in January-July 2004 compared to the same period of 2003, and by just 1.7 percent in January-July 2003 compared to the first half of 2002. Altogether, this is just 16 percent in two years (excluding the acceleration that has taken place since July 2004). Consequently, the government can still spend freely for some time, fearing few consequences.
Second, statistical data show that there is no great discrepancy between wage and labor-productivity growth. The difference in the first quarter of 2004, according to data from the private Institute for Privatization and Management, was just 2 percent (10 percent growth in labor productivity versus a 12 percent increase in real wages), but this statistic takes into consideration also wages in non-productive sectors (such as public administration or education). In the industrial sector, wages grew somewhat more slowly than labor productivity.
There might be long-term problems, however -- primarily because Lukashenka seems to have unbridled ambition. He is going not only to reach the $250 mark by 2006; he has already announced that the average monthly wage will increase to $750 by 2010. To achieve this, he will need all the current favorable external conditions to remain in place and Russia's economy continue to grow robustly. Or, alternatively, he will need an outburst of global inflation that would undermine the value of the U.S. dollar (as well as the real value of his promises). Otherwise, overspending might indeed seriously hurt the Belarusian economy.
First, the loss-making companies that pay wages to their workers through loans from state banks might be particularly hurt. Second, the government might face a tough choice between allowing inflation (reduced to almost zero by now) to surge as it continues spending, searching for loans abroad, or backtracking on its promises. Judging by a fresh outburst of repression against the regime's political opponents in the wake of the 17 October referendum, the last option might not be particularly distressing for Lukashenka. He now has no one to fear but his own people. (Vital Silitski)
THE GAME WITH NO RULE BOOK.
An estimated 100,000 people participated in a rally near Ukrainian Central Election Commission (TsVK) headquarters in Kyiv on 23 October to back the presidential bid of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko and to demand fair and democratic presidential voting on 31 October. The rally -- organized by the pro-Yushchenko electoral coalition People's Power -- was held under the general slogan "The People's Power Against Lies And Falsification."
"We demand honest elections," Yushchenko told the crowd. "The people will force [the government] to recognize their choice.... The candidate of the authorities has no chance whatsoever for an honest victory."
After Yushchenko ended his speech at the rally, the crowd began to disperse. Then a group of young people with shaved heads and who wore black jackets with orange-colored symbols of the Yushchenko campaign, bombarded the TsVK offices with bottles and smokebombs, breaking several windows in the building. Within an hour, footage of the attack was being shown on Ukraine's major television channels with commentaries attributing the incident to extremists in the pro-Yushchenko camp.
Participants in the pro-Yushchenko rally managed to catch six attackers and hand them over to police. But when opposition lawmakers visited a police station three hours later to inquire about the detained attackers, they were told that the attackers had been released. The opposition accused the authorities of staging a provocation with the attack on the TsVK offices. Ukraine's pro-government television channels have remained silent over what happened with the "pro-Yushchenko extremists."
Later in the evening on 23 October, however, events took a more terrifying turn. Some 100 Yushchenko supporters remained in front of the TsVK building, where the TsVK was mulling the issue of opening 400 additional polling stations in Russia for Ukrainians who live there and want to take part in the 31 October presidential vote. The TsVK session was attended by Yushchenko, a group of lawmakers fro his Our Ukraine parliamentary bloc, and several lawmakers from the pro-government parliamentary coalition. It is little wonder that the debate was heated: Yushchenko and his supporters argued that opening so many polling stations in Russia -- with no election observers on hand for the voting there -- could lead to massive falsifications in favor of Yushchenko's main rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.
At 11:00 p.m., the pro-Yushchenko picketers outside the TsVK headquarters were attacked by an unidentified group of around 100 thugs who were reportedly armed with flails, hammers, knives, and blunt objects. The picketers, along with opposition deputies from the TsVK building who hastened to help them, managed to detain three attackers: two turned out to have police officers' identity cards and pistols with them. Eight participants in the fight were seriously injured and taken to hospitals by ambulance. As one Ukrainian commentator noted, it was the first blood spilled in the 2004 presidential campaign.
What happened later is not quite clear. After Yushchenko and his parliamentary colleagues found themselves outside the TsVK building, a detachment of riot police arrived at the scene and, according to Our Ukraine legislators, blocked their way back to the building. The authorities, as well as pro-government media, subsequently accused Our Ukraine lawmakers of attacking and beating the riot-police detachment. Moreover, the police said that the two police officers whom Yushchenko's supporters detained near the TsVK headquarters had nothing to do with the attack on the picketers and were kidnapped by an unidentified group in an entirely different part of the city. Prosecutors opened a criminal investigation against Yushchenko and his backers, accusing them of an attack on on-duty police officers.
Meanwhile, Yushchenko's people admitted only that the only victim of their "attack" was lawmaker Nestor Shufrych from the pro-government Social Democratic Party-united, from whom they tore a sportshirt in a scuffle that ensued when he tried to stop them on their way back into the building. Shufrych reportedly wandered with his bare torso along the TsVK corridors for an hour after the incident.
In seemingly biased reports, pro-Yanukovych television channels and newspapers presented the 23 October clash near the TsVK headquarters as the most direct evidence that Yushchenko and his followers are preparing a violent scenario for taking power in Ukraine after the 31 October presidential ballot, irrespective of its result. "Recently the trust of voters in [Yushchenko] has noticeably decreased and his chances for a victory are becoming more and more illusory," Yanukovych's election staff said in a statement on 26 October, purporting to explain why Yushchenko favors "extremist actions."
Progressive Socialist Party Chairwoman Natalya Vitrenko then added insult to injury, painting Yushchenko as a repulsive extremist. "I assess the events of 23-24 October at the TsVK offices as actions by anti-Russian, anti-Slavic, and pro-American forces oriented toward capturing power by strong-arm methods for the benefit of the United States, under the cover of a struggle for honest elections," "ForUm" quoted her as saying. "I think the capture of power by Yushchenko would [cap] an American scenario for Ukraine's colonization."
But there have been other, more disturbing signals from Ukraine. The "Ukrayinska pravda" website on 26 October posted a report from Donbas, Ukraine's coal-mining basin and Yanukovych's electoral stronghold, saying that coal-mine managers in the region are forming groups of miners who are to go to Kyiv and some cities in western Ukraine on 30 October for three days, purportedly as electoral observers. The website hints that such groups might be used not only for observing the election but also for falsifying the vote in favor of Yanukovych by repeatedly voting at different polling stations and for staging provocations against Yushchenko adherents.
"Fear is once again creeping into people's souls," a group of Ukrainian intellectuals and writers say in an open letter about the ongoing election campaign published on 25 October. "Today they are often afraid to speak freely [out of fear that] they would lose the very last things in their possession -- work and a piece of bread. Instead of a cozy European home with its attendant prosperous life and respect for the law, once again we are being offered Eurasian spaces with their eternal evils, barbarity, and despotism." The letter warns that a Yanukovych election victory will be a "catastrophe" and calls on Ukrainians to vote for Yushchenko. (Jan Maksymiuk)PUTIN AND THE LIBERATION OF UKRAINE FROM NAZISM.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was expected to begin a visit to Ukraine on 26 October -- marking his 10th meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in 2004. The trip begins five days before the Ukrainian presidential election on 31 October.
Putin's visit is at the invitation of President Kuchma in connection with the commemoration on 28 October of the 60th anniversary of Ukraine's liberation from German troops during World War II. This date, however, has never before been celebrated in Kyiv.
In Ukraine, as in other countries of the former Soviet Union, 9 May is traditionally recognized as the official holiday marking the capitulation of Nazi Germany. In Ukraine, 6 November -- the day Kyiv was liberated -- is also a national holiday. But in 2004, President Kuchma decided -- for some unexplained reason -- to hold a massive military parade on 28 October and to invite leaders from all the former Soviet republics to Kyiv. The date he actually signed the decree is unclear and has not been posted on the presidential website, where all such decrees are generally noted. The decision immediately created a controversy inside the country.
The date falls on a workday, Thursday. When the presidential administration decided to declare 28 October a holiday, it did not declare it a paid holiday; so the majority of Kyiv's inhabitants are expected to be at work that day and not celebrating the country's liberation from Nazism -- or protesting Putin's visit.
Adding to the growing controversy is the question of the exact date on which Ukraine was truly liberated. Ukrainian historians tell RFE/RL that 28 October is highly speculative and not based on historical fact. Most seem to fell that the date was chosen for other then historical reasons.
As election day -- 31 October -- drew closer, a number of Ukrainian opposition politicians told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service that they were concerned that the government was preparing provocations that could lead to antigovernment rioting in the streets that might allow for a reinforcement of troop levels in the capital under the pretext of a military parade.
Independent Ukrainian website "Ukrayinska pravda" (http://www.pravda.com.ua) pointed to a rash of incidents that took place in the capital as evidence that the government was stirring up discontent. The most conspicuous of those acts was a raid on the offices of a student organization in Kyiv during which a homemade explosive device was purportedly found. The student group, PORA, claimed that there had been two searches of their offices by Interior Ministry forces: The first was videotaped by members of PORA and showed that nothing was found; but during a second search, during which no one was allowed to be in the offices except police, the device was allegedly found hidden in a wastebasket.
As concern mounted in Kyiv after news clips on pro-government television showed militia officials describing the incident, Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko announced on 20 October that if the situation dictated it, he would declare martial law in Kyiv on the night of the elections. The next day he rescinded this threat. But on 24 October, a day after 100,000 supporters of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko gathered in Kyiv, Omelchenko stated that he would ban all opposition demonstrations in the city.
Earlier, on 20 October, an airplane carrying Yushchenko was not allowed to land in the city of Melitopol, where he was scheduled to make a campaign stop. The next day, this was repeated in the city of Kryvyy Rih.
Adding oil to the fire, the Prosecutor-General's Office in Kyiv issued a statement on 22 October that was apparently calculated to further infuriate the opposition. Yushchenko, the statement read, had not been a victim of poisoning -- as the clinic in Vienna at which he had undergone treatment suggested in its diagnosis-- but rather had fallen ill to an acute attack of herpes.
Putin's visit to Kyiv on the eve of the election was seen by the opposition not merely as an excuse to bring more troops into the city, but also as an attempt to provide Putin with a platform from which to endorse Viktor Yanukovych, the current prime minister and the candidate supported by the current Ukrainian administration.
In interviews broadcast by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, members of Yushchenko's campaign team cautiously speculated that if Putin came out openly in favor of Yanukovych, this would have either a negative effect on the voters or no effect whatsoever. Yanukovych, however, disagreed and was quoted by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 20 October as saying that he would welcome Putin's endorsement.
Putin, having set a precedent by issuing a statement recently supporting George W. Bush's candidacy in the U.S. presidential race, has seemingly insured himself against criticism by the United States that he is interfering in Ukrainian domestic affairs. Some pro-Yanukovych members of the Ukrainian parliament commented that if Putin can voice his preference in the upcoming American election, he should be allowed to do the same in Ukraine.
As preparations for Putin's visit were under way, Russian Liberal-Democratic Party head Vladimir Zhirinovskii arrived in Ukraine to campaign for Yanukovych, who has stressed his pro-Russian orientation throughout the campaign. Accusing Yushchenko of "nationalism" and of trying to divide the Ukrainian and Russian nations, Zhirinovskii went on a tour of Ukraine endorsing the pro-regime and pro-Russian candidate.
Putin is expected by many observers to stress that Ukraine was liberated in 1945 as part of a joint effort by all "Soviet peoples." The theme of invincible Slav unity is designed to appeal to those Ukrainian voters who only days earlier heard Zhirinovskii berating Yushchenko for his alleged anti-Russian nationalism.
Ukraine's liberation by the multinational Red Army during World War II evokes highly emotional images among only a small and dwindling portion of the Ukrainian electorate. Its impact on the Yanukovych campaign is therefore doubtful.
On the other hand, Putin's popularity in Ukraine is high, according to a recent public-opinion poll taken by the Russian Fund for Public Opinion and reported in "Vedomosti" on 22 October. The poll claims that some 71 percent of Ukrainians have a favorable view of the Russian president. Whether Putin's alleged popularity might rub off on Yanukovych is questionable, but the people running his campaign are apparently betting that it will not hurt. (Roman Kupchinsky)
"We do not think that we have come for one year; we think that we have come for a long time. Skeptics won't succeed in erecting a barrier on our path. I believe that strong and healthy people are far more numerous than those goats who hinder our lives." -- Ukrainian Premier and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, on 21 October; quoted by Interfax. Ukrainian commentators recalled in connection with this pronouncement that "goat" (kazyol) in the prison slang is a highly insulting term denoting a prisoner who collaborates with the prison's administration. In Soviet-era prison slang, "goat" also referred to a passive homosexual. Yanukovych served two prison terms, convicted in 1967 to three years under an article pertaining to theft and robbery and in 1970 to two years under an article pertaining to "infliction of bodily injuries of medium seriousness."
"Esteemed friends, I am convinced that the future of my country and of 47 million [Ukrainians] will not be determined by convicts [in prison slang: zeki] or a penal-colony [rule] [in prison slang: zona]." -- Presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko to an estimated 100,000 people at a rally in Kyiv on 23 October; quoted by the "Ukrayinska pravda" website.