· Pre-Election Preview: Parliament has passed, and Poroshenko has signed the new local election law. With less than 80 days before Election Day, big city mayoral races are already shaping up. The most distinct aspects of the new election law are the utilization of an open list system rather than election by districts, increasing the barrier from three to five percent, and the introduction of runoffs for mayor in cities over 90,000 residents. These two features combined with the potential decentralization of powers now being debated by Parliament, will make the October 25th National Local Elections more important than previous local elections.
The new election law itself is hardly a model for effective and efficient elections. As of now there is no organized effort to educate voters on the aspects of the new “open list” system. Essentially Ukrainian voters will select a party and then select their favorites from the party list. Those parties that receive five percent in the local elections will receive seats on the local councils and the seats will be distributed based on the voters’ selections within the party list (rather than a closed list system where the party bosses predetermined the order on the list). In theory this is an improvement. However even proponents acknowledge that this will dramatically delay the vote counting process. That essentially translates into scenarios where the final tally is intentionally delayed long enough for the international and domestic observers to go home, and then the commissioners have a free hand to produce the results they desire. Given Ukraine’s history of vote count fraud, this is the equivalent of “giving whisky and car keys to teenage boys” (to use an old P.J. O’Rourke quote). In addition, under the new open list system, there is likely to be a lack of minority representation on the local commissions since they will have to compete in the whole city/town and not just from the neighborhoods where they live. In an effort to placate the Europeans, Parliament included a provision that at least 30 percent of each list must include persons of different gender. In practical terms, that means that at least three of every ten persons on a party’s list for local councils must be women. However, the most troublesome provision of the new election law prohibits candidates from running as independents and bans blocs. The right to run for office as an independent was an option available even at the end of the Soviet Union. Now all candidates will be forced to run under a party label in a country with a one party Communist legacy. In addition, the banning of blocs where multiple parties unite into a single list, is an equally undemocratic provision of the new Local Election Law.Finally, the new election law requires runoffs for the top two vote getters if no candidate receives 50 percent plus one vote on October 25th. This provision applies to towns and cities over 90,000 population. Currently 47 cities fit the criteria and given Ukraine’s divided electoral history, that means that 80 percent of those cities will have runoff elections on November 8th (see Table for a list of cities fitting the runoff criteria). Some cities such as Stakhanov, Alchevsk, Luhansk, Yenakyivka, etc will not hold elections at this time due to the current occupation by Russian forces. In theory, the runoff requirement is a positive for Ukrainian electoral politics as it finally forces candidates to build coalitions and make compromises to receive a majority of the vote – rather than employing demagoguery and division. In practical terms however, it is likely to result in wins by Opposition Bloc candidates in big cities in the east and south.
Meanwhile the campaign is already shaping up. On July 24th the Justice Ministry won a court battle to ban the Communist Party of Ukraine and two other clone parties (the Communist Party Renewed and the Communist Party of Workers and Peasants of Ukraine). Parliament’s recent passage of legislation banning Communist symbols made the court decision easy. In addition, the Communists have been a subversive “Fifth Column” for Russia throughout Ukraine’s independence. Though their rating is currently low, there were worries that with the bad economy that older voters might be persuaded to vote “red” on Election Day which would result in obstructive Communist deputies on local councils. On the opposite side of the political spectrum, Right Sector announced that after the events in Mukachevo that they will not participate in the local elections this October but instead focus their efforts on a nationwide referendum asking questions about trust in the government, whether the volunteer battalions should be legalized and whether or not to blockade the occupied parts of the Donbass.
Given the short timeframe between now and October 25th, several big city mayoral elections are already shaping up. It should be noted that at this time, there are no official candidates and registration will close only at the end of September. Thus, much can change between now and then. However these are the candidates and races worth watching at this time:1. Kyiv – Vitaly Klitchko won a majority of the votes in the May 2014 Kyiv Mayoral election following an election unity deal with Petro Poroshenko. The deal united the two men’s party organizations into a single bloc and was effective in 1) electing Poroshenko President; 2) electing Klitchko as Kyiv’s Mayor and 3) uniting to block Tymoshenko from a political comeback. Now however, following a year of economic recession, Yulia Tymoshenko is plotting her revenge by considering a challenge against Klitchko. Motherland party has historically been popular in Kyiv although they have never won a mayoral election. Tymoshenko’s populist rhetoric of recent months has led to her party doubling its support back above ten percent (from five percent during the October Parliamentary Election). While the post of Kyiv Mayor may seem like a step down for the former two-time Prime Minister, it would give her a nationwide bully pulpit going into the next Presidential and Parliamentary elections (whenever they may end up occurring). More significantly, the Mayor’s Office of Kyiv would be a more prestigious post than her current post as the leader of a small, junior coalition partner in Parliament. The risk for Tymoshenko is that if she loses, it is likely the final nail in her political coffin. Unlike Richard Nixon who survived a loss in the California Governor’s race in 1962 following his loss to Kennedy in the 1960 Presidential election, only to return six years later to win the presidential election, Tymoshenko is not likely to rebound as easily. Voters have taken an increasingly negative view of her in recent years and despite her recent populist surge, her unfavorable rating remains well above 50%.
Klitchko for his part, has been adjusting to the demands of running a big city. He received praise for convincing the Euromaidan protestors to finally close the camp following his election last May. In addition, while he has been making some positive strides in e-governance and modernizing the city’s operations, his team has not done an effective job of communicating those successes with the voters. As a result, his popularity and clout is not what it was in the spring of 2014 when he was able to carve out favorable coalition terms with Poroshenko. Instead, due to the new election law banning blocs, UDAR is not expected to compete in the local elections and instead Klitchko and his team appear to be running under Poroshenko’s Solidarity party banner instead. Bankova street officials report that after asking for half of the seats on the united party list only for the city of Kyiv (and de facto abandoning all UDAR organizations elsewhere across the country), Klitchko settled for a mere 30 percent of the seats in the capital instead. For a party that held more than 40 seats in Parliament just a year ago, this is a significant step down.
In the meantime, carpetbagger candidates Ihor Shevchenko and Gennadiy Korban are making noise about entering the race. Shevchenko, recently sacked as Ecology Minister by Parliament, may or may not be facing a criminal investigation over his conduct at the Ministry. That has not prevented Shevchenko from purchasing billboards in the capital and Odesa talking about the need for lustration. Shevchenko continues to blame Prime Minister Yatsenyuk for the “continuation of political persecution” against him. Ukrop’s Gennadiy Korban was nominated by the party as their Kyiv Mayoral candidate following his loss in the Special Parliamentary Election in Chernihiv last month. While both Shevchenko and Korban have the money to compete, neither has any real rating or support in Kyiv at this time. Of course, with significant expenditures of resources, support can grow, but as Korban learned in Chernihiv –historical voting patterns are difficult to break. Restauranteer Sergiy Gusovskiy is also considering a race as Samopomich’s candidate. He currently serves on the city council and is a rising star within the community. Suffice to say that Klitchko’s re-election will be far tougher than his election last May.
2. Odesa – Incumbent Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov faces a rematch with three time former Mayor Eduard Hurvits. The two squared off last May and despite a Shuster Live exit poll showing Hurvits the victor by seven percent, Trukhanov was declared the winner a few days later. Hurvits planned a court challenge but was dissuaded from filing the case at the request of President-elect Poroshenko. Poroshenko prevailed upon his old friend Hurvits not to file the case because it would call Poroshenko’s victory in Odesa into question. Given the geopolitical significance of Odesa in the current conflict with Russia, Poroshenko could not afford to have such a strategic region’s election results characterized as anything but “free, fair and democratic”.
Hurvits, age 67, admittedly ran a poor campaign in 2014 and underestimated Trukhanov’s tenacity. Trukhanov, a former Regions Party MP, voted for the infamous January 16th laws and is closely linked to local crime figures including Aleksandr Angert (aka “The Angel”) and former MP and Rodina Party (an openly pro-Russian party) leader Igor Markov. However Trukhanov has managed to navigate a careful, independent course as Mayor in an effort to avoid angering Kyiv and to placate Odesa’s new Governor, Mikhail Saakashvili. With a quarter of Odesa’ electorate ethnically Russian, Trukhanov maintains an adequate base of support. Another key factor in Trukhanov’s victory over Hurvits last May was the support (and financial resources) of Igor Kolomoyskyi. Prior to politics, Trukhanov was Deputy Head of the Odesa Port and is a longtime, close associate of the controversial oligarch. It is not clear if Trukhanov will run under the Ukrop party banner or something more obscure. Trukhanov recently organized the “Belief and Actions” faction on the city council to consolidate his supporters. What is clear though is that Trukhanov continues to enjoy Kolomoyskyi’s backing.
Hurvits was elected as Odesa’s first democratic Mayor in 1994 and quickly earned a reputation as a reformer and effective city manager. He was re-elected by a two to one margin in 1998, only to be de-registered by a Kirovohrad court after the results were certified. Hurvits then survived three assassination attempts and saw two of his assistants disappear (the body one was found years later). Nonetheless, Hurvits declared his candidacy for Mayor again in 2002. In a highly fraudulent election, Hurvits placed second. However in May 2005, a court ruling declared the results in invalid and Hurvits the rightful winner. Hurvits was easily re-elected in 2006 and served until 2010. In the 2010 election, the first under Yanukovych, Odesa experienced another highly fraudulent election and Hurvits again placed second.
Local polls show only Trukhanov and Hurvits in double digits with Trukhanov slightly ahead. The entry of Vadim Rabinovich into the race is likely to add some humor to the race, but he is unlikely to score more than the six percent of the vote he received last May in the Presidential election which was based almost entirely on his sharing of the same last name as a famous literary character. Governor Saakashvili’s appointment of Igor Shevchenko as his adviser(the recently fired Ecology Minister) led some to speculate that Shevchenko may seek the Odesa Mayor’s post. However Shevchenko has no local rating and has never lived in Odesa. Thus, the race remains a two person rematch between Trukhanov and Hurvits. If Saakashvili is able to use the administrative apparatus to ensure a fair election this October, Hurvits is likely to have the upper hand in the race.
Kharkiv – Controversial Mayor Gennadiy Kernes is in the driver’s seat for re-election. His flirtation with separatism, pending criminal charges for his role in pressuring Euromaidan activists, and survival of an assassin’s bullet all seem to add to his allure as a recent poll put him at 64% against a scattered field of single digit opponents. Though Kernes election in 2010 over Arsen Avakov was narrow (and in reality, probably due to fraud in the counting process), Kernes has consolidated his support within the business community and pro-Russian population of the city. At the moment, oblast deputy Oleksandr Davtyan is being pushed by Governor Igor Raynin to run, but barring something unforeseen, he will be a sacrificial lamb. Perhaps the only real intrigue is under which party label Kernes will run. The same poll that put him at 64% also put Opposition Bloc in first place at 23% in the city. Samopomich was next with 10%, followed by the Communists at 8%, Poroshenko Bloc at 8%, Radical Party at 6%, Renassiance (one of Kolomoyskyi’s parties) at 6%, People’s Front at 4% and Motherland at 3%. With the Communists now barred from participating in the election, those votes are likely to go to Opposition Bloc. Kernes close friend and ally Mikhail Dobkin was the Opposition Bloc candidate for President last year. While Opposition Bloc would seem to be the natural fit for Kernes, there is also speculation that he might run under Kolomoyskyi’s Renaissance label. Officials at Ukrop (Kolomoyskyi’s other party) though, deny that Kernes will run with that label (although they didn’t deny the Renaissance label is a possibility). Kernes and Kolomoyskyi have had a good business relationship for many years. However, last week rumors emerged of a new, constructive opposition party called “Our Country (nasha krai) competing in the election. This project apparently is being driven by Poroshenko Chief of Staff Borys Lozhkin who wants to dilute the Opposition Blocs votes in the coming election. Creating a successful constructive opposition party would give big city mayors in the east and south an alternative to joining the more radical opposition of Opposition Bloc. Since mayors need good relations with the central government to ensure continued funding, this solution may be an answer for some. Whether or not Kernes will agree to it though, remains to be seen.
Lviv – Incumbent Andriy Sadoviy will be seeking his third term as Lviv’s Mayor. Unlike his re-election in 2010 though, Sadoviy is now a national political figure. As a result, Sadoviy yields influence in Parliament through his Samopomich faction. However, as former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill said, “all politics is local”. Thus conversely, some Lviv voters feel that Sadoviy is distracted by politics in Kyiv and not effective as a Mayor anymore. His most likely opponent is Poroshenko backed MP Oksana Yurinets. Yurinets, age 37, crushed her People’s Front opponent in Lviv District 117 last year by a 42-20% margin in the Parliamentary election. Svoboda is also likely to field a candidate against Sadoviy since the Mayor has been a fierce rival of the nationalist party. Former Svoboda MP Yuri Mykhalchychyn is said to be mulling a run against Sadoviy. Despite the challengers, Sadoviy remains a favorite for re-election but in the rapidly changing world of Ukrainian politics, no politicians can afford to take an election for granted.
· Financial Prudence & Persistence: On August 12th, Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko will travel to San Mateo, California for negotiations with bondholders over restructuring Ukraine’s debts. San Mateo, a Silicon Valley suburb of San Francisco, is the headquarters of Franklin-Templeton Investments which is leading the negotiations on behalf of four major bondholders which hold $8.9 billion in Ukrainian debt. The sudden change of venue from neutral London to Templeton’s headquarters is an encouraging sign for the negotiations. The talks which began in March, have been at an impasse over the bondholders refusal to accept a “haircut” (reduction in their principal investment). However other term such as lengthening of maturities and reductions in interest rates are generally believed to have been accepted by the bondholders. Ukraine’s negotiating position has been strengthened by strong support from US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and IMF Head Christine Lagarde. Ukraine’s Parliament also increased the country’s leverage by passing a “nuclear option” which allows the country to put a moratorium on debt payments if a restructuring deal cannot be reached. Alluding to Ukraine’s “nuclear option” on August 6th, The Finance Ministry issued a final warning to the bondholders by stating, “given the legal and timing constraints of reaching and implementing any settlement, failure to reach an agreement at the sovereign level early next week would force Ukraine to implement alternative options for financing its IMF supported program…Due to these constraints, it is also the last opportunity to reach a full agreement in advance of the September and October Eurobond amortizations and next IMF review now planned for September”. Ukraine has called on bondholders to accept a 40% haircut whereas bondholders have only recently agreed to a mere five percent reduction in principal. Ukraine is scheduled to repay $500 million in debt on September 23rd but the lack of a restructuring agreement has put that payment into question. In fact, most Wall Street analysts now expect Ukraine to impose the moratorium before that date to bring bondholders closer to compromising. Analysts are now predicting a compromise haircut of between 15-20% which Ukraine has offered to ease “if” GDP growth is better than expected. With the invitation to the Templeton headquarters issued, it is unlikely that the bondholders would use the opportunity simply to continue talks. In all likelihood, the bondholders will use the home court opportunity to agree to a deal in which they can claim credit for having protected their investors (i.e. save face) and made Uncle Sam happy by demonstrating their world their willingness to help Ukraine through a difficult economic period.Ukraine’s persistence (and particularly Jaresko’s) is about to pay off. As President Calvin Coolidge, who served during one of America’s strongest economic booms, once wisely noted, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”.
· Chernihiv Election Takeaways: On July 26th, Chernihiv city voters gave Poroshenko Bloc candidate Serhiy Berezenko a 36-15% victory over Kolomoyskyi’s “Ukrop” candidate Gennadiy Korban in the special Parliamentary election. The special election featured a record 127 candidates, widespread voter bribery, dueling exit polls and lavish campaign spending (albeit, unofficially). The election was in effect, just the latest battle in the war between President Poroshenko and oligarch Igor Kolomoyskyi – with Poroshenko prevailing again.
The vacancy was created by Poroshenko’s appointment of incumbent Valeriy Kulich as Chernihiv Governor in May. Following Parliament setting the special election date, Kolomoyskyi confidante Gennady Korban announced his candidacy. Korban is the former Deputy Governor of Dnipropetrovsk and a businessman worth an estimated $150 million dollars. Though Korban was initially the front runner, the dynamics of the race changed once the Poroshenko team selected Sergiy Berezenko as their candidate. Berezenko, originally from Poroshenko’s home of Vinnytsya, is the Head of the powerful State Management Service (DUS) which manages government assets.While typical special elections rarely attract much interest, this race was different as 127 candidates were eventually registered. Despite the huge number of candidates, in reality the race was always a contest between Poroshenko and Kolomoyskyi. The peculiarities of Ukrainian election law encourage the registration of “technical candidates” and even “clones”. Both sides registered around 30 technical candidates each, although 36 candidates eventually withdrew from the race. Since Ukrainian election law gives free media time to all candidates (regardless of their actual support), this time was used by the two main rivals to unleash attacks on each other via their proxies. Clone candidates with name such as “Gennadiy Karban” , “Serhiy Bezuhliy”, and “Serhiy Berendyev” also were registered with “Karban” actually siphoning 1.6% from Gennadiy Korban’s tally. The campaign itself brought an early Christmas for Chernihiv voters with abundant gifts of buckwheat, vodka, salt, and other commodities being openly distributed by the candidates. In fact, the gifts/bribes to voters was so excessive that most election monitoring NGO’s criticized the conduct of the campaign. In a rare pre-election comment by CEC Chairman Mykhail Okhendovsky, the Election Commission Chairman stated, “Much of what is happening around the local parliamentary elections in the constituency 205 does not just shame one or other candidate – it has a negative effect on the perception by the Ukrainian public of the relevant processes and results of future elections, as well as our country’s image on the international stage”. Meanwhile, the new Governor Valeriy Kulinich and other local authorities made use of the powers of the incumbency to aid Berezenko. This led to to Samopomich’s Andriy Sadoviy calling on Berezenko to give up his mandate – following a third place finish by the Samopomich backed candidate with eight percent of the vote. The Lviv Mayor said, “I am offended as a citizen by the lack of a clear response to massive fraud on the part of local, regional and state authorities. There have been hints that something was wrong, but no action followed. It is dagger in the back of democracy in Ukraine and “Revolution of Dignity”. I am convinced that if Berezenko has honor, he should renounce his parliamentary mandate which was inherited at such a price. The methods of his victory are disrespectful to Ukraine, Ukrainians and common sense…The ball is on the side of the authorities, and if such methods of struggle will be replicated in the local elections, it means that power is profitable.” Meanwhile President Poroshenko promised to increase penalties for voter bribery. Poroshenko said, “I will introduce the bill which firstly, toughens the responsibility for buckwheat and both for those, who distribute it, and for those, who secure such activities, for inactivity of the law enforcement agencies”. So what does all this mean for Ukrainian democracy? Has the “Revolution of Dignity” been undone by a provincial Parliamentary election? No. In fact, the Chernihiv election is an encouraging sign for the autumn local elections. Why? Because of two reasons:
1) The dirty tricks used during the Yanukovych era to steal elections didn’t work this time. In the end, Chernihiv followed its historic voting patterns which have favored pro-European candidates, and in particular, Poroshenko backed candidates. For example, in the October 2014 Parliamentary Election, the Poroshenko Bloc’s Valeriy Kulich (now Governor) defeated his nearest rival 28-14% (roughly the same margin as Berezenko defeated Korban – 36-15%). In the May 2014 Presidential Election, Poroshenko defeated Tymoshenko 51-13% (almost identical to the overall 54-13% margin) in Chernihiv city (District 208 for Presidential elections but with the same boundaries and voters as Parliamentary District 205). In 2012 a Motherland Party candidate defeated the Party of Regions candidate in the same district 50-28%, and in the 2010 Presidential Election, Tymoshenko defeated Yanukovych 52-40% in Chernihiv city. If anything, the vote buying, administration resources, and dirty tricks were far less effective in the 2015 election than in 2010 and 2012 under Yanukovych. In both of those cases, dirty politics got the Party of Regions candidate up to 40% and 28% respectfully. This time, those black technologies amounted to far fewer votes. As long as there are elections, candidates and voters will try to cheat. When the effectiveness of cheating is reduced though, it is a victory for everyone on the side of honesty and fair elections. A snake always bites because it is a snake. By taking precautions and being prepared though, snake bites can be minimized or avoided altogether. Election fraud is no different than snake bites.
1) The dirty tricks evolved from negative agitation into positive agitation. “Negative agitation” is the use of threats and pressure on voters to force them to vote a particular way. “Positive agitation” is the use of gifts and incentives with voters to persuade them to vote a particular way. Under the Yanukovych regime for example, failure to vote for the Party of Regions could result in voters losing their jobs, having their businesses destroyed, or even criminal cases against them. These are examples of “negative agitation”. “Positive agitation” was definitely utilized in the Chernihiv election, but pundits vastly overestimate the effect of voters receiving gifts from the candidates. Voters are not threatened with harm in these cases, but instead induced to accept a gift in exchange for a vote. There are however, no consequences if the voter votes differently though. Western Ukrainian voters long ago mastered the art of “taking the gift and voting their heart”. In fact, even US voters in big cities such as Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and New Orleans are familiar with this practice. The NGO Community critics of the Chernihiv election should have more confidence in the Ukrainian voters to make the right choice. As the old saying goes, “the voters are never wrong”. In addition, dirty politics doesn’t mean that the will of the voters is not reflected in the final result. While the evolution from “positive” to “negative” agitation is still distant from the “ideal” fair election, for a country emerging from a totalitarian regime, it is indeed progress.
Putting on a brave face after his defeat, Gennadiy Korban stated, “Ukrop will embrace all Ukraine at the local elections”. Korban announced that his Ukrop Party will not be deterred by the loss in Chernihiv but instead focus nationwide. Within two weeks of losing the Chernihiv election, Korban kept his word when Ukrop announced that he will be the party’s candidate for Mayor of Kyiv. Other areas of focus will include southern and eastern Ukraine, as well as the city of Lutsk where Kolomoyskyi ally Igor Palytsya is building a strong local Ukrop organization. While it is clear that Poroshenko has won the latest battle against Kolomoyskyi, the oligarch maintains the resources to turn the tide this autumn in the local elections. In addition, when the battleground is moved from regions favorable to Poroshenko to regions favorable to Kolomoyskyi, the results can dramatically change.· A “Do Nothing” Parliament? On July 16th, the last day Parliament worked before the summer holidays, the body passed three critical pieces of legislation to comply with IMF requirements to receive the next $1.7 billion tranche. While Parliament was smart enough to understand the importance of keeping foreign money coming into the country, they failed to pass important decentralization legislation. Even a rare visit to Parliament by US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt could not budge the members into voting on decentralization. The visit by US diplomats for the decentralization debate was facilitated by the need for Ukraine to meet its requirements under the Minsk II Agreement. By decentralizing power to all regions of Ukraine, the occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk would have greater local governance powers – a main point of supposed contention by the pro-Russian forces now occupying the Donbass. However those regions will also have more local governance powers than Russian counterparts across the border. While the decentralization plan is far from the wisdom of Madison and Jefferson, it is an improvement for a country with a totalitarian legacy of centralized power.
President Poroshenko fully understood the consequences of Parliament’s inaction. Poroshenko said, “I will do my best for a final vote for the amendments in autumn, to persuade MP’s to support them. What would failure to reform mean? First, it’s the end of the international coalition to support Ukraine and after that- evident escalation of violence in Donbas, where we would be left alone to face the aggressor…The diplomacy of the whole world is helping glorious Ukrainian troops to hold their defense against the enemy on the eastern frontlines of our patriotic war for independence. By holding arm in hands tightly we feel the support of the wide international pro-Ukrainian coalition, and I won’t allow anyone within the country to destroy the union and strip us off the advantage. And such an attempt unfortunately took place, and to my sorrow in the Parliament of Ukraine”. Poroshenko went on to say that the position of certain factions on decentralization is in effect an “attack on the peace plan”. Parliament however seems concerned that the decentralization legislation will essentially ensure a special status for the Donbass –despite Poroshenko’s and others denials. While no one truly knows how the situation in the Donbass will play out, what is clear is that Ukraine’s Parliament prefers vacations to tackling tough issues during a time of war and economic recession. The Ukrainian people deserve better.· Sakvarelidze vs. Shokin: following the aftermath of the “Diamond Prosecutor” (Oleksandr Korniyets) arrest last month and his subsequent release on bail, relations between Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin and Deputy Prosecutor Davit Sakvarelidze reached a boiling point. President Poroshenko himself had to convene a “sit down” in mid July between the two to negotiate the operations of the office going forward. As a result of the “sit down”, Sakvarelidze stated publicly that he has no ambitions to be Prosecutor General and Shokin stayed in his post (at least a few weeks longer). Poroshenko threw Sakvarelidze a bone by adding, “Now I can uncover the mystery for the first time that I actually saw Davit Sakvarelidze in the Anti-Corruption Bureau”. In fact, the “Georgian Team” led by Odesa Governor Mikhail Saakashvili has originally anticipated controlling both the Prosecutor General’s Office and Anti-Corruption Bureau. However President Poroshenko had other plans. This may have been a factor in Governor Saakashvili’s verbal attack on Shokin’s daughter Tatiana and her performance as Deputy Prosecutor in Odesa. Meanwhile Viktor Shokin fought back against critics who say he has been ineffective as Prosecutor General. Shokin said, “Unfortunately due to my work to combat corruption in all fields without exception, I have been hampering many from illegally extracting amber, sand, and I have prevented other illegal bargains. That’s why I have every reason to believe that someone wants to eliminate me.” He went on to add that “various types of provocations are being carried out against” him. Later Shokin announced his plans to ask Parliament to lift the immunity on several Members including “a Member of the pro-government coalition” when they return from recess in September. Frustrated by the escape of almost all Yanukovych administration officials to Russia, Shokin began a “trail in absentia” for Yanukovych, former Premier Arbuzov, former Health Minister Bohatyrova and three others on July 28th. While there is no chance that Russia will extradite the individuals upon a conviction, it at least reminds the public of why the country is in the situation it is now. While a truce between Shokin and Sakvarelidze is now in effect, rumors abound that Shokin may be replaced as early as this week. In preparation, the “Georgian Team” has apparently united behind Vitaly Kasko as the replacement for Shokin. Kasko, currently Deputy Prosecutor, recently headed a task force on judicial reform which advocated increasing the term of the Prosecutor General to six years and removing Parliament’s right to dismiss him/her from the post. Kasko’s recommendations aside, there is a growing resentment (both with Ukrainian elites and the general public) with the large number of Georgians in the Ukrainian government. Thus by backing a Ukrainian for the post of Prosecutor General (rather than Sakvarelidze) and taking credit for his likely appointment by Poroshenko as Shokin’s replacement, Vitaliy Kasko will be indebted to the Georgian Team. So far, the Georgians are proving themselves effective in navigating the bureaucracy of Ukrainian politics.
· Personnel Moves:
Konstantin Yeliseyev has been appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to President Poroshenko and replaces Valeriy Chaliy who was named Ambassador to the United States. Yeliseyev will be responsible for foreign policy in the Presidential Administration. Prior to the appointment, Yeliseyev has served as Ukraine’s Envoy to the European Union under Yanukovych and Deputy Foreign Minister under Yushchenko. Yeliseyev, age 44, was born in Krasnoarmiysk in Donetsk region. He worked extensively on Ukraine’s efforts to join the European Union Association Agreement and has worked in the Foreign Ministry since 1992.
Gennadiy Moskal is the new Governor of Zakarpattya following the shootout between Right Sector and associates of MP Mykhailo Lanio. Moskal has a solid “law and order” background and has been serving as Governor of Luhansk since last September. Moskal, age 65, has previously served in a variety of executive and police roles including as the Deputy Interior Minister for Crimea (1997-2000), Deputy Interior Minister for Dnipropetrovsk (2000-2001), Head of the State Committee on Nationalities and Migration (2002-2005), President Yushchenko’s Representative to Crimea (2006-2007), Deputy Head of the SBU (January-April 2007), Deputy Head of the National Security and Defense Council (April-May 2007) and two term Member of Parliament (elected in 2007 and 2012). Ironically, this marks the second time Moskal has served as Zakarpattya Governor. President Kuchma appointed him as Governor from June 2001 to September 2002. Moskal also served previously as Luhansk Governor prior to President Poroshenko’s appointment last September. Moskal was appointed Luhansk Governor by President Yushchenko from March 2005 until April 2006. The appointment of a veteran like Moskal to govern Zakarpatty is evidence of both the growing concern over Russian sabotage and insurrection as well as an acknowledgement that governing Luhansk is a dead end job. Moskal did his part to make the remaining part of Luhansk administratively functional. As long as the region is occupied by Russian forces though, there is not a lot that can be done to improve the situation.
President Poroshenko replaced almost the entire leadership of Zakarpattya including the Head of the SBU. Oleh Voyevodyn replaced Volodymyr Geletei, the brother of the former Defense Minister Valeiry Geletei. Geletei’s neice Edith is married to Viktor Baloha’s son Andriy, a deputy of the oblast council. Baloha and his family members hold four of six seats in Parliament from Zakarpattya region (hence the nickname of “Baloga-stan” for Zakarpattya). The personnel moves followed the July 11 shootout between Right Sector and individuals close to MP Mykhailo Lano. While the truth is still unclear, it is believed that the incident was a result of a fight over control of the lucrative smuggling industry on the border with Hungary and Slovakia (both EU Members). The profit potential from smuggling is generally considered to be the basis for the oblast being the historical headquarters of the Social Democratic Party United –SDPU(o) in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. SDPU(o) leaders Viktor Medvedchuk and Grigory Surkis both served as Members of Parliament from the region at that time. Others believe that the incident was a FSB provocation to demonstrate to the West that Ukraine can’t control right wing groups – even in Western Ukraine. Ryszard Czarnecki, Vice President of the European Parliament, noted as much when he said that the situation in Mukachevo is “seriously harming the image of Ukraine”. In a press conference in Kyiv on July 23, MP Viktor Baloha stated, “I refute all the speculation about my interest in this matter. The incident in Mukachevo is of a much larger scale than people have been led to believe…Right Sector was used as a tool in the planned operation…It is likely that this plan was orchestrated by law enforcement authorities of Kyiv and not of Zakarpattya region. A representative of at least one political force, Avakov, was involved in this event because he could stop it and this special operation would not be held without him”. Regardless of the motivations for the shooting but as a sign of the seriousness of the events, US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt stated that “the United States supports the stance that the use of force and weapons is the sole prerogative of the Ukrainian government and law enforcement agencies”. The shootout and subsequent law enforcement actions led to the deaths of five persons and a standoff between the government and Right Sector. In the meantime, MP Mykhailo Lano is said to have fled the country. Lano is a second term MP from District #70 (centered in Svalyava) which includes parts of Mukachevo rayon. He defeated an opponent from Motherland Party in last October’s election by a 39-31% margin.
Georgiy Tuka was appointed as the new Governor of Luhansk to replace Gennadiy Moskal. Tuka, age 51, is a war veteran and Head of the “People’s Rear” NGO which supports the armed forces. Prior to that, he worked in the telecom industry.
Constitutional Court Judge Viktor Shyshkin was dismissed by President Poroshenko on July 22nd. Shyshkin, originally from Odesa, was appointed by President Yushchenko in November 2005 and sworn in August 2006. Previously as a Member of Parliament from 1994-2002, Shyshkin was a leading authority on Constitutional issues. Shyshkin’s dismissal by Poroshenko was against his will.
Andriy Shevchenko to Canada? Former three term Motherland MP Andriy Shevchenko is now being considered as Ukraine’s Ambassador to Canada according to sources in the Secretariat. Shevchenko a journalist by profession and an original founder of 5th Channel, has maintained his relationship with Poroshenko over the years despite being an active part of Tymoshenko’s Motherland. An ambassadorship to a strategic country would give Shevchenko a graceful exit in the interim and a path to returning to Ukrainian politics in the future at a higher level. Filling the Canada appointment following the appointment of Valeriy Chaliy to the US last month, is of strategic importance for Ukraine’s foreign relations given the immense level of support from Canada.
Ivan Gnatyshyn is Ukraine’s “new” Ambassador to Moldova. Ghatyshyn previously served as Ukraine’s Ambassador to Moldova from 1996-2000. Originally from Chernivtsi, Gnatyshyn has worked in the Foreign Ministry since 1996 serving as Ukraine’s Ambassador to Slovenia and Deputy Foreign Minister under Yushchenko. The appointment of a senior diplomat to the post indicates that Ukraine and Moldova are finally serious about tackling the smuggling in Transnistria and uniting efforts in the face of the Russian threat.
Valeriy Strelets was elected Prime Minister of Moldova with 52 of 101 votes. Strelets is from the Liberal Democrat Party and an ally of former Premier Vlad Filat. The election of Strelets is a positive sign as the Liberal Party rejoined the Pro-European coalition. Following the November Parliamentary elections they had denied their support to the ruling coalition of Liberal Democrats and Democrats. However with the election of Dorin Chirtoaca to his third term as Chisinau Mayor, the coalition was restored in an effort to stem the tide of Socialist, pro-Kremlin sentiment. While Strelets is off to making the right moves, it should be noted that former Premier Iure Leanca abstained from voting on the new Prime Minister. Moldova will move forward, but it is unclear how long Strelets will remain in the post…
Dates to Watch (for Ukraine unless otherwise noted):
August 26: Next Meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk:
September 1: Last Day of the Second Session of Parliament: On July 16th, Parliament mustered a measly 229 votes to extend the Second Session of Parliament until September 1st (the same day the Third Session begins). Due to a failure to pass decentralization in July, this is a necessary parliamentary procedure as Constitutional changes cannot be adopted in the same session of Parliament. They must be voted in two separate sessions. Thus, if Parliament can get a majority of votes to pass decentralization at the end of August, then they can work on getting 301 votes in September. That would allow decentralization plans to stay on schedule. Failure to pass decentralization this month would be a catastrophic defeat for the Poroshenko administration. It appears for now that there are enough to pass decentralization in this session but the real challenge will be persuading Samopomich, Radical Party and Motherland to stay onboard for the last and most important vote next month.
September 23: Ukraine must repay $500 Million in Foreign Debt.
October 18: Local “Elections” in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic
October 25: National Local Elections for Mayor and City Councils.
November 1: Local “Elections” in the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic.
November 8, 2015: Runoff Election Date under the New Election Law
January 31, 2016: New EU Expiration Date for Donbass related Sanctions on Russia
February 2016: Stockholm Arbitration Hearings on Counter Claims between Naftogaz and Gazprom. Naftogaz is seeking $16 billion dollars and a decision is expected by June 2016.
June 23, 2016: New EU Expiration Date for Crimea related Sanctions on Russia