Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Electioneering

Fron the Financial Times:

Speaking in a televised debate ahead of fresh presidential elections on Sunday, he told Viktor Yushchenko, the opposition leader: "I'm against you [Mr Yushchenko and Mr Kuchma] uniting and teaching Ukrainians how tolive with help from za bugra, he said using a coarse expression for"abroad"....

The anger expressed by Mr Yanukovich in last night's debate echoed the heightened emotion of campaigning in the southern and eastern regions, which supported him last time but now appear more divided.

In Sevastopol, the Crimean city that hosts the main base of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, a St Nicholas day religious procession turned violent on Sunday. A small group of Mr Yanukovich's supporters who had marched in the procession split off and began waving their blue-and-white Yanukovich banners in front of passing cars. Eyewitnesses said that when a few cars decorated in the orange colour of Mr Yushchenko's campaign approached, they were attacked by Yanukovich supporters.

"Unfortunately, what happened here on Sunday was part of a clear trend,"said Timofey Nikityuk, head of the local branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, a domestic election observer group. "Campaigning [for the repeat election] has been much more aggressive than it was before previous rounds.

"The residents of Sevastopol were among the most disappointed when Mr Yanukovich's win was annulled. According to the official results, Mr. Yanukovich won more than 88 per cent of the city's votes, and Mr Yushchenko's campaign team acknowledges that it will lose in the city even if the election is fair.

Likewise, in Mr Yanukovich's native Donbas region, Mr Yushchenko's supporters have been attacked by groups of young men and some have been seriously injured. Journalists covering Yushchenko campaign events have been beaten and their cameras damaged.

In other southern and eastern regions, the campaign has been peaceful but filled with tension. In the Black Sea town of Odessa on Saturday, Mr Yanukovich and a member of Mr Yushchenko's political team, OlexaderMoroz, held rival campaign rallies in a central square in close succession.

A couple of hundred supporters of Mr Yanukovich, who appeared first, stayed
on to shout taunts and wave blue-and-white banners at Mr Moroz and the
orange-bedecked crowd. Lines of police separated the two groups but many
Yushchenko and Yanukovich supporters peeled off to argue with each other.

"Go! Get out of here! You have no connection whatsoever with Odessa!"shouted one middle-aged supporter of Mr Yanukovich, her eyes wet with tears. In central and western regions, Mr Yushchenko's supporters are confident of a sweeping victory and the government apparatus, which worked hard to rally support for Mr Yanukovich in last month's vote, has been largely subdued. However, in southern and eastern regions, state organs remain powerful and continue to work for Mr Yanukovich's campaign.

In Sevastopol, according to Mr Nikityuk, it is the mayor, appointed by Mr Kuchma, and the local tax administration chief, appointed by Mr Yanukovich's government, who have done the most for Mr Yanukovich's campaign. In the Donbas, powerful business groups allied to Mr Yanukovich have taken the leading role. Throughout the south and east, elected mayors and city councils have become more active in supporting Mr Yanukovich.

Pavlo Ignatenko, a member of parliament who runs Mr Yushchenko's campaign headquarters in Sevastopol, says these councillors are not so much supporting Mr
Yanukovich as "fighting for their personal survival". "Many of them have done things for which they should be punished by a court of law. They are in a state of panic," he said.



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