Saturday, March 11, 2006

Election campaign warming up..

As Scott sggests, the VR election campaign may be coming out of its 'phoney war' stage at last. Roman Bezsmertnyi, campaign front man for NSNU, has publicly launched a 'Register of Falsehoods' that BYuT are apparently [shock-horror!] promulgating about NSNU. [Someone should tell Bezsmertnyi that beards are a no-no for politicians.] Their official website [also in English] shows that attacks on BYuT are being ratcheted up a couple of notches.

As a reposte, BYuT #3, Mykola Tomenko, one of the leading field commanders of the Orange Revolution, a young, urbane politician with, by Ukrainian standards, a 'squeaky-clean' reputation, has challenged NSNU #1 and current PM Yekhanurov to a public debate about how Yekhanurov, as State Property Fund chief in the '90's under the disgraced pair of former Pres. Kuchma and former PM Lazarenko, 'privatized' the Ukrainian economy and agriculture. "My knowledge of agriculture will be sufficient to demonstrate that the children and families of leaders of the then party and economy nomenclature acquired everything which our fathers worked for, for next-to-nothing," said Tomenko.

Tomenko claims that Yekhanurov hindered reprivatization of Kryvorizhstal during the short time Tymoshenko was PM; and when Yekhanurov became PM following Tymoshenko's sacking, Kuchma, called him, "the best of my pupils," and gave him his public blessing.

A few days previously Yekhanurov had praised Tomenko, even mentioning him as a possible Minister of Agriculture in any future coalition.

Meanwhile several of the main parties are talking up the possibility of falsifications, perhaps getting their excuses registered before the elections take place, in case they fare badly.

Until last night's TV program, the shady past of many of PR's candidates has not been heavily featured in the NSNU's campaigning. In the Kyiv Post piece 'Grand Coalition - Ukraine's Salvation,' its author envisages a scenario where

"Akhmetov would become the new "Renaissance Man" to lead Ukraine out of chaos and into a progressive future by forming a center-right "Grand Patriotic Coalition" of some 330 members from Regions, Our Ukraine, Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party, and Pora/Reforms & Order, assuming the latter passes the three percent barrier...[Akmetov] is using Euro-U.S. business experts to create models of efficiency and transparency. He is clearly interested in separating his businesses and himself from a controversial past, hoping to take Systems Capital Management, his primary business holding, and other companies, public on the London and New York Stock Exchanges."

The question for the Ukrainian electorate is, "Should you vote-in a highly placed political leader with such an uncertain background?" Would any other west European country, which Ukraine aspires to be, do so?

By grudgingly accepting the reprivatization of Kryvorizhstal, Akhmetov and Pinchuk may feel that they have repaid any dues to the Ukrainian State Treasury, and their slate is wiped clean. But surely the first time any decision has to be made that threatens their business interests in the new VR, Akmetov and his underlings will put their personal interest first.

Other leading parties have links to oligarchic groups too, so unfortunately the same can be said of them. As for the surgical operation to separate the Siamese twins of business and politics in the VR, of which Tymoshenko spoke in her inaugural speech on being appointed PM last year, the hospital has not even received planning permission for its construction.

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