Thursday, May 29, 2008

Election Lessons

KIEV, Ukraine -- With the mayoral elections over, Kyivans will now be spared the campaign leaflets and newspapers thrust in their direction, and the billboards of handsome and not-so handsome candidates.

The early election of Kiev’s Mayor, which was called because the authorities believed Leonid Chernovetsky worked improperly, ended in his victory.

Mayor Leonid Chernovetskiy surpassed expectations, handily winning the mayoral seat and earning enough votes for his bloc to form a City Council coalition.

In all, the city government leadership won’t change much, which begs the question -- what did the elections accomplish?

Hopefully lawmakers will twice before calling snap elections again.

An overconfident Yulia Tymoshenko, expecting triumph, led the charge in parliament to unseat her nemesis. Instead, the elections humbled Tymoshenko, not only handing her bloc defeat but reducing its presence in the Kyiv City Council.

Ironically, Chernovetskiy won by taking a page out of Tymoshenko's political playbook by appealing to voters, particularly pensioners and civil servants, with promises of populist payouts. As a result, Chernovetskiy’s hold on the capital is reinforced. He won a solid victory that empowers him to pursue his political agenda for the next five years.

Most importantly, the elections brought Kyiv’s challenges to the forefront including its rapid growth and inadequate infrastructure.

Chernovetskiy demonstrated his awareness of the public’s transit concerns, introducing new city buses to run along marshrutka lines and even opening a new metro station (regardless of its reported leaks), timed just days before Election Day. The mayor should make improving public transit a foundation for his government and demonstrate his commitment beyond electioneering.

More than anything, Chernovetskiy’s enemies loathe him for his alleged corruption, particularly in illegally distributing land.

Unfortunately if the allegations are true, then the elections and his decisive victory merely served to embolden Chernovetskiy and his allegedly corrupt ways.

Those who led the Orange Revolution were unable to convince voters that they were the better alternative. Despite its heavy campaigning, the pro-presidential Our Ukraine People’s Union didn’t even qualify for the City Council.

What awaits Kyiv, with the mayoral team more confident than ever, is uncertain. But if suspicions of corruption re-surface, let’s go to the courts instead of the polls.

Source: Kyiv Post

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