Boxer As Politician

KIEV, Ukraine -- We’ve been wondering for awhile how long it would take one of the boxing Klitschko brothers to get involved in politics. In the event, it happened a lot sooner than we expected, as this weekend saw heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko announce that he would run for parliament on the list of a bloc comprised of the Reforms and Order and Pora parties.

Heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko

Klitschko, an Orange Revolution supporter who abruptly abandoned boxing this fall after suffering a serious knee injury, should be commended for entering politics, which could use him. Politics in this country is too much the business of self-interested hacks and of Eastern European provincials with narrow worldviews.

Klitschko, a worldly guy who speaks German and English and has spent vast amounts of time in Hamburg and Los Angeles, is the exact opposite of them. Not incidentally, he’s also extremely – and honorably – rich. It’s not to make money or to protect himself from prosecution that he’s looking for a Rada seat. If he wins, he’ll bring brains – yes, he seems smart, and not only by boxing standards – and sophistication to a chamber that can use it. He’s witnessed how life is lived in countries where the level of democratic culture is more developed than it is here. That’s something shockingly few Rada deputies can claim.

At the same time, Klitschko is one democratic, West-friendly Ukrainian who can win votes in places like Donetsk and Crimea, where he’s just as much a hero as he is in Lviv. It will be hard to smear him as a sissified tool of the West.

Klitschko has some work to do, of course. As was evident at the Nov. 22 rally on Independence Square, he’s not a great public speaker. Also, we’ve never heard him speak a word of Ukrainian. But public speaking and Ukrainian are things that he can learn.

Klitschko is only in his mid thirties. We’re not sure if we’ll always agree with his positions, but we are pretty sure that, if he chooses to stick with it, he’ll exercise a good influence on Ukrainian political culture for decades to come.

Source: Kyiv Post Editorial