Chernovetsky: Big Changes Ahead For Capital

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Kyiv branch of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission announced the official results of its mayoral and council elections on April 4, opening the door for a complete reshuffling of power in the nation’s capital.

Mayor elect Leonid Chernovetsky

Eccentric banker and politician Leonid Chernovetsky won the city’s mayoral election, capturing about a third of the 1.4 million votes cast, which is roughly 150,000 more than outgoing Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko, who came in third behind retired world boxing champion Vitaliy Klitschko.

Chernovetsky, who controls Pravex-Bank, one of Ukraine’s largest, with assets in excess of $400 million, was also elected as a city council member, along with his son Stepan, who is vice president of the bank.

Chernovetsky’s presence in Kyiv will be strong, as his eponymous bloc won 21 seats in the new 120-seat council. The Yulia Tymoshenko bloc (Byut) mustered 41 seats, Our Ukraine 15, the Pora-Reform and Order bloc 14, and Regions of Ukraine 9 seats.

Chernovetsky’s bloc and Byut have already expressed their intent to collaborate in the council.

“[We] are ready to establish a working coalition in the Kyiv city council,” said Byut leader Mykhailo Brodsky, who was also elected to the city council.

“Kyivans will live just like people do in Prague, Budapest, Berlin and Rome,” he added.

The official election results were revealed the very same day that Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s Office dropped an investigation against Chernovetsky, triggered by long-time arch rival Omelchenko, who accused Chernovetsky of buying votes ahead of the election with gifts.

Brodsky, in turn, criticized Omelchenko, urging Kyiv’s decade-long mayor to “learn how to lose,” and allow for a civilized change of power in the city.

Appearing on Ukrainian television channel Tonis late on April 4, Chernovetsky said he expected Omelchenko, who recently called Chernovetsky a “blackmailer,” to file more complaints in order to postpone his coming to power.

Chernovetsky, an openly active member of Kyiv’s Embassy of God Church, said Omelchenko’s complaints were nothing more than “childish games,” although he did admit to giving voters gifts ahead of the March 26 vote. However, Chernovetsky also insists he never urged any of them to vote for him in return.

“I got about 150,000 more votes than Omelchenko. How could I have bought so many votes?” he asked.

“I just wanted to help them,” Chernovetsky said, pledging that Kyiv will turn into a more prosperous and transparent city under his leadership.

“I have nothing to hide…everything will be transparent,” he added.

Chernovetsky attributes his surprise victory over Omelchenko, who had a strong lead in pre-election opinion polls, to a simple campaign strategy.

“I did not fight with my opponents and didn’t pay much attention to the polls,” he said. “Nobody thought that Kyivans love me, but I knew [they did] the entire time.”

Looking to the future, Chernovetsky promised sweeping reforms. He intends to lower real estate prices for the less fortunate and use lie detector tests when hiring top local government officials. Nonetheless, Chernovetsky provided little details regarding how he planned to achieve these bold plans and bolster support for them.

“Apartments will be much more expensive for the rich and cost several times less for poor people,” he said, adding that land was previously simply handed out at below-market prices to insiders through dubious city council decisions.

“Fifty percent of the funds generated from land sales could go to the needy for apartment purchases,” he said, followed by a quote by the late Mother Teresa.

Referring to rough living standards in the Darnytsia district of Kyiv he asked:

“Is this Kyiv?”

“No, it’s a jungle,” added Chernovetsky, well-known for his use of hyperbole.

Source: Kyiv Post