Kyiv Mayor: Yushchenko Supports Me

KIEV, Ukraine -- Kyiv Mayor Leonid Chernovetskiy appeared happy and nervous when he threw the switch to light “the tallest Christmas tree in the CIS” on the Maidan last weekend.

Kyiv Mayor Leonid Chernovetskiy.

Happy, because he believes he will ring in the New Year enjoying support from President Viktor Yushchenko, but nervous because his ouster is on next year’s political agenda of Premier Yulia Tymoshenko, her Byut and other political parties.

The forces seeking an early end to Chernovetskiy’s term in office include parties and politicians that formed the pro-presidential Our Ukraine-People’s Self-Defense bloc for the last elections.

But some Our Ukraine members on the Kyiv City Council have sided with the pro-Chernovetskiy majority on voting through land deals over the course of the year.

Opposition politicians charge that under “Lyonya Cosmos” more that 4,000 hectares of real estate was doled during 2007. (“Lyonya” is the diminutive form of Leonid and “cosmos” refers to the mayor’s often glassy-eyed gaze.)

300,000 signatures

Byut began a signature collection campaign at the end of November to hold a referendum on early mayoral and Kyiv city council elections. Kyiv city officials were elected for a four-year term more than a year-and-a-half ago in March 2006.

Four weeks on, organizers claim to have collected more than 300,000 signatures through a network of 70 canopy tents set up around the capital. Meanwhile, city officials have resorted to force to remove tents from in front of city hall.

On Nov. 29, activists from the Kyiv Byut and Civic Pora organizations attempted to erect the pole-assembled tents in front of city hall.

But four of the temporary structures, a diesel generator and sound equipment worth Hr 20,000 ($4,000), were forcefully disassembled and whisked away in a van by a dozen men in black leather coats while police stood by watching, said Ihor Kozik, a leader of Civic Pora, also known as “Raspberry Pora.”

“Kyiv police have not responded to our criminal complaint and we’ve been told to not expect to get our property back,” he said.

Four weeks later, protesters were subject to violence of the audio kind. On Dec. 20, city officials cordoned the steps to city hall with militia and blocked the broad sidewalk on Kyiv’s central street, Khreshchatyk, with diesel-fuming snow-removal trucks.

Another truck mounted with four giant speakers was positioned to assault demonstrators and passersby with hundreds of decibels of eardrum-busting Ukrainian pop music about how beautiful Kyiv is as a city. The gathered crowd quickly dispersed.

Oleksandr Tarasiuk, a Pora leader, had to wait for breaks in the music to shout, “Chernovetskiy should be sitting in trial!” and “President Yushchenko does not support you!”

He crossed onto the other side of Khreshchatyk to continue yelling epitaphs at the mayor via cordless microphone. “This is democracy and freedom of speech Chernovetskiy-style” Tarasiuk complained.

Mayoral revote?

A poll conducted from late October to the first week of November found that 46 percent of the capital’s residents support the idea of early mayoral election.

The joint Democratic Initiatives-Ukrainian Sociology Service survey of 1,500 adult Kyivans showed 31 percent are opposed to the idea, while 25 percent were undecided about the prospect of cutting Chernovetskiy’s term off.

In the poll, more than half (53 percent) gave Chernovetskiy a negative and “primarily negative” grade.

Poll results presented last month by the Gorshenin Institute of Management confirmed that the majority of Kyivans did not feel the mayor was doing a good job.

Institute director Kost Bondarenko said that more than 60 percent disapproved of the mayor. Chernovetskiy topped the list of eight national politicians who evoked negative responses from the golden-domed city’s residents.

Only 3 percent felt that Chernovetskiy was doing an excellent job and only 4.3 percent said their financial status had improved over the course of the last year.

“Those are probably all workers of Kyiv city hall and administration,” quipped Bondarenko at a Dec. 3 press conference.

Yet the same poll showed that Chernovetskiy would benefit from a vote split among his political opponents and come out on top in a mayoral race, with 18.8 percent of support.

He would have beat out former sexagenarian Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko, who placed well within the 3.2 percent margin of error with 17.3 percent.

Bondarenko described the “the Chernovestkiy phenomenon:” Despite the lowest approval rating, the mayor would win a first-past-the-post mayoral race by garnering more votes than the number split among four candidates, including Internal Affairs Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, Omelchenko and Vitaliy Klitschko.

“If there were two rounds of elections, then Chernovetskiy would lose,” Bondarenko said.

The greatest number of voters – more than 30 percent – were undecided in last month’s poll.

Fate in president’s hands

“I don’t believe in pre-term Kyiv elections. The soonest they can happen is one to one-and-a-half years,” said Bondarenko.

He said that according to law, Chernovestkiy must himself agree to a referendum on pre-term elections.

Bondarenko confirmed that Chernovestkiy’s relationship with the president had improved.

“All pretensions fell [in late November], but it’s situational and depends on Yushchenko’s mood. He dismissed the Rada, why not the mayor? It all depends on what leg President Viktor Yushchenko gets up on,” said Bondarenko.

Meanwhile, the anti-Chernovetskiy protesters were upset by the mayor’s repeated claims that he enjoys the president’s full support.

They demonstrated before the presidential secretariat on Dec. 19, demanding Yushchenko either confirm or deny his support of Chernovetskiy.

But the mayor remains the main object of their protest.

“We’ll be here every Thursday until the job is done,” Kozik said before echoing Our Ukraine’s recent campaign slogan, “If the law should truly to be one for all.”

Source: Kyiv Post


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