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Ukrainian Voters Said Unhappy with Presidential Candidates

Peter Fedynsky | Kyiv 14 January 2010

On Sunday, Ukraine holds a presidential election but there appears to be widespread dissatisfaction with the leading candidates. Support for the incumbent, Viktor Yushchenko, is said to be under five percent. Challenger Yulia Tymoshenko defends her record as prime minister, saying she prevented a bad economy from becoming worse. Former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych is also running despite a supreme court ruling that his 2004 presidential bid was riddled with fraud.

Many Ukrainians say they have suffered because of a feud between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko that has undermined government policies. Former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, disgraced in the 2004 presidential election, has returned from political oblivion. Voters suspect all three of corruption, and despite low approval ratings, all have secured the nomination of their respective parties.

Vitaliy Bala directs a political consulting group in Kyiv. He says Ukraine still has a Soviet-style political system based on personality. The system, he says, rewards supporters and the status quo, rather than ideas.

"Only a team of stars can lift Ukraine out of its current crisis," said Vitaliy Bala. "A single star won't do it. But no star wants to be surrounded by other stars and to share the glory of fame and power."

Bala says the system surrounds the leader with yes-men, creating a gap between politicians and the people.

"Those who come out of nothing to become a big boss immediately try to create a vacuum around themselves to avoid contact with the people they came from," he said.

Many Ukrainians say they are not voting for, but rather against, certain candidates. Several campaign workers for the top three told this reporter they do not support their own candidates, but they fear a vote for an alternative would be wasted.

Despite a field of nearly 20 challengers, surveys indicate none poses a serious threat to the established candidates.

Olexiy Haran is a political science professor at Kyiv Mohyla Academy. He tells VOA that Ukrainian politicians have not matured as quickly as the voters.

"There are efforts in Ukraine to create a European-style political force, in which politics and financing are transparent, where it is understood who is on the ballot, and that they are not involved in any corrupt schemes," said Olexiy Haran. "This is what the newcomers should have done. But they haven't, so we need to choose from among the old politicians."

Opinion polls indicate no candidate is likely to garner 50 percent of the votes, needed to win Sunday's election outright. The top two vote getters, presumably Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovych, will face off in a second round on February 7.