At present the rivalry for the presidential seat in Ukraine is centered on two politicians, Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko. Polls show that they are the most likely candidates to advance to the second round of the presidential race, Kostiantyn Bondarenko, director of Kyiv’s Gorshenin Institute of Management Issues, told a press conference at the Mist-Kharkiv News Agency.
Bondarenko went on to say that “Viktor Yanukovych has long ceased to be a politician from Donetsk and has become a political figure on a nationwide scope. First he became the mouthpiece for entire eastern Ukraine and then endeavored to represent all of Ukraine. While turning into an all-Ukrainian politician, Viktor Yanukovych is facing new risks and challenges. He cannot rely solely on the Party of Regions to become the next President of Ukraine, because this party is markedly heterogeneous and lacks a united stand, as can be seen every day. Relying on PR support can tangibly limit Yanukovych’s electoral capacity in central and western Ukraine.”
With regard to Yulia Tymoshenko, Bondarenko said, “I have always felt critical about Tymoshenko as a politician, yet I can’t criticize her as prime minister (I wouldn’t criticize anyone holding this post, regardless of his/her political affiliation) now that we’re going through this severe economic crisis. The main positive aspect of Tymoshenko’s premiership is that ordinary people have stopped fearing this crisis. It is no longer synonymous with the apocalypse.”
Bondarenko further believes that today Tymoshenko can face the same kinds of problems that challenged President Salvador Allende of Chile: “In the early 1970s the Popular Unity government of Chile was confronted by the acts of sabotage of the part of pro-American oligarchs. Currency speculations started, prices soared, and the employment rate went up. This, in turn, resulted in the ‘March of the Empty Pots’ that brought Pinochet to power. His ‘Miracle of Chile’ amounted to the lifting of the economic siege of the Chilean economy by the same oligarchs.”
Bondarenko said that the other presidential candidates have more pragmatic objectives in mind. Arsenii Yatseniuk would want to become the next prime minister under President Yanukovych. Serhii Tyhypko is trying to become an alternative leader in eastern Ukraine, being aware that this leader will vanish after the presidential election, because Yanukovych will either become president or retire as a politician.
“The situation in the upper echelons of power extrapolates to the regions. In Kharkiv, for example, the elite will be divided along the Tymoshenko – Yanukovych line. The local BYuT organization also appears to be a better organized force than that of the Party of Regions, while the PR is in a better electoral position,” said Bondarenko.
Bondarenko stresses that the situation is very much the same elsewhere in Ukraine. Even now the regional political elites are looking for a compromise, with an eye to the coming local elections. These people realize that the important thing is the alignment of local political forces, not the big-time political game being played in Kyiv.