Well, it sounded so great, so frank I have to quote it: “In the populated areas of my constituency... a unique experiment was even carried out. And so if one considers populated areas where I met with the voters not more than once or twice, and if one singles out villages from among them, where additional efforts were made (personal contacts with the chairman of the collective farm, school principal, head of the village council, as a result of which they promised their support and added their administrative resources with the silent blessing of the district administration), the percentage of additionally collected votes, as a rule, did not surpass 10-15%.” Note “administrative resources” and “silent blessings” of the local leadership. This is not spelled out at more length, perhaps in the hope that the reader familiar with the political realities of this country will get the message and visualize precisely the manner in which that additional 10- 15% of votes was collected. All right, let us accept this by principle of default and get on with the topic.
Of course, we should explain that the quotation cited is from an interview in Kievskie Vedomosti with Dmytro Tabachnyk, Ph.D., recipient of government medals, former Head of the Presidential Administration, currently one of Leonid Kuchma's top campaign strategists. What he had in mind was his experience during the 1998 parliamentary campaign, and he made the statement in response to a question about his attitude toward the “current presidential campaign in the context of involving administrative and technological resources.” Meaning that technological resources alone would not suffice, although they did have their use. And probably forestalling a question about the legitimacy of “administrative resources” being applied by someone in power, Mr. Tabachnyk explained that “...We all understand only too well that the participation in the elections of any active politician (be it the Premier or Chancellor of Great British, Sweden, or Germany, or the President in any of the post-Soviet countries) cannot do without using administrative capacities and support from the government machine.”
Dmytro Tabachnyk, Ph.D. (history), must agree with the classics that the most important lesson one learns from history is that people do not remember any such lessons. In any case, he said, “I think that the main problem facing us is a normal combination of administrative and purely technological possibilities...” I cannot deny myself the pleasure of reminding the reader that latter-day history shows that in decent countries, to the political practices of which Dr. Tabachnyk refers, such a “normal combination” would entail not only removal from office but a prison term as well. Incidentally, I should congratulate Dmytro Tabachnyk: our political life is slowly but surely approaching civilized political standards. For example, Mr. Yeliashkevych's committee, acting under a parliamentary resolution, is preparing documents to repeal presidential candidate Leonid Kuchma's registration, documents which will be submitted to the Central Election Committee. If this happens, I think that Dr. Tabachnyk will, with a sense of profound gratification, realize that he has also made his humble contribution to the process with his “normal combination” as a deputy chief of election staff of that very presidential candidate.
In fact, the said interview (a sizable one, carried by two issues on September 29-30) contains much interesting information. For example, “Of all the registered presidential candidates Leonid Kuchma is the only one capable of implementing his plans, which to my mind best meet the needs of our country.” I generally agree with the first part of the statement, in the sense that Leonid Kravchuk underestimated Leonid Kuchma back in 1994, and that the same mistake has been made by some of his opponents in the current campaign. As for meeting the needs of our country, I don't think that economic ruin and literal impoverishment of the population are things Ukraine needs all that badly. For some reason I suspect we could well without them just fine.
Finally, about whether Leonid Kuchma should be reelected, the topic has been debated in Ukraine ever since the President declared his candidacy a year and a half ago. To the man in the street anyway the main argument for goes something like this: all of them (i.e., the presidential entourage) have already got everything they wanted, so why replace them with newcomers, who will want the same and will start thieving all over again. Of late, this assumption has been transformed into a very interesting formula: he has led us into this swamp, now let him get us out and show us the road to a bright future. Just like Ivan Susanin: you have led us here, now get us out of here. The difference being that Ivan Susanin knew where he was taking the invaders and would not show them the way, not on his life, thanks to his lofty patriotic sentiments. As for those who have led Ukraine to where it is now, he either (a) had no idea what he was doing and thus has no idea how to get us out, or (b) he knew full well, motivated by sentiments anything but lofty and will thus not want to show us the way out. In the latter case the outcome is easy to foresee with just a careful look at what is going on in Russia. They reelected their President according to the same reasoning, among other things.
Let him get us out of this mess! How charmingly naive. Dr. Tabachnyk formulates the idea with academic elegance: “In any country, any president elected for the second — and constitutionally last — term will prove by far more energetic and productive than during his previous five years. And the reason is simple: he... will not have to adjust himself to various trends; he will not have to bother about getting reelected. He will have to work proceeding from the concept of his place, if not in eternity then in the history of Ukraine.”
Sounds beautiful, but it really does not exhaust all of the possibilities, for another motivation is also quite possible as the one that will determine his efforts in this final term: avoiding responsibility for everything done before. Here the simplest solution is getting the second term, complying with the heartfelt desires of the toiling masses. Or proclaiming oneself a lifelong President without any such requests. I don't think I have to cite historical examples, not for a man with a Ph.D. and two diplomas. He should know them well enough.
Mr. Tabachnyk declared that in the current presidential campaign he considers himself not a condottiere (that is, a mercenary) but a volunteer. I don't know about the journalists interviewing him, but I have no doubt that he meant what he said, for how could he have acted other than siding with the person who gave him everything he has.
PS: There is a certain gratification in watching this keen, strong, and cynical (no offense) mind at play. Such political realism, such a reflection of it in the minds of those who cooked it up in the first place. Perhaps if they had not been so smart and pragmatic, this game would have long since sent them packing.