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5 February, 2021  ▪  

Dinosaurs vs «Dinosaurs»

The 2020 Ukrainian local elections brought Kherson region not only new forms of campaigning, but also new faces in politics

The beginning of 2020 and decentralization changes also brought Kherson residents thoughts about changes in the leadership of the city and region. And not without reason, because the regional center, which is home to almost a third of the region's population – one of the largest in the territory – has long been trailing far behind in various rankings: quality of life, attractiveness to investors, public safety and more. 

Responding to the desire for change, candidates for the post of Kherson mayor began to actively use publicity-seeking stunts. At first, there was an opinion among the city community that the former many-time mayor and ex-member of the Verkhovna Rada, Volodymyr Saldo, had a chance to return to the chair. Others bet on «a someone» from the presidential party Sluha Narodu [Servant of the People]. However, at the beginning of 2020, the name of the then little-known man in Kherson, the newly-elected self-nominated parliamentarian Ihor Kolykhaiev, was heard more and more often.

 Closer to the election date, the peculiarities of the top contenders’ campaigns also showed up. Volodymyr Saldo followed the «old scheme» and made no attempt to get rid of the brand of a revanchist and a man of Yanukovych’s time. He recruited a mostly old team – partly of business managers, partly of those involved in corruption scandals. He focused his election campaigning mainly on the white-and-blue electorate and in the second round enlisted the support of one of the leaders of the OPZZh («Opposition Platform – For Life»), Yuriy Boiko. The only thing that changed was that he stood as candidate not from the «regionals» party, but from the one of his own name: 
«Volodymyr Saldo Bloc». He stuck in memory for dancing with a broom on the central pedestrian street of the city and the partial demolition (he came to his senses in time) of the old building in the center. He lost in the second round despite the support of OPZZh. 

After that, at the very first constituent plenary meeting of the Kherson City Council, the faction of nine «bayonets» he had brought with him split into two almost equal parts – Volodymyr Vasyliovych [Saldo] himself has a party press of the regional organization of the party of his name, and another faction member has a party press of the all-Ukrainian organization of the same party… Let’s leave it to the court. 

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The pro-government party Sluha Narodu, having nominated the City Council member from the BPP Yuriy Kirilov, the rector of the local university, as a candidate for mayor, did not win either. The rector campaigned, but did not collect much supporters. The city did not know him much, and the choice of «the green’ was not entirely clear. As a result, he became not even the third, and the party of «servants» is not even the second in the City Council. 

Ihor Kolykhaiev, like Saldo, came forward as a candidate from the political force of his own name «Ihor Kolykhaiev Party «We are to live here!» (NTZh) and solved the issue of recognizability by approaching the Kherson voter via children. In the summer, the candidate opened the so-called «Jurassic Park» in one of the recreational areas of the city and installed moving dinosaur figures there. For a month or two, dinosaurs gathered huge lines of children and adults. Dinosaurs became a «schtick» of Mr. Kolykhaiev’s entire campaign: they campaigned from billboards, people dressed in dinosaur costumes called on citizens to polling stations on Election Day.

 In the end, even the «twins» on the list of candidates did not prevent Kolykhaiev from getting a city mace. Like his counterpart Volodymyr Saldo, in the second round of elections, Kolykhaiev also enlisted the support of Sluha Narodu. He also brought the largest party faction within the walls of the City Council. As mayor, Kolykhaiev was able to force through a representative of his party to the post of secretary. 

It is still difficult to predict what kind of mayor Kolykhaiev will become. He came to the parliament from agrarian business and has no experience in urban managing. He is not a specialist in local self-government and has never worked with budget funds. Now we hear from him about unnecessary bureaucratic procedures in local self-government and conducting a large-scale audit of the municipal economy. In fact, the cleaning of the «Augean stables», that is, the city, from long-kept rubbish has begun. 

In addition to the mayor, the composition of City Council deputies has been renewed by almost 75%. The highest percentage of «familiar faces» is on the lists of Saldo’s party of his name – 55%, the lowest percentage is on the lists of Kolykhaiev’s party – 12%. 

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Outside the city, everything is calmer and more banal – the main pre-election work for candidates for deputies of the regional council was performed by candidates for lower-level councils. The first plenary session of the regional council of the new convocation added much color to it. The pro-government Sluha Narodu that took the third place after «OPZZh» and «NTZh», miraculously won two top management positions at once – the chairman and the first deputy. Another highest position and it was again the first deputy (this is prohibited by law) was won by the first in the election «OPZZH». Kolykhaiev «NTZh» was satisfied with the position of a regular deputy. The Kherson regional council decided to take an unprecedented step – it is the only one in Ukraine where there are two first deputies. For the sake of «good name» of Kherson regional deputies, it is necessary to note that regular deputy in the Council is exactly one – consistent with the law, by contrast with other regional councils-violators.

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