A spoiler is a political party or candidate created by a political force to fight against its opponents, take away percentage points from a rival party by winning over its electorate or merely blacken an opponent.
“Oleh Liashko, who will play against the opposition, will be the typical spoiler in the upcoming parliamentary election… working against Vitaliy Klychko in the mayoral election in Kyiv,” Volodymyr Fesenko, chief of the Penta Centre for Applied Political Studies, told The Ukrainian Week.
Among other things, his statement is based on the outcome of the recent by-election to Vinnytsia Oblast Council. Opposition observers in Vinnytsia Oblast told The Ukrainian Week that a candidate from Liashko’s Radical Party handed out leaflets in Batkivshchyna’s white and red colors with a slogan: “Freedom to Yulia!” Only the fine print at the bottom of the page betrayed the candidate’s membership in Mr. Liashko’s party. As a result, the opposition candidate failed to win the 10% garnered by the Radical Party nominee he needed to win over the pro-government candidate.
Still, Mr. Liashko’s Radicals will hardly do much damage to the opposition across Ukraine as his party currently has the miserable 0.5% despite the powerful media campaign.
According to the most recent survey carried out by the Razumkov Centre jointly with the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation in late March and early April, Natalia Korolevska’s Ukrayina -Vpered! (Ukraine – Forward!) can now gain over 1%. She has no chance to clear the 5% threshold but can bite off some of the opposition’s electorate, primarily that of the Batkivshchyna – Front of Changes alliance with the present media activity continued.
National democratic forces led by Our Ukraine and the Ukrainian People’s Party are slowly drawing closer to a union. Not all right-leaning voters, primarily in Western Ukraine, accept the radical rhetoric of Svoboda, so the old good national democrats might shave 1-1.5% off the opposition’s result.
Moreover, Viktor Yushchenko seems to have embraced his role as a spoiler as a kind of mission. Sources in Our Ukraine told The Ukrainian Week that he spoke at a recent meeting of the party’s political board and clearly outlined the goal for the elections – not winning but “exposing, for the benefit of society, the criminal essence of the opposition which joined the Dictatorship Resistance Committee led by Yulka.” [Yulka here is a disparaging form of Tymoshenko’s first name. – Transl.] That is why a recent decision made by Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, chairman of the Our Ukraine political board, to team up with other opposition forces in nominating MP candidates is unlikely to have any effect. Sources claim that Mr. Yushchenko continues to control most oblast organizations and will be able to set the party on the course of fighting against “criminal Yulka.”
After all, all abovementioned spoilers can collectively win no more than 3-4% at best. Meanwhile, they can spoil the opposition’s image significantly.
Mr. Liashko is infamous for eating soil on the rostrum in parliament, trying to bring a cow into the Verkhovna Rada, “milk” TV host Savik Shuster in a live broadcast and so on. He is a perfect target for those ridiculing the opposition.
Ms. Korolevska placed many paid articles in mass media. As a result, those in power had a reason to claim that journalists are only interested in the opposition when it pays them.
Not all abovementioned political movements are necessarily managed by pro-government forces. “I can’t say I see the trace of Bankova Street everywhere. Both Ms. Korolevska and Mr. Yushchenko have their own goals for the elections. It is true, however, that the government is skilfully using contradictions and the ambitions of opposition members to suit its own purposes,” Mr. Fesenko said.
This point is confirmed by the way former Defence Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko and his Civic Position party carry themselves. Mr. Hrytsenko was a proactive member of the Dictatorship Resistance Committee for quite a while but quit shortly after the opposition supported the law on parliamentary elections. He accused his former Committee fellows of “plotting to keep Yanukovych in power.” Even if few could refer to him as the “Bankova Street’s project,” his independent run in the election will likely strip the opposition of some votes. The above-mentioned survey suggests that his popularity rating is at nearly 3%.
Ukrainian politics has now two types of spoilers. The first one includes professionals who work specifically to reduce the popularity of the opposition. The second one is those whose ambitions keep them from joining the like-minded opposition forces.