Chesspad Puzzle

Ostap Kryvdyk, Journalist, Political scientist and Activist

Elections-2012 have already started in Ukraine. They’re not like EURO-2012, where everybody can see the stadiums and the roads constructed – it’s more like building an iceberg, a common Ukrainian would never see.

Now it’s time for the future MP candidates to hire their team members, to make a research, to consider the price. The puzzle of the future parliament is now being constructed – and this will be one of the biggest dramas in the modern Ukrainian history.

The circumstances are as following: as soon as the football championship is to take place, no rude pressure and direct fraud can be used, so there is a need of more-or-less free and fair elections. As soon, as the Free Trade Zone Agreement with the EU is also negotiated, there’s a need to keep the face of the nowadays power cleaned of the authoritarian image.

First question is the type of electoral system of Ukraine for 2012. Within the Bankova corridors there’s a common acceptance of the mixed system (225 MP’s are to be elected in constituencies, 225 – by means of the countrywide closed proportional party lists). System of this kind worked out really well on the local elections in Autumn 2010, when Party of regions got majority of local MP’s in many used-to-be Tymoshenko-controlled local parliaments. There are also concerns regarding a post-Soviet electoral proverb “The winner is the one who counts the votes, and not the one who wins the votes”, giving the right to count only to the representatives of the parliamentary factions, and the Venice Commission will strongly oppose this.

The ruling power wants to gain a majority in the Rada-2012 (the constitutional majority of 300 MP’s), but this is by any means hardly achievable. That’s why the analists give some small chance to the change of the electoral system into the regional “open party lists”, to get more seats out of controlled oblasts, leaving opposition with no chance to win in most of the Ukraine’s regions.

Another big issue is the people who will be running as the representatives or allies of the ruling power. There’s a deep conflict of interest between Sergiy Lyovochkin, Head of the Administration of the President Yanukovich, and Sergiy Kliuev, Vice-Prime-Minister.

The legendary Kliuev’s “chesspad”, map of 225 constituencies countrywide includes the names of the primary and of the secondary candidate from power, is widely discussed within the Kyiv’s politically engaged community. Primarily “chesspad” term was used as the technology for constructing the Cabinet of Ministers,where the playfield was the key positions within the ministries, regional administrations and the state commities, with primary and secondary candidates for the positions. Now there’s a slight shift of it into the electoral dimension.

According to “legends”, being number 1 within the “chesspad” means the support of the state power, the legendary ugly “administrative resource”, number 2 may count on a “non-involving” attitude. By the end of autumn of 2011 the candidates’ raitings will be checked and the priorities might be shifted.

Still, the “key” of the administrative resource lies in the hands of Lyovochkin, who controls the appointment of the heads of the local (Oblast and Rayon) governmental bodies. This is the part of the “divide et impera” politics of Yanukovich within his own elite, which reminds of the same Kuchma’s approach.

There’s also a desperate fight over the “gerrymandering” of the shares according to the needs of certain players, which are to be set by the Central Election Commitee, completely controlled by pro-Yanukovich people but divided between Kliuev’s and Lyovochkin’s allies.

Will we remember of the violent local elections in Mukacheve in 2004 which were a real rehearsal of the fraud which triggered the Orange Revolution? Will the Donetsk-born elite put the fierceful pressure over the opposition in the way they did 7 years ago, which actually made them lose the game? Or will those people, who set, judge and play the game at the same time, find a simple transparently looking picture suitable for their victory?

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