Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 43

The Ukrainian capital should soon cease to be a city without an elected mayor. On March 2 the parliament, by a vote of 265-51, scheduled Kyiv’s mayoral election for May 30. This decision concluded an extended parliamentary squabble over the particulars of a law passed in January which established electoral rules. The timing of the election was of particular concern. Pro-presidential factions had pushed for the election to be held in the spring. Communists, socialists and Lazarenko’s Hromada party insisted that they be held in the fall. The “red” and the Hromada party argued that holding mayoral and presidential elections at the same time–in October–would cut down on campaign expenses and extend campaign time for mayoral candidates.

In pressing for later mayoral elections, the various opponents of Oleksandr Omelchenko–Kyiv’s administrative head, appointed by President Leonid Kuchma–argued that Omelchenko would, in his current position, benefit from a shorter campaign. Eventually, however, the communists gave up on their call for later elections. In return, pro-presidential factions reportedly promised to support the communists on certain issues in parliament later. One communist leader, Georgy Kryuchkov, said that his party now expects Omelchenko–“as an honest man”–to take a neutral position in the presidential elections, should he be elected mayor (Ukrainian agencies and television, March 2; Den, March 3).

Popular support for Omelchenko is apparently higher than that of other candidates taken together, most of whom campaigned last year and want to do so again. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 40.5 percent of Kyiv electors would have voted for Omelchenko as mayor in February. Ivan Saly, the former presidential representative in Kyiv, and Kuchma’s bitter political opponent, former Justice Minister Serhy Holovaty, got only 6 percent of the “vote” each. They were trailed by Leonid Kosakivsky of the Hromada party, former chairman of the Kyiv city council, with 4 percent (UNIAN-Vybory, February 15). Omelchenko owes his popularity to presidential support, control over Kyiv media and the privileged position of Kyiv’s hosting most of Ukraine’s legal financial capital and drawing the lion’s share of foreign investment.

The Kyiv mayoral election is widely regarded as a dress rehearsal for the presidential race. The election, originally scheduled for March last year, was canceled at the eleventh hour by the Prosecutor General’s Office, which cited contradictions in laws on this matter, despite the Constitutional Court ruling to the contrary. Local elections, along with the death penalty and violation of freedom of the press, have been among the issues for which Ukraine risks expulsion from the Council of Europe.–OV