Rumors from sources close to the Russian presidential administration have suggested that Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych might be ready to withdraw from the second round of the presidential elections, set for November 21 (top.rbc.ru, November 5). Such a drastic step would ensure a second round run-off between Viktor Yushchenko and Socialist Oleksandr Moroz, who came in third, believing that Moroz would have a better chance of defeating Yushchenko. While the Yanukovych camp refuted these rumors, their wide circulation reflects the post-election blues that dominate the Yanukovych camp. They failed to engineer a wide lead in round one through shady methods. In reality Yushchenko won unofficially by a wide margin, even official results show the two dead even.
These post-election blues have been deepened by three factors.
First, a Razumkov Center poll pointed to an overwhelming lead for Yushchenko among prospective voters in round two: 54% to only 46% for Yanukovych. These figures resemble the real results known to the Yanukovych camp and reflected in exit polls, namely a first-round Yushchenko victory with 54% (Independent, November 2).
Second, future polls are likely to show an even larger lead for Yushchenko in round two, because they will reflect the broadening of his support base. Except for Progressive Socialist leader Natalia Vitrenko (who polled 1.5%), Yanukovych has failed to attract additional political support from influential political forces defeated in round one. The Communist Party (KPU) has refused to endorse either of the two remaining candidates. Many of the 5% intending to vote against both candidates in the Razumkov poll could be Communists.
A leaked internal document from the Yanukovych camp outlines desperate steps to be taken to attract left-wing voters, including plans to celebrate the “Great Socialist Revolution” on November 7, commissioning an article for Silski Visti, a large-circulation newspaper aligned with the Socialists, and drafting a letter to the November 4 plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Ukrayinska pravda, November 8). None of these three steps has succeeded.
Communist leader Petro Symonenko’s “against both” position is being challenged from both sides. Within his lower ranks there are clamors for the KPU to follow the Socialists (SPU) and come out in support of Yushchenko, while Russia’s Communists are lobbying the KPU to follow Vitrenko’s lead and back Yanukovych (razom.org.ua, November 9; Itar-Tass, November 5).
Yushchenko, meanwhile, has signed agreements with three important political forces. While his Our Ukraine and the SPU split over constitutional reforms earlier this year, Moroz has endorsed Yushchenko and promised that 90% of his supporters would back Yushchenko in the run-off (yushchenko.com.ua, Ukrayinska pravda, November 6).
Other defectors to Yushchenko come from a parliamentary faction ostensibly in the pro-presidential camp. Former Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh, now head of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (SPPU) and the party of the same name, which President Leonid Kuchma led in 1993-94, was also a candidate in round one. Kinakh always stated that he would never support Yanukovych in round two, thus Kinakh signed an agreement whereby his party will now throw their support to Yushchenko (yushchenko.com.ua, November 8). The “Democratic Platform” of the People’s Democratic Party (NDP) also signed an agreement with Yushchenko. These moves reveal deep cracks within the pro-presidential camp.
The agreement signed between the “Democratic Platform” and Yushchenko condemns the first round as “non-transparent, undemocratic, falsified and, as such, elections that took place with severe and massive infringement of citizen’s rights to freely vote” (Ukrayinska pravda, November 9). Ironically, NDP leader Valeriy Pustovoitenko is the coordinator for the political parties supporting Yanukovych, against whom this statement is directed.
Third, the feeling of powerlessness that so pervaded Ukrainian citizens until the Kuchmagate crisis has gone. The new Razumkov poll shows that Yushchenko voters now believe their candidate may actually win.
Other factors reflect this growing popular confidence in the media and the security forces, both of whom were important in the 2000 Serbian and 2003 Georgian democratic revolutions. A revolt against media censorship has been spearheaded by 329 television journalists from state and private TV channels (telekritika.kiev.ua/comments/?id=18156).
The head of the State Television Channel 1 news program “Visti” was removed this week because he refused to continue using temnyky (secret instructions issued by the presidential administration). Television journalists are planning a full-scale revolt two or three days before the second round. The timing is aimed to prevent station owners or controllers, who tend to be Yanukovych supporters, from removing them from work. Thus more balanced coverage on television could be in the offing on election day.
Another important institution for the second round is the police. Regional branches of the Yushchenko camp have been secretly visited for some months by police officers who pass on intelligence about the illegal involvement of policemen in the elections. These policemen categorically state their unwillingness to use firearms against peaceful demonstrators if they protest election fraud.
Several Kharkiv policemen who wrote an open — but anonymous — letter to parliament documenting wide-scale election fraud by the regional governor and the Interior Ministry (razom.org.ua, November 8; UNIAN, November 9). One of the most serious charges concerned the delivery of additional ballots that were added to the Yanukovych vote in Kharkiv oblast. Interior Ministry cadets were also sent to western Ukraine, armed with 10 absentee ballots each.
These emerging cracks in Ukraine’s semi-authoritarian system have been deepened by sustained pressure from the opposition. On November 6, 70,000 Ukrainians rallied in Kyiv in support of Yushchenko, who appeared with Moroz. The rally was re-broadcast around Ukraine, where it could be viewed in the central squares of most oblast centers. At the rally, Yushchenko called for a mass mobilization of his supporters and a strike to begin in the last week of round two. The PORA (It’s Time!) youth group, modeled on Serbia’s OTPOR, is organizing a general strike by students throughout Ukraine to begin on November 15. PORA has already organized a rally attended by 4,000 students outside parliament protesting election fraud.