Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 76

Banker Leonid Chernovetsky won election as Kyiv mayor in March

Banker Leonid Chernovetsky has managed to secure the legitimacy of his election as Kyiv mayor. On April 10, the Shevchenkivsky district court in Kyiv ruled that there was no proof of vote buying by Chernovetsky. Outgoing mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko had accused Chernovetsky of buying votes and demanded that his victory be invalidated (see EDM, April 5).

However, Chernovetsky’s position remains shaky. The Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (YTB) has forged a strong alliance to oppose the new mayor at the Kyiv city council, and is seeking a rerun of the mayoral election in order to topple Chernovetsky. His election has bared yet another rift between the Orange Revolution partners, as the deputies elected to the Kyiv council from the Socialists and President Viktor Yushchenko’s People’s Union-Our Ukraine party (NSNU) apparently have nothing against Chernovetsky.

In the run-up to the March 26 mayoral poll, the YTB was pronouncedly neutral. Its candidate, Mykola Tomenko, had withdrawn long before the race started in earnest, and the YTB did not back either Omelchenko or his key challengers, Chernovetsky and boxing champion Vitaly Klitchko. The YTB, however, won more seats than any other party in the election to the city council — 41 out of 120 — and Tymoshenko’s ally Mykhaylo Brodsky, who is expected to chair the YTB faction in the council, offered support to Chernovetsky, reportedly expects backing for his bid for the post of council secretary in return.

Chernovetsky, however, made it clear that he has a candidate for that position from his own, eponymous bloc. This may have triggered the conflict. On April 15, YTB people, their satellites from the Civic Active of Kyiv (GAK), and the Pora-Reforms and Order liberal bloc (Pora-RiP) ignored the first post-election session of the Kyiv council, which was scheduled to formalize Chernovetsky’s election.

Chernovetsky was in a difficult situation, as convening the council without the three parties would not have a quorum. Thus, according to law, Chernovetsky could not have been sworn in. Chernovetsky was saved by three deputies from Pora-RiP, who broke ranks and took their seats. A visibly nervous Chernovetsky was then sworn in.

On the same evening, Tomenko gathered a press conference to announce the creation of a “coalition of democratic forces” called “Fair Kyiv.” According to Tomenko, the coalition including YTB, GAK, and Pora-RiP has a majority, with 62 of the 120 seats in the city council. (But without the three dissenters who attended Chernovetsky’s inauguration, Fair Kyiv would be two seats short of a majority.) He also said that Fair Kyiv had elected Klitchko as its leader, and that they would seek a new election for mayor of Kyiv.

Tomenko argued that Chernovetsky has failed to present an action plan for the development of Kyiv, that his legitimacy was in question because he scored only slightly more than 30% of votes in the election, and that Chernovetsky’s coalition, “including the Party of Regions and the NSNU,” was “a challenge to Kyivites.”

Representatives of the opposition Party of Regions (PRU) of Viktor Yanukovych and the NSNU had indeed been among those deputies who did not boycott the council’s first sitting. This prompted the YTB to accuse the NSNU of cooperating with the PRU in the council in violation of previous agreements on a parliamentary coalition, which apparently rules out cooperation with the PRU at any level, including local councils. On April 17, Tymoshenko forbade her own bloc members to join any local alliances with the PRU. She threatened potential dissenters with expulsion.

Tomenko and Tymoshenko said that the Kyiv “coalition” between the NSNU and the PRU was “unnatural.” For some reason, however, they abstained from castigating the Socialists, whose representatives attended Chernovetsky’s swearing in along with NSNU and PRU deputies. Tymoshenko’s accusations against Yushchenko’s party in this case may be an exaggeration as, unlike Fair Kyiv, the NSNU and the PRU did not formalize any alliance at the council.

The quarrel over Chernovetsky coincided with another dangerous development for the Orange coalition. On April 14, the NSNU rejected an accord reached with the YTB and the Socialists a day earlier, which in transparent terms stipulated that the post of prime minister in the alliance would go to Tymoshenko. Yushchenko’s reluctance to return Tymoshenko the post from which he fired her last year, and her reluctance to accept a coalition on different terms, has so far been the main problem in the talks on re-establishing the Orange coalition. The rift over Kyiv mayor should only deepen the mistrust between Yushchenko’s team and Tymoshenko.

The creation of Fair Kyiv, meanwhile, has apparently triggered the dissolution of the Pora-RiP bloc. On April 17 Pora leader Vladyslav Kaskiv announced that the bloc had ceased to exist because its leader, Klitchko, had joined Fair Kyiv without consent from Pora. Kaskiv, however, did not make it clear whether his people will be in the opposition to Chernovetsky.

(NTN TV, April 10; UNIAN, April 14; ICTV, April 15; Ukrayinska pravda, April 14, 17; Ekonomicheskie izvestiya, Channel 5, April 17, 18)