Share |

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Great Actress Gone Bad: “Erin Brockovich” on the Wrong Side of the Vote
All Is Fai®lure in Love, War, and Elections

Last Tuesday, many observers believe, ought to be a date which will live in infamy for Ukraine's most famous woman. Yuliya Tymoshenko joined forces with the enemies of the Orange Revolution on a vote to sack the Yekhanurov government, linking the decision to the government's failure to resolve the gas dispute in Ukraine's best interests. Mrs. Tymoshenko, who argued her case with the passion of Erin Brokovich, the Oscar-winning movie character played by Julia Roberts, may now have to wear an egg-proof vest, should her campaign tour include western Ukraine. Many Ukrainians still recall presidential candidate Victor Yanukovych, who became the victim of an egg attack masterminded by a freshman college student in the western Ukrainian city of Ivano Frankivsk, a region known for its strong patriotic sentiment.

In stark comparison to the fall 2004 campaign, when they had stood on different sides of the barricade, this year parties led by Yanukovych and Tymoshenko formed the backbone of the anti-orange alliance in the Ukrainian parliament. In fact, the stakes are just as high in the upcoming parliamentary election as they were in fall 2004. The so-called politychna reforma (political reform) effective Jan. 1, 2006, shifts power from the president to the prime minister, whose cabinet will be formed based on the results of the March 2006 parliamentary election. The almighty Russian lobby, which at the onset of the crisis held that Russia had a right to demand a higher price for gas, was uniform claiming that the newly negotiated price would be the kiss of death to Ukraine's industry. Their solution: Chum up with the Kremlin, earn a price cut. And no NATO, please. In other words, the best preventive for Russia's gasmanship is Ukraine's full and unconditional yesmanship.

Such chameleon behavior injects a masquerade dimension into the election, as parties scramble to position themselves in sexy political lingerie to attract voters with unmet erotic needs. Now that the orange guys have “screwed up” Ukraine so bad it has a sluggish economy, Russia tops the exhibitionist charts.

In this noisy publicity jungle — with mating season in full progress, presenting spectacular scenes — the 'helicopter mom” of Ukraine's democracy veered off course and made a crash landing. Her political compass betrayed her, and she now has to cope with the surrounding fauna and flora. She hit the danger zone, and it's unclear whether her PR consultants' "search-and-rescue” teams will reach her before her rating gets cannibalized any more than it already has.

What happened? To add insight to injury, excellence took a back seat to ego. By letting her steam off on a vote of no consequence, she marginalized herself in her electoral base. Most legal experts believe that the Yekhanurov government will be here to stay until the election. It means that Tymo has gained little from her demarche, but lost a lot.

At Maidan's first anniversary celebration, many, if not most, folks chanted her name, embracing the “orange queen” as the bolder alternative to Yushchenko, who had floundered in a series of cronyism scandals. Some of those folks may now have second thoughts about her. She lost her colors at a time when Yushchenko has made a good faith effort to contain Moscow’s gasmanship. Forums that once praised Yuliya as a talented troubleshooter now lambaste her as a treacherous troublemaker — a prodigal sister with her own agenda, who consorted with the local bad boys and subscribed to Putin's “pipe dream.” Themed “hall of shame” posters have already decorated the streets.

To fare well in this election, Yuliya needs to repent and reposition. She needs to restore her unique selling proposition — and she better start right away.

No comments: