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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tymoshenko Campaign Kicks Off (Officially) With Rally in Kyiv

Thousands of people, but not as many hopes.

That’s how I’d compare fall 2004 Yushchenko rallies to fall 2009 Tymoshenko ones, which seek to mobilize the same electorate.

North Donbas for Yulya!

Her “They’re talking. She’s working. She’s Ukraine!” campaign boils down to one real selling point: “They’re worse.” (And she often fails to prove it.)

Her real selling point doesn’t imitate Yushchenko’s 2004 slogans: “The rich will help the poor!” and “The bandits will be sitting in jail!” (Hahaha!) Nor does it emulate her party’s 2006 and 2007 slogans: “Justice does exist. It’s worth the fight!” and “She did it back then. She’ll do it again!” (Really?)

To counter these voter doubts, she armed herself with a panoply of endorsers and performers. On Saturday, they royally descended on Maidan, the heart of Orange Revolution.

Coming from all walks of life that lead to Tymoshenko, dignitary after dignitary waxed eloquent and lavished accolades on their president of choice. A cornucopia of promises, memories and sales pitches flooded a Maidanful of people, many of whom had traveled to Kyiv as party delegates by bus or train from all over Ukraine.

(Tymoshenko’s main rival had unleashed his yanucopia on Friday, delivering a just-name-it-and-claim-it stump speech at a Party of Regions convention. One can compare Yushchenko’s and Tymoshenko’s 2004 and 2009 open-air stump speeches to Yanukovych’s 2004 and 2009 members-only ones.)

Yulya Will Win!

Endorser: Oleksandr Ponomayov

Ukraine Will Win

Endorser: former foreign affairs minister Borys Tarasyuk

Ukraine Will Win!

Tymoshenko collected two endorsements from the European People’s Party (EPP): from Wilfried Martens and Antonio Lopez-Isturiz.

Endorser: Ruslana

Endorser: Borys Paton, 91, chairman of the National Academy of Sciences

The funniest one came from our former president Leonid Kravchuk — an ardent endorser of Yanukovych in 2004! For some reason, Tymoshenko decided that the man who had pissed away our nuclear arsenal, presided over hyperinflation and endorsed Yanukovych would be an asset to her campaign.

Endorser: former president Leonid Kravchuk

Finally, the Queen of the Night steals the show, in a vyshyvanka coat. Her speech, emotionally charged and long-winded, electrifies but a few souls.

At the opening, she credits herself with the blessings of Pope Benedict XVI and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. A prayer, sung by Nina Matviyenko, follows.

After praying, Tymoshenko pays tribute to Ukraine’s heroes, thanks her team, recalls the Orange Revolution and calls for unity.

Then, she blasts Yushchenko and his hobbies. Later, she blasts Yanukovych and his oligarchs. She blames obstruction and corruption. She blasts and blames this and that. She forgets about her aborted grand coalition plans. She sidesteps her Draconian gas deal with Russia. She keeps mum on the Pedogate scandal. She pretends there’s no corruption in her own camp.

What struck me as novel amid these otherwise routine rhetorical escapades was her likening disenchanted voters to special needs people who still can win. Like Olena Yurkovska, the Ukrainian Paralympic biathlon champion who won four gold medals in Turin in 2006. What a nice analogy and pep talk! Coach Tymoshenko dissociates herself from her job, associates me with her failures and inspires me to push the envelope. (And push yet another ballot down her ballot box!)

It’s like saying, “Yeah, I screwed up. I didn’t deliver. But it’s all your fault anyway so shut up and take courage! Your disenchantment cripples you. Just vote for me one more time and you’ll be all you can be!”

She launches into an us-against-them diatribe and proceeds with a massive deja-vu stereotype-busting attack: Don’t think that all politicians are alike. They're not. She’s not like them! She’s moral and can be trusted!

To inject the masses with her “She’s Ukraine!” slogan, she levels with them:

  • Small business owners — fed up with red tape and bribery (while running her own small business in Dnipropetrovsk, she had to deal with bureaucracy and extortion);
  • Homebuyers — hard-hit by dollar-denominated mortgage loans (she hates the exchange rate);
  • Students — suffering from joblessness and homelessness (born and bred in a khrushchyovka, she knows how it feels; while a student, she jockeyed tires “twice my height” at night and, if elected, will make housing affordable, at low interest rates.)

What did I miss? Oh, yeah, she also talked about how she:

  • Handed out those Hr. 1,000 worth of Soviet savings to 6.5 million people;
  • Reined in the energy and payments crises as vice premier in 2000-2001 crisis;
  • Ended up in jail for upsetting Kuchma’s cronies;
  • Kicked RosUkrEnergo’s and Vanco’s asses;
  • Boosted coal reserves;
  • Doesn’t care about approval ratings;
  • Cares about stabilnist only;
  • Loves the Ukrainian language;
  • Will feed the world with Ukrainian agriculture;
  • Will make Ukraine the most energy-efficient country in the world by relying on coal;
  • Will make Ukraine a full-cycle nuclear fuel state (no kidding, Uncle Sam!)
  • Will offer 10-year tax breaks to renewable energy producers;
  • Will restore justice;
  • Will build a Europe within Ukraine and maintain friendly relations with neighbors;
  • Will protect Ukraine’s national interests;
  • Will deliver everything she promised;
  • Expects winning the respect of future generations;
  • Has a dream like Martin Luther King’s;

And guess what? Her dream is to make other peoples’ dreams come true. (With other people’s money?)

She misspoke on the energy issue: “And everyone should know that if we burn coal instead of gas, we’ll triple the cost of heating and hot water for the people.”

She also burnished her idea of “dictatorship,” couching it in Putin’s “dictatorship of law” terminology. offers a full Channel 5 video of her stump speech.

PM Yulia Tymoshenko [final words]: And that’s why this election is a struggle for our Ukraine’ preservation, and not a struggle between politicians. And I know that it is Ukraine that will win this presidential election and it is she that will gain what she’s been waiting for for hundreds of years. And we all will be serving this right and truthful cause. And that’s why I want God to be with Ukraine. I want God to be with every one of you. And that’s precisely why, with great pride, I say: Glory to Ukraine!

I didn’t stay for the concert. I went home, along with throngs of other rally-goers. While not depressed, we were nowhere as cheerful as five years ago. Nobody had the heart to scream “Ty-mo-shen-ko!” again and again like we screamed “Yush-chen-ko!”

She's working. She's Ukraine!


Adrian said...

Thanks for this report - it's very helpful at giving a sense of the current mood. (And your tone - which, for a non-native English speaker, is wonderful - tells me I would be feeling more or less the same, even though I haven't visited Ukraine in over 3 years now.)

Taras said...

Thank you, Adrian!

I’m a Tymo-optimist turned Tymo-skeptic who knows a lot of people who feel the same way. I wanted my tone to reflect this widespread evolution of her electorate. If I vote for her in the second round, it will be because “he’s worse,” not because “she’s working.”

So how about revisiting Ukraine as an election observer in less than three months:)?

Ropi said...

The "She is Ukraine" thing is a bit harsh to me. It is like she is Louis XIV of France (the Sunking) who said "I am the state", but he ruled in the XVII-XVIIIth centuries, when absolutism was more usual.

Lingüista said...

I find it surprising that Tymo can say "I have a dream like Martin Luther King’s" -- I didn't know so many Ukrainians knew who Martin Luther King was. Is he a famous character also in Ukraine?

At any rate... What I don't know for sure right now is whether or not there will be a difference between Tymoshenko and Yanukovych. I remember thinking at some point, at least she's less connected to Russia--but then again the infamous gas deal and the impression she gives of wanting to control Ukraine as Putin controls Russia came back. Do you really think that Yanukovych is worse? What evils would you expect from him, but not from Tymoshenko?

Didn't someone compare her to a kind of Slavic Evita Peron in another comment thread here in your blog? I remember having been quite impressed with her at the times of the Orange Revolution (I even wrote a short article about her at the Volapuk Wikipedia). Nowadays... who knows.

One thing I can say, speaking as a Brazilian who was time and again disappointed by my own government and the local politicians: don't lose faith, if Ukraine remains democratic someday things will sort themselves out. The chaff is removed slowly but steadily, and someday you'll finally have the wheat! :-) Even though I think Brazil is now heading more or less in the right direction, there still are problems and stupidity/populism haven't been abolished (President Lula has recently started a "public works" spree, complete with raising of the minimum wages well above inflation, that are certainly meant to support his candidate for the next presidential election--and cause next year's growth to collapse, or be much smaller, than it otherwise would be.)

Sandy said...


Democracy, in my opinion, is weakly related with election of the president. The president's functions could be given even to the governor genereal (as in Canada).
Democracy is when you can control what happens in the condominium where you live. This is what you have in Brazil and what Ukrainians niether imagine!

elmer said...

I did not hear her mention Martin Luther King.

Say what you will, Taras - she have a fantastic speech.

Yes, yes, I know what she left out. But there is no sense in one kicking oneself - there are plenty of other people who will do it.

5 years after the Orange Revolution, one thing is certain - this is far different from the political dialogue that was occurring 5 years ago, when Yanuk and his wife were calling the Orange people "narcomaniacs, beasts, cattle" - and worse.

And it was clear that Yanuk was going to simply perpetuate Kuchmism, with no freedom of speech, no freedom of thought, no democracy, and machine politics ruled by a Party of Regions oligarch trampling over the populace, and raping, robbing and pillaging, with corruption and bribery for the benefit of oligarchs.

Oh, wait - that's still occurring.

Except that the rhetoric today does not include, for example, sovok films by the likes of Vitrenko, the Konotop witch, who played sovok era war films as part of her campaign for president, about how the great sovok union defeated fascists.

The rhetoric today is far more detailed in the corruption and systemic faults that must be eliminated - for the benefit of the populace.

Linguista, the difference between Tymo and Yanukovych - well, it's the difference between bowing to the people (as Tymo did during her speech) and beating them up, literally and figuratively, with a sovok-style political machine.

Example - recently, on the Savik Shuster show, there was a segment where 3 businessmen appeared, talking about the potential impact of raising the minimum wage on small businesses.

Nestor Shufrych, a horrid, putrid punk from the Party of Regions, was one of the guests in the TV studio.

He promptly launched into a vicious attack on 3 citizens of Ukraine.

This is the sovok brutal mentality - beat them over the head, so they'll vote for you.

In a democracy, it is unheard of for a candidate or his representative to attack the lifeblood of the country, its citizens, in order to attract votes.

Remember - Yanukovych and his thug Party of Regions were heavily involved in falsifying the last presidential elections in Ukraine - they are the spawn of Kuchma, their former chief thug.

I hope that gives you a bit of the flavor of the difference between Tymo and Yanukovych.

By no means am I saying that Tymo and her bloc are pure - they're not.

It's the difference between sovok mafia (Yanukovych and his Party of Regions), and people who will at least half-try to implement true democracy.

Except that today,

Taras said...


Louis XVI would be proud of Tymoshenko. That’s exactly my point! She treats herself like a queen and Ukraine like her kingdom.


If AKPD writes her speeches, we’re probably dealing with a number of assumptions:

1. That everybody speaks English in Ukraine;
2. That everybody knows Martin Luther King.

Yanukovych’s speeches and slogans, obviously written by his Washington spin doctors, reek of translationese and Americanisms.

The recent Party of Regions convention became a parody of the Republican National Convention.

As for Tymoshenko being the Ukrainian Eva Peron, I made the comparison in my first blog post, which reads more like a long-winded essay.

You’re well-versed in Volapuk! Thank you for your warm words of encouragement:)!


Good point! Democracy starts at the bottom and goes all the way up. When the top oppresses the bottom, the bottom shakes the top off.


She mentioned Martin Luther King toward the end of her speech. Nice speech, but not much substance.

By the way, before the rally began, BYuT staffers had beaten up a group of anti-Tymoshenko protesters rallying nearby. So I guess, to some degree, it cuts both ways — given the Kuchma people in her camp and her own authoritarian streak. I agree that she may be the lesser evil, but she needs to prove it with actions, not words.

I believe her voters stand for a better Ukraine than that which would have transpired had Yanukovych won in 2004.

Ropi said...

It was Louis XIV. Did I say Louis XVI? I hope not. OK? I am releaved I was correct. I asked just for being precise and correct.

Taras said...

Sorry, I misspelled the Latin number.

It was Louis XIV, not Louis XVI, who said "L'État, c'est Moi." ("I am the State.")

His successor, Louis XV, said something very similar/sequential: “Après moi, le déluge.” (“After me, the deluge.")

Ropi said...

Lous XV said: The system will endure as long as I live and after me the deluge comes. Or something very similar.

Anonymous said...

I know this comment is a little late, but I having been reading around your site (which is very interesting, btw) and came across this post.

I have one question: why did you not stay for the concert? ;) From what I have seen many famous artists (Oleksandr Ponomariov, Potap and Nastya, Ani Lorak, etc.) were there!

I would love for these artists to come to North America!

Taras said...

Well, I like Western music more.

How about we swap artists:)?