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: 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.
Censor.net.ua 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!