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Friday, November 27, 2009

50 days: Bill Billovych Againstall

Againstall: For a life without "Me" and "You"
Ya = Yanukovych, Yu= Yulia, Yushchenko

“Jokers” have been part of Ukrainian politics since the communist monopoly on party politics was broken up 18 years ago. For the January 17, 2010 race, there is no shortage of comedic candidates and political humor in general. With politics the way it is in Ukraine, you got be able to laugh… Here’s a look at one of the Joker Candidates

In October Vasyl Vasylovych Humeniuk changed his surname to Protyvskih to run in these elections. The new name of the former communist party member and resort town mayor from Ivano-Frankivsk oblast means “against all” which is itself a standalone option on the unique Ukrainian ballot. Voters face a list of candidates and can choose ‘none of the above’ if they so wish.

None of the above” has done comparatively well in past elections, consistently scoring higher than two percent in parliamentary and presidential elections alike.

The highest “against all” ever scored in the presidential elections was 1999, when incumbent Leonid Kuchma beat commie Petro Symonenko in two rounds. Nearly one million voters said they don’t like either the red director or the red party boss for 3.4 percent of the popular vote.

During the 2002 parliamentary race, a groups of parties calling itself the “Against all” Electoral Bloc ran in a field of 33 parties and blocs. Then, “against all” was supported by nearly 30,000 voters, scoring point one of a percentage point (0.1%)

The last presidential race (2004) saw Ukrainians go to the polls three times in three months before a head of state was finally elected. Candidates Yushchenko and Yanukovych went three rounds before Viktor from Sumy beat Viktor from Donetsk to become victorious.

Five years ago, twenty six candidates ran for the presidency. “Against all” was the fifth most popular choice; more than half a million voters liked none of the candidates in the first round. Combined, “none of the above” beat 20 presidential hopefuls. “Against all” swelled to nearly seven hundred thousand when voters said they don’t like either Victor in the second and third rounds of 2004.

More than 600,000 voted “against all” in the 2006 regularly-scheduled and 2007 snap elections to the Rada, both times beating out over 15 parties and blocs.

For these coming elections (less than two months away), Vasyl Againstall is fighting fifteen other candidates for the right to lead Ukraine for the next five years. The 63-year-old's chances are slim. Yet he had no problem finding the required UAH 2.5 million hryvnia (around $300,000) to run in these elections. A pretty expensive joke, no?

Maybe he’s counting on people to mistake his name for the “Against all” option and inadvertently cast a vote for him. Or perhaps he hopes that Ukrainians are so fed up that they’ll choose him in protest against the constant political squabbling that borders on the absurd. Ukraine today has over 160 political parties! Democracy in the 19-year-old former Soviet republic is still very messy, but not bereft of humor.

Together with voter turnout numbers, the electoral fate of both Vasyl Againstall and “Against all” will be good indicators of what Ukrainians think about elections and, more importantly, about democracy in general: Are voters tired and fed up?

Voters should be encouraged to show up at polling stations on January 17, otherwise their uncast vote risks being cast on their behalf. At least they have the option of telling the lot: “I don’t like any of you!”

Follow Vasyl Vasylovych on Twitter:

"Against all candidates" website (Ukrainian):

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