Early elections loom for Ukraine

Ukrainian politicians are in a race against time to form a new governing coalition or face early elections. If no alliance is formed to replace the collapsed Orange Coalition before October 3, the President is likely to call snap elections.

The latest political crisis was brought about when the 'Our Ukraine Self-Defence Bloc', led by President Viktor Yushchenko, pulled out of the ruling alliance.

Sceptical politicians are doubtful that a deal will be reached and are already booking up billboard space ready for their campaigns.

Ukraine’s five political parties have only one month to form a new majority, or else parliament will again be disolved.

But there is already talk of an alliance – unthinkable in the past – between the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc and the Party of Regions.

However, despite finding common ground, scepticism remains that these traditionally bitter rivals can reach agreement.

Aleksandr Lavrinovich, a deputy in the Party of Regions says:  “Such a union is against the political nature of Ukraine and thus, I believe, is very complicated. So I think all of us will be there on the 30th day of this period with the presidential decree to dissolve parliament and call early elections”.

Party officials won’t admit it, but it seems that amid efforts to hold dialogue in the hope of creating a new coalition, all are at the same time preparing for another ballot – the fourth in three years.

One new political party called United Centre has reportedly started booking advertising space all over the country. This should come as no surprise as previous election campaigns have turned into billboard wars.

Confirming that the United Centre had booked space for political ads, Artem Bidenko from the Association of Outdoor Advertisement said the party had even “transferred money for 2,000 posters all over Ukraine.”

“They didn’t directly relate it to possible early elections, only saying it's for political ads. A commercial poster ad in Kiev costs from $US 500 to 1,000 per month, while political ones are up to 1,500,” Bidenko said.

Should Yushchenko dismiss the Ukrainian parliament – the Rada – experts say prices will be higher by at least 30 per cent. But United Centre is so far the only force which has – unofficially – started booking space.

It seems clear that should early elections take place, the parties will stick to Ukraine’s traditional methods.

In 2005, Kiev’s Independence Square witnessed the Orange Revolution which brought Viktor Yushchenko to power.

Two years later it became a mass campsite for protests after the dissolution of parliament; tens of thousands expressed their anger on the square. But, according to experts and former protesters, it wasn’t always about ideology.

Dmitry Vydrin used to be a deputy with the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc. He says that many people in the crowd were paid by the day to support a certain party.

“There are even set prices in all parties. Timoshenko uses it as much as Yanukovich does. It's just that prices are different – from $US 10 to $US 40 per day, depending on the situation. If there is a risk that the tent camp could be dispersed or weather would be bad and people will have to sleep on the ground, then the tariffs will be higher,” political analyst Dmitry Vydrin says.

But just as with the posters, this move could also strongly hit the parties’ pockets. Because of the high inflation rate in Ukraine, protesters would probably demand higher payments.

“Different people have different missions in those camps. Leaders of a group certainly receive more. So a good rally would cost several million US dollars,” Vydrin says.

It's hard to say who would profit more should early elections take place: either the politicians willing to once again alter the balance of forces or the paid protesters.

But given the high price of the electoral process in Ukraine, and that most of it is paid for from the state budget, it’s the Ukrainian economy – already in trouble after the world market crisis – which definitely won't benefit.