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26 Sep, 2007 04:22

Ukraine election: are voters taking it seriously?

Sunday's parliamentary election is supposed to get Ukraine out of a political crisis that has paralysed the country for two years. Yet, as political leaders talk up the importance of the poll, many voters seem to be regarding it as a bit of a joke.

News programmes give way to political sitcoms

Who blows the biggest bubble?

Tent city

News programmes give way to political sitcoms

One of Ukraine’s TV stations is broadcasting a sitcom called “Domkom” (‘house committee’), which potrays the lives of ordinary Ukrainians in an ordinary flat.  But the main characters of the series look very similar to the country's main political figures – President Yushchenko, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich and Ukraine’s most famous lady, Yulia Timoshenko. The sitcom is already popular, and its ratings are growing every day.

Ukrainian people often say they feel like puppets on a string when it comes to politics. But in a new satirical show called ‘pupsnya’, it's the politicians who are portrayed as puppets. And Yulia Timoshenko, Prime Minister Yanukovich, and President Yushchenko seem to be providing enough material to allow this show run for years. A special episode of 'Pupsnya' was dedicated to promises made by politicians in the run-up to the election.  It used the idea of bubbles. Each time a promise is made, bubbles of different shapes and sizes blow from the mouths of the characters.

Who blows the biggest bubble?

The biggest bubble of this election campaign is the social programme.  Each partiy is trying to woo voters with promises of higher pensions and salaries.

The presidential Our Ukraine party is pledging $US 3,000 to families for the birth of a second child.  But the Party of Regions, loyal to the Prime Minister, has promised $US 2,000 more if they win the election. Meanwhile the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc is hoping for the votes of Ukrainian women by pledging to stop military conscription from 2008.

“We found that the country only pays for 28 days of military training out of one year service in the army. And the rest of the time conscripts are cleaning, guarding derelict objects or building summer houses for their generals. That’s not the army we need,” Yulia Timoshenko said.

The presidential Our Ukraine Party slammed her idea as inadequate and concentrated instead on building closer ties to Europe, visa-free travel, attracting émigrés back home and strengthening the Ukrainian identity.

“Speaking about Ukraine’s future, I am sure it is connected with the European Union, with the preparation of the whole country in economic, social, political and religious spheres. Everything we do should be aimed at our entering the EU. It will not happen soon, but we all understand that we should build Europe ourselves, here in Ukraine,” Yury Lutsenko from the Our Ukraine Party said.

The Party of Regions is also focusing on fighting poverty and corruption. Watching Timoshenko’s Bloc toying with the idea of a referendum to restore the President’s powers, they suggested one too.

“No to membership in NATO, Ukraine needs to be a neutral state. Russian should be the second official language in Ukraine. More power to the regions,” said Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich at a political rally.

Tent city

There are worries there could be confrontation in central Kiev in the wake of the election.  A stage is being mounted in Independence Square for an ‘orange’ bloc concert.

Their opponents are also there, with tents and blue flags  According to some forecasts up to 300,000 people are likely to gather on Sunday, September 30, the day of the election.

Activists say that they will take to the streets if they consider the results of the election rigged.

The previous parliament was dismissed by President Yushchenko in April. The move led to a storm of demonstrations and ended with an emergency election.