Election Detector. The main trends in the information space during September 7-13, 2020

Українську версію читайте тут.

The situation in the Ukraine-wide media space is becoming less and less favorable for the People’s Servant party: scandals, which arise around or because of representatives of the presidential political force and the executive authorities, damage the rating and President Zelenskyi is everything that the “servants” can set off against the negative coverage opportunities. The President claims that he is not campaigning for anyone, although party representatives speak directly about his participation in the People’s Servant party campaign. The two main sore spots of the governing force – the situation in the Donbas and the revolt of the regions because of the quarantine – remain relevant, and they were supplemented by the opposition’s pedaling the scandal with militants of Wagner’s private military company and by unfavorable to the President statements by Andriy Bohdan. Representatives of the People’s Servant party do not withstand the pressure of the opposition – both pro-European and pro-Russian – in open, not directed in their favor television discussions. The leader of the For the Future party Ihor Palytsia, an ally of oligarch Ihor Kolomoiskyi, who is persistently promoted by 1+1 channel, also began to publicly criticize the government.

The European Solidarity party uses the attack on former political prisoner Volodymyr Balukh for its promotion, and Proposition party in Dnipro uses the bones of honorary citizen Alexander Pol. The Fatherland party remains passive on national scale; and only the voices of individual speakers from the Voice party on the talk shows and of their Kyiv mayoral candidate Serhiy Prytula can be heard. Mentions of Vitaliy Klychko and his leadership in the capital’s mayoral race can be seen on no national television channel except for ICTV.

Recent investigations into Viktor Medvedchuk have not knocked the Opposition Platform For Life party off its usual course: they repeat the demands and propaganda messages of the Kremlin, demand elections throughout the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and criticize the authorities for their inability to achieve peace and to restore order. It is noteworthy that in some cities the media of the Opposition Platform For Life party do not support their party members, but other, allegedly neutral candidates.

The organization of elections and violations of election legislation are covered in the media in a vague and insufficiently detailed manner. Some coverage opportunities, mostly favored by the Opposition Platform For Life party, are present on Inter or Medvedchuk’s channels, and in general, it cannot be said that the media, with the exception of the Public Broadcaster – which is looking for “non-party-related” topics in connection with the upcoming vote – are interested in the election.

This week, the media, speeches and – most importantly – the actions of politicians have shown more signs of a real possibility of disrupting or postponing local elections. It was said in the spring that the election might not take place, but then the only good reason seemed to be the threat of a coronavirus epidemic. The epidemic continues – the number of patients is growing every week, the “red” zones are increasing – but if there is desire and political will, the danger is easily neglected (as it was in Dnipro, where on City Day at a concert organized by the city authorities, crowds without masks had fun). However, other factors have now emerged: the election is becoming less and less advantageous for the People’s Servant party, which is much weaker in most regions than Zelenskyi and his team would like. And Russia is openly pressuring the Ukrainian government, demanding elections in the occupied territories. At the beginning of the year, Zelenskyi announced his intention to do this, but progress towards deoccupation stalled on the “comprehensive ceasefire”, which has already been thwarted. Compromise steps, including the intention to conduct a joint inspection of Ukrainian positions with the separatists and the People’s Servants party initiative to amend the local election resolution, cause outrage in society and play into the hands of the pro-European opposition, which has a chance to strengthen its support before the elections. In addition, both the steps themselves and the rejection of them before the election play into the hands of the Opposition Platform – For Life party. Viktor Medvedchuk’s party voices the Kremlin’s demands in parliament as their own. If they are implemented, the Opposition Platform – For Life party will be able to present it as own victory, if not, the pro-Russian electorate will be explained that the People’s Servant party does not want peace, so the only hope for movement in the right direction is Medvedchuk. Already now, in speeches on talk shows, the speakers of the Opposition Platform – For Life party anticipate a resignation of the government in the fall and the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada.

The main hope of the “servants” remains the President who does not stop his election tour through Ukraine, claiming that he is not campaigning for anyone, but simply inspecting the Great Construction program. Although Zelenskyi’s involvement in the selection of candidates from the People’s Servant party is directly spoken about (in particular, live on TV) by his fellow party members and the candidates themselves, who, according to them, received proposals from him personally. However, it is not a fact that the involvement of the President is always in favor of the People’s Servant party – for example, the unsuccessful speech at a Zhytomyr university – the transcription of which resembles a stream of consciousness – was ridiculed on social networks. Other representatives of the People’s Servant party also provided the foes with matter for criticism and humiliation, and singer Masha Fokina fired a control shot in the head telling, how she lobbied for the appointment of her grandfather Vitold Fokin to the Minsk contact group in front of “childhood friend Andryusha Yermak.” It is hard to imagine what the head of the President’s Office needs to do to compensate for this disgrace; it is not a fact that even a very successful hostage exchange will suffice.

An indirect blow to Zelenskyi and his party was the interview by former head of the President’s Office Andriy Bohdan to TV presenter Dmytro Hordon. In the video – which has already been viewed three and a half million times, Bohdan disrespectfully speaks about his former colleagues and casts a shadow over the good intentions and declarations of the People’s Servants party by claiming, for example, (this was very particularly liked by TV channels belonging to the Opposition Platform – For Life) that Ukraine deceived the parties to the Norman negotiations.

“Are you losing the election?”, Natalia Moseychuk, the host of “Pravo na Vladu” [Right to Power] show on 1+1 channel directly asked Oleksandr Korniyenko, the head of the People’s Servant party. He answered unconvincingly that “the voter will decide”, but if events develop in the same direction, leaving the choice to the discretion of voters will not be in the interests of Zelenskyi’s party. The government does not have much resources to bribe voters (increase pensions, one-off payments, tariff reductions, etc.), and opponents – like hungry piranhas – tear the party’s public speakers to shreds during any debate. Furthermore, now this is true not only about Poroshenko’s pro-European party and Medvedchuk’s pro-Russian party, but also about natural allies – Ihor Palytsia’s and Kolomoiskyi’s For the Future party.

National media do not have time (and it was predicted) to cover the beginning of the election even in the most interesting regions, but attempts are still being made. The series of materials about the elections in some cities in ICTV’s “Fakty” [Facts] is indicative. One can feel a certain bias in the materials, or at least selectivity of the candidates who are called the main contenders (for example, how could journalists conclude that the main competitor of the current mayor of Odessa Hennadiy Trukhanov is the just nominated People’s Servant Oleh Filimonov?). However, this is better than nothing.

The process of preparation for the elections is covered very selectively by the central media. For example, TV channels related to the Opposition Platform – For Life party are interested in protests against the allegedly unfair division of electoral districts in Ivano-Frankivsk region and in Kyiv. Several channels broadcast Arsen Avakov’s threatening statement about violations of the election process, which the police allegedly had already recorded, but they did not inquire about the details. The vote buying in the Zhytomyr region, which was reported by Opora, was of interest only to the Public television among the central channels, and only STB was interested in the use of schools for agitation by Hennadiy Kernes’ campaigning team.

Meanwhile, the “anti-mask riot” – to which President Zelensky has finally responded, though, not too menacingly and convincingly – is underway in the regions. The causers of the disobedience have not yet suffered, so other regions are free to join the flash mob, which is beneficial to local authorities – the majority of the local electorate, regardless of the rate of the epidemic, is likely to support canceling of strict quarantine. And criminal cases or other repressions will only create “martyrs” for whom voters are more willing to vote. So the problems of the government – that we described last week – only deepened.

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