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Political Advertising in the Presidential Campaign – 2009-2010: “The War of All Against All” and its Creative Banality

By: Lyudmyla Pavlyuk, Adrian Erlinger, for CuPol

In the 2009 presidential campaign, 18 participants attempted to grab the electorate's attention, a little bit more of a conceivable number compared with the 2004 presidential race, when 24 candidates vied for the population's vote.

The historical campaign of 2004 was an election structured as a sharp “war of ideologies” – orange and blue, west and east, democracy and autocracy. In contrast, the election of 2010 exhibited the rather grand features of bellum omniа contra omnes – a “war of all against all.”

Undoubtedly, bipolar schemes still divided the usual adversaries, and former allies utilized sinister technologies against one another. F
reedom of speech and economic freedom in the pre-electoral period were wielded in one specific way — the candidates spent millions of hryvnia on self-aggrandizing advertisements and pre-paid information in media outlets to compromise their adversaries. The mud-slinging discourse focused on some vital questions: Who is more of a populist? Who is more of an oligarch? Who is more of a collaborator with former “bandits”?

Advertising is a public genre rather than a one-sided communication tool. Feedback, in the form of electoral results, is what ultimately counts. In the end, percentages will represent the culmination of the collective cooperation of elites, political strategists and the masses.

Yulia Tymoshenko:
“Tiger-Yulia” on the Offensive and Defensive

In all regions of Ukraine – from Lviv to Luhansk and from Zhytomyr to Odesa – roadside advertising billboards of Yulia Tymoshenko appeared in July: “They blabber, she works,” “They blockade, she works,” “They betray, she works,” “They destroy, she works.” It would seem that there is nothing more banal than the “us versus them” archetype used in this genre of political advertising and its corresponding oppositional mythologized logic.
But Tymoshenko's electoral campaign carried out such an elementary antithesis tactics with success. The unconstrained diarchy was brutal but effective in its simplicity, since the alternative “she” and “all others” appeared naturally like night and day, earth and sky. The advertising wisely adopted this field of contrast by emphasizing the value of work, because ultimately this is one single argument and point of opposition for the demoralized country.

The slogan “she works” remained both undecipherable and malleable, serving as a universal legitimization. Yet the next series of Tymoshenko billboards broadened the “she works” credentials to demonstrate that results are tangible and nobody would modestly conceal them – “Six million Ukrainians received 1,000 hryvnia,” “Gambling businesses have been shut down,” “Despite the crisis, salaries of public employees have been paid on time,” “The Black Sea shelf has returned to the state. Strategic reserves of gas have been saved,” “Dnistrovska Hydroelectric Station has been built – the largest in Europe,” “A strategic stock of bread has been created.”

By setting herself against the others, “she” became the target of critical attacks from all angles. “She is crisis,” publicly commented Viktor Yushchenko. Campaign newspapers from Arseniy Yatsenyuk portrayed Tymoshenko next to a printing machine stamping hryvnia with the caption “She works!” A Viktor Yanukovych clip addressed a rhetorical question to the audience: “Have your salaries grown? Maybe she lives on one planet and we are on the other?” Presidential candidate Oleksandr Pabat, leader of the People Army of Salvation, stated in his television ads: “She works – for herself.”

“She will win. She is Ukraine,” announced the second series of billboards launched for the prime minister's nationwide PR drive. This particular slogan caused hysterics for those who reacted to Yulia's stimuli negatively and believed that she usurped and monopolized the image of Ukraine, in a brazen and monarchist fashion that recalled Louis XIV's aphorism “I am the state.” Later on, the slogan was modified to stress the voter’s involvement: “You are Ukraine!” In the key message “She will win. She is Ukraine,” Yulia's strategists accidentally encrypted the recipe for both victory and defeat for their candidate. Ukraine will undoubtedly win, but will Yulia become a representation of Ukraine?

Among the many nicknames used in the public sphere describing Yulia Tymoshenko, the most complementary is perhaps “Lady Victory.” Certainly, the election of 2010 proved to be decisive for Lady Yu to fight and defend the title of “Lady Victory.” In this regard, several hypothetical scenarios of the candidate’s political future emerged: 1) “they” could oust Tymoshenko and force her into political retirement at the rank of prime minister, 2) her ambitions would culminate in the presidency and the prime ministerial epoch would be seen only as a launching pad for the 2010 elections, 3) a Tymoshenko victory would usher in the beginning of a long period of “personalized” rule similar to the Russian tradition of long-term leadership of the same faces, or 4) a call for early parliamentary elections by the opposition and the next cycle of presidential races in case of her defeat. 

In a nationwide campaign in September 2009, students at schools were handed out notebooks depicting a white tiger with a blonde braid, named TyhrYulia (Tiger Yulia). The media criticized the PR stunt as an offensive indoctrination of children too young to vote legally in elections. Images of Tiger Yulia with a braid were posted by www.rahu.li – a website that pokes fun of examples of “aggressive vulgar taste of the Ukrainian beau monde.” Such images posted on the website looked like satire of Tymoshenko’s campaign stunts, but they were indeed real.

Tymoshenko’s image-makers decided (perhaps unfounded, given that 2010 is the Year of the Tiger) that critical attacks were an offensive test and not a reason to retreat. In the end, the Tiger Yulia advertising motifs triumphed in the final cycle of the campaign. The Tiger Yulia became a media event, but the image was not quite a simulacrum. A real white tiger cub named Tyhr Yulia was presented to Tymoshenko, and she donated the animal to a zoo in Yalta. TV ads went on to explain the powers of white tigers: “The white tiger really does exist. But this is a very rare phenomenon in nature. She cannot disguise herself!  That is why she must be stronger, smarter, and more durable. She does not have any other choice but to protect those who rely on her. She will protect our future.” Once again, Tymoshenko successfully recycled the criticism and suspicions to produce more persuasive arguments.

However, the Tiger Yulia imagery on billboards evoked concern and was a bit risky because of some stylistic aberrations. Yulia Tymoshenko was depicted near her friend Tiger Yulia in a fashionable, albeit strained, reclining pose. Tymoshenko’s sex appeal had usually demonstrated itself in a sublime form as intellect, will, and communicative and organizational skills. Quite unusually, the Tiger Yulia billboard image looked like it was designed for a glossy cover of Cosmopolitan.

The tensions of the decisive presidential battle forced political strategists to resort to radical, unsubtle tactics. During periods of Tymoshenko’s activities as an opposition leader, people already intensively invested their conscious and subconscious expectations in Lady Yu. By the presidential election cycle, the heart-shaped populism of her premiership largely dissolved in scandals and the technological exploitation of her charisma eventually devalued the finite stock of this precious resource.

Uncertainty and confusion was especially noticeable in society throughout the presidential campaign. Tymoshenko thus offered antidepressants to average Ukrainians – “Ukraine is strong. Everything will be fine.” One key television clip was created on the principle of psychological identification with potential voters on the basis of her personal attributes and non-political values – “She is with those who know how to love. She is with those who can forgive. She is proud of those who are truly strong. She is with those who make a step forward, with those who rescue people, and with those who always reach their goals.”

Another action of mass emotional uplifting was organizing celebrities and society's avantgarde, including Eurovision veterans Ruslana, Ani Lorak, Tina Karol, Oleksander Ponomaryov, to attract support for Tymoshenko. Oleg Skrypka joined them. Portraits of these pop stars appeared on billboards with the slogan “Tymoshenko is my president.”

The mass action of star power, which has already shined among the masses in previous election campaigns, is one more symptom that while much is at stake, Ukraine does not have many real choices for the election given that all the stars are the same in both pop-culture and politics.

Viktor Yushchenko:
From Ideals to Idealism

“When, in how many years will we meet again?” asked Viktor Yushchenko to a festive orange crowd on Maidan in 2004. “In two years? Five years?” In autumn 2009, demonstrations were not held for variety of reasons, the most banal of which was a result of the H1N1 influenza epidemic scare. White anti-flu masks on the streets at the time fell on the fifth anniversary of the Orange Revolution with great cosmic humor and historical irony. The epidemic provided a force majeure situation in which Ukrainians were warned against attending mass demonstrations, itself a good opportunity to avoid a sense of collective shame of leaders for their broken promises, and voters for transposing their faith in God to politicians. In these circumstances that separated leaders from the people, the electoral discourse was the only opportunity to submit a report to the masses.

The ad slogans in 2010 served as a set of concentrated positive sound bursts – “Yushchenko is connected with the emergence of the hryvnia and economic recovery,” “If there is Yushchenko, there will be Ukraine,” “Yushchenko, as I am, is a patriot of Ukraine,” “Yushchenko defended the right to choose our leadership,” “I want to live in Europe, I am for Yushchenko,” “With Yushchenko, Ukraine is becoming a true European state,” “Yushchenko is the only one who fulfills Ukrainian politics,” “Yushchenko has given us freedom. We need to finish the rest.” All these slogans on posters and in television clips have the voices of nice young people dubbed in. On billboards their names appeared as a presumed proof of authenticity. The opposition responded by devouring jokes such as: “those who vote for Yushchenko are already known by name.”

Billboards during the second wave of the campaign saw Yushchenko alone with yellow-orange colors, or very lonely, and with the same confidence in his significant achievements. If future historians want to describe the Yushchenko era in nostalgic colors, they would need evidence of the achievements of this period: 1) economic: “323 billion in investments,” “A 'one-stop shop' for entrepreneurs – we did it,” 2) peace: “Soldiers returned from Iraq,” “One-year service in the army – we did it,” 3) family values: “Social payment for a childbirth increased ten times,” “16,580 orphans found a family – we secured it,” 4) anti-corruption: “Higher education without a bribe – we achieved it,” 5) patriotism: “Ukraine has its own history and national dignity,” 3) democracy: “Freedom to choose leaders – we secured this,” “Freedom of speech – we secured this,” 5) European values: “Euro-2012 – we won it.”

In this composition, economic and ideological argument groups were important, but patriarchal and patriotic accents, such as family values and Ukrainianness, were highlighted in particular. Viktor Yushchenko was consistent by utilizing former slogans: “Withdrawal of parliamentary immunity,” “Ukraine in the European Union,” and “Ukraine without Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in 2017.” This ideological consistency and stubborn position, disliked by political opponents, promised to write a classic page of radical perseverance in the history of Ukraine as a separate independent state.

In one particular television clip, Yushchenko stood alone on a hill with the sun on the horizon. Offering an assessment of the past five years, he admitted successes wrapped in disappointments: “We’ve come a long way and we’ve been through a lot. We didn’t walk on water, nor did we walk on sunshine. There are achievements and there are mistakes […] Freedom is like the sun: an ordinary wonder. You notice it when you lose it, when it’s gone. I want to forever preserve freedom for all of us. I want to forever preserve our state. I want to forever set fair and equal rules — for all. That’s why I’m running […] My choice has been made. Your choice will be made by you — because even now everything depends on us only. We must forge ahead […]

While it is clear that Yushchenko speaks to the voters who stood for him on Maidan, the subtext says that his race is run and he is bowing out for good. In the ad, the Nasha Ukraina yellow-orange sun of 2002 is echoed, but it appears to be a setting sun, not the dawn of a second Yushchenko era. It appears as if Yushchenko is giving a farewell message: I did my best, I've brought you this far; but as a patriot it is up to you to choose the best people to lead Ukraine.

Certainly, a large part of the electorate valued Yushchenko as a symbol of the national-democratic project in the making. Yet the pathetic features of his image and his advertising program was overshadowed, or realistically balanced, by the history of his team. Relationships between the president and his former orange colleagues undoubtedly compromised all of them.
According to a 2005 Democratic Initiatives Foundation survey, more than 15% of voters acknowledged that Tymoshenko influenced their choice of Yushchenko as a president in response to the question: “Which politician made an impact on your choice of Yushchenko?” The president refused to pay the debt by acknowledging Yulia as a single candidate from the democratic forces in 2010, in spite of her higher rating, making his position unrealistic.

On the one hand, the endless scandals of the orange leaders recall old historical sins of both the national elite and plebs, encoded in the archetype of the fable of “where there are two Ukrainians, there are three hetmans.” The top officials’ careless disregard for the norms of political culture in the situation of unclear division of powers amidst constitutional reform generated the type of non-transparency and chaos that European leaders urged the orange leaders to resist during the entire post-revolutionary period of their conflict-filled cooperation.

On the other hand, the fact that Viktor Yushchenko held a demanding attitude toward Tymoshenko and other politicians remains an irrationally positive strategic factor. Harsh but educational criticism directed at colleagues and a potential heir provided a good alternative to a non-demanding approach. Major Orange leaders have not become a closed joint stock company, whose outside agreed slogans suspect they are working out a scheme to massacre opponents or incorporate their enrichment methods. They emotionally cried about what they believed in, although those were their individual truths.

Viktor Yanukovych:

Stability Amidst Crisis

The first slogans on billboards from Viktor Yanukovych were similar to the standard phrases from an answering machine: "I will listen to everyone,” “Your voice will be heard,” “Your opinion will be taken into account.” The intimate appeal to individuals contrasted quite markedly with his formal bureaucratic style. Unlike the advertising of the Party of Regions on the eve of early parliamentary elections in 2007, advertising of the singular candidate in 2009 looked quite static. The stability of Yanukovych’s electoral base enabled his campaign to operate on the principle of minimal text and a whispered appeal to the collective consciousness and identity of those who recognized his authority and symbols under any circumstances.

After signaling personally to every one, the billboard campaign strategy mapped out the benefits that society would receive after the advent of Yanukovych to the presidency. Each of the social categories – young people, pensioners, entrepreneurs – would get their own key to social paradise: “Pensions are above the subsistence level,” “Education and guaranteed employment for the young,” “Access to safe medicines,” “Tax exemptions for small business for five years.” Yanukovych’s corporate logo is “stability” – this time accompanied by arguments of a financial plan: “A stable hryvnia, and retention of savings.”

The Yanukovych television ads were social with some populist themes that touched on foreign and domestic policy: “The most important fight is against unemployment. Medicine, health. Upholding the rights of all citizens. Ukraine will be for people,” “Improving living standards to the European level. Providing incentives for small businesses. European healthcare. A strong and effective leader.” The social characters in clips endlessly lament about their poor lives. The cause of unemployment is found and announced: “Unemployment rose up to 10%. It is an example of how this government works.”

In 2009, the model of ideological division in Ukrainian society was multifaceted and multileveled. In addition to the “war of all against all,” old antagonisms remained. What did Yanukovych think about his opponents? Who was preferred in terms of possible partnerships and cooperation? During a television talk show, he declared to the audience: “I do not differentiate between them, because whatever colors they use to paint themselves in, they originated from Maidan.”

In addition, the old bipolar oppositions were deployed as technological raw material for the war of all against all. Opponents used the image of Yanukovych in counter-ads as a means of compromising each other. In Lviv, images of Yanukovych hugging and kissing Yushchenko appeared on posters along with the caption “Yushchenko made a deal with Yanukovych in exchange for the premiership,” warning of a the possibility of joint rule of president Yanukovych and Prime Minister Yushchenko.  Internet ads repeatedly flashed the possibility of the revival of the broad Yanukovych-BYuT coalition. According to the logic of both the anti-Yushchenko and anti-Tymoshenko advertisements, Yanukovych remained the anti-ideal for the orange electorate that supported the now-divided Yushchenko-Yulia duopoly. The only traces of orange unity were manifested in negative anti-identity formulations.

While the content of Yanukovych’s advertising always has been traditional and static, the campaign was unexpectedly active in delivering “Yanukovych – our president” brochures to the mailboxes of people, including urbanites in western regions. The 2010 election raised the question of to what extent the population was afraid of Yanukovych’s return, and the answer was n
ot more than in 2004, but not less. There were emotions of rejection, but not resistance. “The whorehouse (bardak) is still better than the jailhouse,” explained one position on a Dzerkalo Tyzhnia internet forum – a sign that the electorate weighed the chaos of the orange era as a lesser evil than Yanukovych, an ex-convict. More importantly, one of the differences in the attitudes of national-democratic voter to Yanukovych was the feeling that society, if not himself personally, deserved punishment like a disobedient child. A Yanukovych victory would be counted as a disaster, for which the society has to blame itself. If not immediately, this perspective promises to increase resistance and aggravate confrontation.

Arseniy Yatseniuk:

Kinderpragmatics and New Mythology

Slogans offered by Arseniy to his audience at the beginning of the electoral season were logical, though plain and somewhat reminiscent of a model student who always answers correctly in class: “Productive villages,” “New industrialization,” “An efficient army,” “Healthy, educated young people.” The visual background on which this program appeared – alternating bands of sand, khaki and black stripes – added elements of intrigue to the standard electoral platform. Was it the promise of a solution to the grey zone, or the promise of a militaristic strong hand?

Yatseniuk used the metaphor of the “front,” to align his name with a “movement” called Front of Change, employing these motifs as the basis for his entire campaign, especially on billboards. Yatseniuk’s advertising, rendered in the martial style, served as a pervasive brand critically targeted for at least three main reasons: 1) the military style contradicted the campaign's peaceful mood: “is change not possible without provocation?” 2) the Front for Change in reality was a virtual concept rather than a grassroots mass formation, and 3) the images contradicted the rational and pragmatic image of Yatseniuk himself.

I am waging war against corruption,” proclaimed Arseniy’s slogans on billboards. In the summer, the “army” ready to support him represented around 10% of voters, more than the population of Ireland. Arseniy was one of the first candidates who began to successfully mobilize voters and endangered the prospects of other politicians. His early entry, however, gave opponents ample time to counterattack and discredit their young competitor through mud-slinging, dirty technology, and slander. Websites cropped up with the goal of discrediting Yatseniuk through both innocuous and deviant verbal games and puns.

As the campaign intensified, Yatseniuk’s ideological shift helped deteriorate his white knight image. His mistake was not only to proclaim that “people no longer believe in ideas,” but to start believing this creed and acting accordingly. The real shock to many former supporters of Yatseniuk became his fantasy on the themes of an “Eastern European Union.” Arseniy, initially branded as a pro-western technocrat, left no doubts that such an association would have nothing to do with Brussels, but with another civilizational vector entirely. In television commentaries Yatseniuk explained that the orange leaders fooled the people about joining the EU by setting unrealistic goals. Yatseniuk did not address the more important question: would it suit for Kyiv to serve as the leader of the Eastern European civilization now that Moscow helped torpedo his own government’s NATO trajectory? It would have been natural to hear from the former foreign minister that EU accession was a matter of gradual and progressive steps. Instead, his clips proclaimed: “Enough of joining anyone! We are Europe ourselves.”

Images of the corrupt enemy in Yatseniuk’s advertisements were personalized after the flu epidemic: “The country will recover from the Ya1Yu1 virus of corruption.” Colors on billboards – blue for Ya and pink for Yu – were supposed to be directed at Yanukovych and Tymoshenko. Yet this visual image looked misleading to inattentive viewers, who could have equally decoded “Ya1Yu1” as “Yatseniuk and Yushchenko” or “Yatseniuk and Yulia.” In the midst of the campaign Yatsenuik declared that “Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, and Yanukovych are one team,” after he was convinced that association of his name with anyone of the politicians of the old cohort could only bring harm. While, advertising loyalty to discredited politicians would indeed be inappropriate, a radical divisive stance with harsh slogans was neither especially psychologically adequate nor a successful tactics.

Given the novelty of Yatseniuk as a fresh-faced third choice to revive the orange agenda in the early days of his campaign, he managed to lose support and trust in western Ukraine by the first round. By introducing the neo-mythology of “Eastern civilization” and stressing nativist pride similar to the type produced by Soviet isolation, he started a risky affair by creating new niches for himself. In the last phase of the pre-election marathon, Yatseniuk garnered less than 5% of support from voters, falling from double-digit support in the spring of 2009. All in all, he was expected to receive 7-8% of votes in the first round, painstakingly earned.

The last series of television ads from Arseniy Yatseniuk were remarkably hyperemotional, combining visual, audio, and verbal dramatic elements: anxiety-inducing music, images of an ambulance careening through the heavy traffic, a female doctor in white, and text filled with the ultimate diagnosis: “Ukraine is dying,” “My Ukraine is at the abyss,” “The problem of the very survival of the Ukrainian state has arisen.” The candidate’s medical-spin-doctor team readily suggested antidotes, prescriptions, and the way to salvation: “What needs to be changed? Everything must be changed!” “Complete modernization,” “The new course,” “I vote for  hope, for Arseniy.”  

Announcing change, Arseniy turned out to be a symptom of many worn out and outdated concepts, such as the “war of all against all” and the multi-vectored re-orientation with a nativist lining. Such a possibility is linked to the positive trajectory of his political career from “Kindersurprise” and “Boy Wonder” to a compromised hope. Somewhere on the political horizon, Yatseniuk still has a chance to say and to do something really new and inspiring.

Volodymyr Lytvyn:
The Exclusive Product “Only Lytvyn”

Continuing the tradition of previous parliamentary electoral seasons, political advertising portrayed the presidential candidate as an exclusive phenomenon: “Only Lytvyn will unite the country for a great cause,” “Only Lytvyn is worthy of our trust,” “Only with Lytvyn Ukraine will gain respect from its neighbors and be the pride of its grandchildren,” “Today only Lytvyn is able to ensure the stability of Ukraine,” “Only Lytvyn is worthy to be president.”

On foreign policy, an area where the majority of candidates in this campaign preferred to be as indirect as possible, Lytvyn chose to express his opinion and boldly retrieve the idea of eastward cooperation from the archive of Ukraine’s post-independence geopolitical choices. To present this vector in the public space, he used the euphemism “neighbors” on billboards – “Friendship with neighbors is the security of the country and its development” – as well as an explicit definition of the strategic alliance in TV clips: “Time for the Single Economic Space. Time for good neighborly relations. Time for Lytvyn.” Lytvyn explained before the cameras: “The SES is an alternative to staying alone with our problems. Together with neighbor states, it will be easier to overcome the crisis.” Lytvyn’s explanation of NATO-related policies was no less sincere, pointing out their dead-end prospects. During pre-election campaigning, Lytvyn addressed audiences in Crimea: “Before we begin accession to NATO, we should ask what people think. People are against it. I think that we should reckon with people.” This statement served both as a classical example of a deductive syllogism and a model example of a “vicious circle” argument whereby top officials dissociate Ukrainian identity from Euro-Atlantic integration.

Serhiy Tihipko:
The Discreet Charm of the
Non-Conflict Alternative

He was supported by solid media. Upstanding people sympathized with his personality. He avoided spicy and heated language in debates. He was not affected by aggressive counter-advertising. His rating constantly grew. His slogans were balanced, correct, and moderately pathetic: “The nation is a community of people united by a common future. I believe in the wonderful future of our people and I know that Ukraine will be strong,” “We are pulling the economy up, as well as the country,” “We should change life for the better.”
In 2004-2005, the candidacy of Tihipko was discussed as a non-conflict alternative to Yanukovych that could have presumably prevented the revolutionary course of events. For the 2010 race, he promoted professionalism
“Professionals should run the country” and proved his own professionalism as a banker and former head of the National Bank of Ukraine as well as the ability to conduct a costly PR campaign. Serhiy Tihipko appropriated himself, at the minimal level, to the position of the next prime minister, and spoke openly about his readiness to convert slogans of pragmatism into position of prime minister “under any president.”

Anatoliy Hrytsenko
positioned himself as “the enemy of THEIR state” and the principal
opponent of all representatives of all branches of government. He was one of the first politicians to talk about the need for an influx of new people in top positions, and the dispensation of compromised politicians. In creating his own alternative to such figures, Hrytsenko took a realistic approach and labeled himself first among the candidates who would clearly not make it past the first round. The former Defense Minister thus assessed his chances as a well-informed optimist. He attracted voters’ attention through a compelling combination of will and intellect in his public speeches. At the same time, he made dubious statements about the need to “eliminate Bankova as a class” and usher in a rigid vertical presidential system.

Inna Bohoslovska, similar to all the representatives on the anti-orange flank, stressed the unacceptability of the current government in power and painted pictures of utter desperation of the masses: “Every time we demonstrate, people say they are brought to the brink. You want five more years of this life?” Bohoslovska positioned herself as the “protector president,” a reference to her early career as a lawyer as an attempt to create an alternative to the “protective” implications of Tymoshenko’s image, both in its former Joan of Arc incarnation and present association with the White Tiger. Bohoslovska depicted Tymoshenko as a dangerous prospect of Ukrainian politics: “Tymoshenko is forming a cult of personality”

Oleh Tyahnybok, head of the All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda (Freedom), conducted along the lines of an anti-oligarchic mobilization campaign: They have power? They have money? But there are more of us!” “Tyahnybok is on our side!” Tyahnybok’s publications in the Svoboda newspaper secured himself ideologically among the European far right. As a prospective member of the European Alliance of Right Parties, Svoboda showed its solidarity with Le Pen supporters in France, and built ties with the Italian right-wing party Fiamma Tricolore. In the pre-electoral period, leaders of Svoboda initiated an anti-immigration campaign in reaction to the government’s decision to make Ukraine a place to detain illegal migrants trying to enter Europe. Since Ukraine is the largest supplier of cheap labor to Europe and Russia, it is destined to have more of an ambivalent position regarding immigrants than Svobodas platform would suggest. Already, there is only a narrow niche of mass support for this organization and its leader.

Yuriy Kostenko, reminded voters of civil and patriotic values: “Economic nationalism,” “Work, buy, and protect Ukrainian, because it is yours!” This is explained by facts and figures, which appealed to voters during the previous electoral season: 80% of goods, works, and services in Ukraine are of foreign origin.”

Oleh Riabokon represented a civil alternative: “We need a new model of governance self-immune from corruption.” Mykhailo Brodsky signed his billboards with the honorific “Dr. Brodsky,” and provided statistics of diseases in Ukraine: “Every day 43 Ukrainians die from alcohol, 1,153 Ukrainians die every day from heart disease and circulatory diseases.” Slogans announced: “Save one life and you save the world.

Petro Symonenko employed the traditional red colors of social criticism and demonstrated economic frugality. In this presidential election the Communists did not purchase costly television ads, instead opting to communicate to the mass audience through radio spots. The ads depicted scenes of social decay and despair of the disabled, unemployed, poor. Symonenko insisted, “No more to YES!” – a hint at the 2004 campaign. The radio messages of Olexander Moroz announced that “chaos in power and corruption is the result of violation of laws on the part of top officials” and mentioned the dream number of 40% of disappointed Ukrainians that were ready to support him, which is forty times larger than the real number of his prospective voters. His harshest public comments were directed at Viktor Yushchenko who initiated “irresponsible criminal play” by suggesting changes to the Constitution. The mayor of Uzhhorod Serhiy Ratushniak became known by his hysterical anti-Semitic attacks against Yatseniuk, a case of the blackest technology and the most infamous way of entering the public arena.

Vasyl Humeniuk legally changed his surname to Protyvsikh – meaning “against all.” The typical “technological candidate,” whose spoiler mission is to confuse and shuffle the deck, Vasyl Protyvsikh catapulted himself from the local politics of Ivano-Frankivsk to the national  stage with his slogan, “For a life without Ya and Yu,” representing another colorful addition to a gallery of characters in the Ukrainian political folk theater of the 2009-2010 electoral season. Protyvsikh fulfilled not only a subversive role, but also one of the jester by marking the degree of absurdity and self-destruction of which the elites have long since approached. If there is a need to expressing feelings “against everyone,” then it comes as no surprise that the demand is gratified in the most grotesque and ironic form.

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11:43 (21.07.2022)
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