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Whole families run for seats in Ukraine’s parliament, president hands down precinct to son

Though the parliamentary elections in Ukraine is scheduled for October 26, voters already know the names of many future deputies, who happen to be relatives of active-duty politicians
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko with his wife Maryna and son Oleksiy AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov/Archive
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko with his wife Maryna and son Oleksiy
© AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov/Archive

KIEV, October 17. /TASS/. Early election of deputies to Ukraine’s national parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, is still more than a week off but the voters already know the names of many future deputies, who happen to be relatives of active-duty politicians.

These politicians came to power on the wave of promises to cleanse the ranks of officialdom from those who had been propelled there by family relations, but now they are working hard to feather lucrative nests in the system of state rule for their children, brothers and godparents.

President Petro Poroshenko not an exception

The main VIP candidate for a parliamentary seat is Oleksiy Poroshenko, the 29-year-old son of the president. He is running in precinct No.12 in the Vinnitsa region — the same precinct that has delegated his own father to parliament once in the past.

Upon becoming President, Poroshenko Sr. renounced his parliamentary powers and handed the electoral constituency down to his son, and now the young politician hopes to rally support among his father’s electorate. Also, he has Channel 5 at his disposal for propagating his ideas, since the channel is owned by his father.

Oleksiy Poroshenko has sound education, which he received in Britain and France. He worked for Roshen confectionery corporation belonging to his father and started his political career in 2010, beginning with the duties of a deputy chief of the commerce department at Ukraine’s Consulate General.

At that time, Poroshenko Sr. stood at the head of the Foreign Ministry.

Oleksiy is now deputy director general at a foodstuff company and a deputy of the Vinnitsa region legislature.

President Poroshenko said his son had taken a decision to run for parliament of his own accord. “I’ve always taught my son to take decisions independently and he didn’t take counsel from me about it,” he indicated at a news conference.

Oleksiy did not hide out behind fellow-partisan backs but decide to stand for parliament in a majority constituency.

“If there were no majority system, I wouldn’t place him on the list (of the Pyotr Poroshenko Bloc party) either,” the president said. On the face of it, some presidential cronies are also running for parliamentary seats as the bloc members. They are the former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, who is number one on the list, Lutsenko’s wife Irina who is the chief executive of Channel 5 and a deputy of the Rada at the same time, deputy Yuriy Stets, and singer Oksana Bilozir.

Petro Poroshenko’s bloc will open up the road to one more crony sibling — the 31-year-old Oleksandra Pavlenko, the daughter of the Rada deputy Serhiy Pavlenko. Her past political record includes the duties of aide and representative at the Central Election Commission for Serhiy Tihipko, a former candidate for presidency. Also, she has been a member of the Sylna Ukraina party national bureau, a lawyer for the Ukraine Forward party and the representative of the party’s leader, Natalya Korolevskaya, at the Central Election Commission.

Nikolay Kravchenko, the head of the Donetsk region branch of the Ukrainian Communist Party, believes that Poroshenko has already outshone the previous President, Viktor Yanukovych, in terms of the number of cronies in power. “Nothing has changed, nothing, everything has just gotten worse, and whole familial clans are marching to the Verkhovna Rada now,” he said.

Mykhailo Pogrebinsky, the director of the Kiev Center for Political Research and Studies of Conflicts, believes that President Poroshenko should have convinced his son to stay away from running for the Rada until his own term of office ends. “The president’s son is still a young man and he could have waited for some time but our politicians are dominated by old dogmas, which they just can’t throw aside.”

Family as political class

Upon casting a glance at the electoral lists, and especially the ones in majority constituencies, one may really get an impression that Ukraine’s political class is built on the foundation of nepotism and cronyism, as all the political forces display the tradition of nominating candidates on the grounds of kinship.

Performing in a duo in this election race is the former speaker of the Rada, Volodymyr Litvin, and his son Ivan who will become the youngest deputy in parliament if he is elected. Both have registered as candidates in majority constituencies. And to make Ivan’s crash course in political subtleties meatier, the precinct of the town of Glukhov in the north-eastern Sumy district is supervised by his father-in-law Andriy Derkach, who in his turn is a son of the former chief of Ukraine’s Security Service, Leonid Derkach.

For the 25-year-old Ivan Litvin, this is the first attempt to get on the list of people’s deputies but he has already made headlines in news media. The agencies of law and order are examining reports on the actions of his proxies who tried to buy voters’ preferences.

Oksana Kaletnik is a niece of the chairman of the Rada’s agriculture committee, Grigory Kaletnik. Simultaneously, she is a cousin of the former chief of the Ukrainian Customs Service and former deputy speaker of parliament, Ihor Kaletnik. She will try to get a deputy’s mandate in Yampol, Vinnitsa region, where the father of the incumbent President, Oleksiy Poroshenko withdrew from the race “for health reasons” in 2012. Grigory Kaletnik himself is running in the nearby township of Ilyintsy and Ihor Kaletnik will be on the ballots in the eastern city of Donetsk.

Yuriy Kruk, a former member of the Party of Regions is running for parliament as a representative of the Opposition Bloc and his two sons will be on the ballots in two constituencies of the Odessa region. Yuriy Kruk Jr. has inherited the constituency in the south-western town of Izmail where his father emerged victorious from an election two years ago.

He is competing with Volodymyr Bodelan, the son of the former Mayor of Odessa. Yuriy Kruk Sr.’s elder son Vyacheslav is running in precinct No. 133 in the city of Odessa.

The Trans-Carpathian region has proved to be a mainstay of electoral nepotism. Setting the tune there is the Balog clan that is heading for the Rada under the pro-presidential party banners. Viktor Balog, the former chief of President Yushchenko’s administration staff and currently a member of parliament is running in the town Mukachevo, Pavlo Balog, in Khust, Ivan Balog, in Vinogradovo, and their cousin Vassily Petevka, in Tyachev.

Experts say the contenders of the group are undoubtedly no-go options.

Dubnevich brothers, Bogdan and Yaroslav, important agricultural producers, are on the ballots at home in the Lviv region.

Oleh Tyahnibok, the leader of the far-right nationalistic Svoboda party has No. 1 on the party ticket while his brother Andriy has been registered in the majority constituency in Stary Sambor, also in the Lviv region. Dmytro Dobkin, the brother of the former governor of the Kharkiv region Mykhailo Dobkin, is standing for the deputy’s seat in the town of Balakleya and Mykhailo himself is standing as a candidate of the Opposition Bloc.

Anatoly Kuzmenko, the father of the governor of central Kirovograd region, has been nominated as a candidate of the Poroshenko Bloc. Ukrainian media say the latter situation became possible owning to the partial consonance of business interests of Kuzmenko Sr. and some of the companies reporting to Poroshenko.

One more businessman from Kirovograd , Stanislav Beryozkin who has a seat in the current convocation of the Rada, is running in precinct No. 100 and his son Maxim, in precinct No. 99.

Party of Regions putting stakes on ‘good old pals’

As many as twelve incumbent deputies are taking part in the election race in the Donetsk region and all of them are linked to the Party of Regions, which supported President Viktor Yushcheko. This time, though, they are running for the Rada as self-nominees or nonpartisan candidates.

Serhiy Klyuyev, the brother of Andriy Klyuyev, a former deputy prime minister who was also among the top party leadership but was later placed on an international wanted list, is standing for deputyship in Artyomovsk. He will compete with Dmytro Reva, the son of the same town’s mayor who in his turn was Serhiy Klyuyev’s electoral agent back two years ago.

Yuriy Solod, the husband of former presidential candidate Natalya Korolevskayas, has been registered in Sloviansk. Korolevskaya herself is on the been placed on the Opposition Bloc electoral list.

The son of Ukraine’s former housing and communal services minister and Donetsk region governor, Serhiy Bliznyuk will do his best to get to parliament in the majority constituency in Kramatorsk that along with Sloviansk, saw the hair-raising scenes of armed violence this summer.

Artyom Semenyuk, a former member of the Party of Regions is standing for parliament together with his father. The only difference is that the father, Mykhailo Papiyev who used to be the governor of Chernivtsi region and the Minister of Social Policies, has been added to the Opposition Bloc list while his son will try his luck in a single-mandate precinct.

Age not an obstacle

Millionaire owner of the Motor Sich automobile factory in the south-eastern city of Zaporozhye, Vyacheslav Boguslayev, is on the ballots in precinct No. 77 in his home city in spite of being 76 years old. His son, a deputy chairman of the same factory’s board of trustees is running in neighboring precinct No. 75, with experts saying the affluent financing and general popularity among the population makes the chances for victory high for both Boguslayevs.

Still, Vyacheslav will not be the most senior deputy in the Rada in terms of age. The Poroshenko Bloc ticket contains the names of Dmyto Pavlychko, a poet who has just turned 85 years old, and a sure winner Yuriy Shukhevich, 81, the son of Roman Shukhevich who was one of the most notorious masterminds of the ‘insurgent movement’ of the World War II era.

Shukhevich has been picked by the Radical Party led by an equally odious rightwing activist, Oleh Lyashko. Shukhevich Jr. has been dismissed from the post of chairman of the Ukrainian Nationalistic Self-Defense organization for his “flight to parliament.”

If Shukhevich becomes the most senior member of the newly elected Rada, he will read out the text of the People’s Deputy’s Oath. This has been done on two occasions before him by Yaroslava Stetsko, the leader of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists who was elected as a deputy affiliated with President Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine bloc.

Who are they?

Alexiy Golobutsky, a leading Ukrainian political scientist believes that the contending parties’ electoral tickets contain a huge number of technical candidates — field commanders, songstresses, volunteer movement activists, and news media people.

“Bringing such personalities into the picture is a sheer political technology based on marketing,” he says. “They are not politicians and they don’t have enough acumen for getting engaged in the lawmaking process. This means they’ll simply push buttons at the tips from more competent milieu.”

“Understandably enough, all of them are beautiful boys and gals if you sit with them in a street cafe and sing songs but they are totally good for nothing in politics,” Golobutsy says. “It’d be much better if we saw economists and lawyers over there instead of them.”

“As for now, it so happens that all these folks in embroidered national shirts are looking really nice but none of them wants to speak about real problems, that is, about the collapsing economy,” he says.