As the world looks to London, a more important contest has kicked off in Kyiv with star quality of its own. Four years ago, under cover of the Beijing Games, Russia and Georgia engaged in a bloody bout of tit-for-tat violence, which damaged both countries’ international reputations and did little to improve the prospects of people in the region. Now, with the Five-Ring Circus under way in the United Kingdom, all seems thankfully quiet on the Eastern front. However, the campaigning for Ukraine’s October parliamentary election, which officially began July 30, shouldn’t be allowed to slip under the radar as the results will have far-reaching impact. The protagonists in this important contest have no intention of being overshadowed by events elsewhere, and many of them are used to strutting their stuff on the international stage, albeit not exclusively in relation to party politics.
Several well-known faces return from previous elections. President Viktor Yanukovych, notorious for his role in rigging the 2004 elections, is sure to feature prominently in support of the parliamentary candidates from his Party of Regions. There is also serial parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, who recently resigned over the controversial (and allegedly fraudulent) passing of the inflammatory language law that challenged the supremacy of Ukrainian, and, of course, the country’s most internationally famous politician and contemporary icon, Yulia Tymoshenko.
Tymoshenko, who became massively wealthy in the lawless ’90s before becoming the face of the so-called Orange Revolution, will have a lead role in a cage, having been incarcerated following what has been widely condemned as a politically motivated prosecution. Tymoshenko was convicted of exceeding her powers as prime minister in what was described by the judge as an “abuse of office” in negotiating a gas deal with Russia on “unfavourable terms,” which implied that she benefitted personally at the expense of the pensioners who form Yanukovych’s core constituency. Tymoshenko denies the charges. However, there are also some new stars about to enter the fray. In the Red Corner is reigning WBC heavyweight boxing champion Vitaliy Klytschko, who heads a party, Udar, named for his famously powerful punch. Klytschko is multilingual and holds a PhDin sports science, earning him the nickname “Dr. Ironfist.”