In a field of 21 mayoral candidates, the western Ukrainian city’s race is actually between two people.
– The impressive gathering of church, political and civic leaders that took place here on a glorious fall day underscored the trepidation many western Ukrainians feel about Ukraine’s Oct. 31 local elections.\
“Today’s considerable challenges have only one result: unity.”
- Andriy Sadovy, mayor of Lviv.
“Today’s considerable challenges have only one result: unity,” Mayor Andriy Sadovy told several thousand people who gathered in downtown Lviv on Oct. 24 to pray for free and fair elections.
The mayor, who is running for re-election, said he hoped candidates for local office would “carry themselves with dignity” and remember that “in November, life will continue.”
Of the 21 registered mayoral candidates, numerous polls indicate the contest is really between two men – Sadovy, the current mayor, and Petro Pysarchuk, a prominent businessman who represents the pro-presidential Party of Regions.
Numerous polls put Sadovy ahead of Pysarchuk by several points.
Although the two candidates have not met face-to-face in a debate, each has used formidable media resources to sling mud and downgrade the other.
Sadovy has remained largely out of the public eye, except for the Oct. 24 meeting and those occasions when protocol dictates, such as when Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Lviv on Oct. 26.
Pysarchuk, on the other hand, has been widely visible in the media.
Casting himself as an underdog – and even a Party of Regions outsider although he heads the local grouping – Pysarchuk told journalists on Oct. 27 that “the level of faith” in authorities “is catastrophic.”
The terrible misfortune we live by is the Stalinist principle that it’s not how we vote, but how we count.”
- Petro Pysarchuk, a candidate for mayor.
“The terrible misfortune we live by is the Stalinist principle that it’s not how we vote, but how we count,” he said in addressing questions over how honest the current election will be.
“But the problem is not in the Party of Regions, but in our culture and abiding by the law. There is corruption in district commissions…We have corruption.”
Numerous media outlets have reported that Vasyl Horbal, the Lviv Oblast governor appointed by President Viktor Yanukovych, prefers Sadovy for mayor.
Numerous local media have reported that Sadovy has already had contact with members of the president’s administration about his candidacy.
Pysarchuk responded “oy, oy, oy” when asked about his relationship with Horbal. Still, Pysarchuk admitted Yanukovych himself hasn’t done enough in embracing western Ukrainians.
Although he hoped that message would be heard in Kyiv, he said the current political reality was such that if the Party of Regions focused on the “desires of Halychany (western Ukrainians)” it would lose backing in eastern Ukraine, which supports the “party’s rhetoric.”
“The Party of Regions is different, made of up different people,” he said.
There are serious concerns about whether the local contests, of which the race for Lviv mayor is simply the most conspicuous one, can be honest.
The stakes are high.
Lviv is extraordinarily important.”
- Arseniy Yatseniuk, head of Front for Change.
“Lviv is extraordinarily important,” Arseniy Yatseniuk, head of Front for Change, told reporters on Oct. 26, noting that national politics are playing themselves out on the local level in Lviv.
“Lvivites are known to vote their conscience,” added Stepan Kubiv, the Front of Change’s mayoral candidate. “We don’t have a right to give up Lviv.”
Ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who heads the opposition Batkivshyna party, said on Oct. 26 that the party would not recognize the election results in Lviv and Kyiv oblasts, as well as the city of Ternopil, because it had been removed from the electoral process.
“We already do not recognize the results in the Lviv and Kyiv oblasts and city of Ternopil because candidate lists from fraudulent Batkivshchyna party organizations were registered on orders from Yanukovych,” she said.
For his part, Vitaliy Klitschko, who heads the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms (UDAR), told journalists on Oct. 24 that his group would closely monitor votes as they were being counted.
“There are concerns that the elections will be falsified,” he said. Two exit polls by independent groups are planned in Lviv for the Oct. 31 vote.
Kyiv Post staff writer Natalia A. Feduschak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.