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You're reading: Duping the pussycats

The result was largely predictable since the promotion of Russian
language – at the cost of Ukrainian, as many critics opine – was a
cornerstone of Yanukovych’s 2004 and 2010 presidential campaigns as well
as of his Sovietophile Party of Regions. The propagandistic materials
leaked from the party headquarters before the bill was even approved
reveal a key role assigned to the language law by the party spin-doctors
in the pending parliamentary elections campaign. And the brutal,
extremely unscrupulous, and illegitimate way the bill was pushed through
the parliament proves that the stakes are too high for the Party of
Regions and, apparently, for the president.

Therefore, it was rather naïve to expect that the president would
destroy what his team had been building so ruthlessly, breaching various
laws and dismissing procedural subtleties. The calculation looks
simple: whatever the president and his party do, they will not garner
support from the democratic, Ukrainophile, and pro-European part of
society. So, the main task is to mobilize the traditional, Sovietophile
part of the electorate, which would probably never vote for the
“democrats” perceived as “nationalists” and “Western hacks,” but may
also reject the “Regionals” because of dissatisfaction with their
disastrous social and economic policies. Some protest votes would
probably benefit the Regionals’ satellites: the Communists on the
virtual left and Natalia Korolevska’s “Avanti Ukraine!” in the
quasi-liberal “center.” Still, the problem of mobilizing the Regionals’
core electorate remains topical since many of those people may simply
ignore the elections, facilitating thereby the chances of the
opposition.

The estimated size of the Sovietophile electorate in Ukraine is about
40%. This does not comprise a majority but the Party of Regions has
good reason to believe that the half of the parliament elected from the
territorial districts (not from the party lists) will bring them the
much-needed majority thanks to the so-called independents. Most of them
ultimately appear very dependent on the incentives or intimidation or
both from the authorities and usually end-up in the pro-government camp.

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