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09KYIV1727, YATSENYUK: LOSING MOMENTUM IN PRESIDENTIAL BID

October 5, 2009

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09KYIV1727 2009-10-05 15:47 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO1998
PP RUEHDBU RUEHSL
DE RUEHKV #1727/01 2781547
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051547Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8533
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KYIV 001727 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/05/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL UP
SUBJECT: YATSENYUK: LOSING MOMENTUM IN PRESIDENTIAL BID 
 
REF: KYIV 00437 
 
Classified By: Political Counselor Colin Cleary for reasons 1.4(b,d) 
 
1. (C) Summary.  Presidential contender Arseniy Yatsenyuk, 
who saw a surge in popular support in the spring, now appears 
to be losing ground in the pre-election environment in 
Ukraine.  Latest public opinion polls move him squarely to 
third place from the statistical tie he held for second place 
with Tymoshenko through the spring and summer months.  His 
"unorthodox" campaign, which features camouflage colors and 
consists of billboards and military-style tents staffed by 
unengaged citizens that dot the streets of major cities, so 
far seems to lack resonance among the public.  Whether or not 
Yatsenyuk enters the second round, his Front of Change (FC) 
plans to run in the next parliamentary election. End Summary. 
 
"Unorthodox" Campaign Falling Flat 
---------------------------------- 
 
2. (C) On September 29 we met with Yatsenyuk's Front of 
Change (FC) deputy head of council and campaign co-manager 
Andriy Pyshny and head of FC international relations section 
Oleksandr Shcherba.  Neither was able to offer more specific 
details on Yatsenyuk's vague campaign promises or future 
plans if elected president, only underscoring that there will 
be dirty tricks throughout and Yatsenyuk will focus on 
"Project Ukraine" intended to unite a divided 
electorate. 
 
3. (C) Pyshny and Shcherba echoed Yatsenyuk's public warnings 
that the upcoming presidential election is Ukraine's "last 
chance" for democracy, and indicated that the campaign's 
"unhappy" colors are intended to convey that the country is 
on the verge of destruction.  The "artful" design is intended 
to appeal to young voters, while the slogans--which convey 
Yatsenyuk's four central tenets (new industrialization, 
effective local government, healthy and educated people, and 
a capable army)--are intended to resonate among voters over 
50.  Ihor Kohut of the Agency for Legislative Initiatives 
told us on September 30 that he understood Yatsenyuk's tent 
campaign was actually designed for Former Defense Minister 
and presidential candidate Anatoliy Hrytsenko, but was 
apparently transferred to Yatsenyuk when it became clear that 
Hrytsenko did not have the resources to pay for the materials. 
 
4. (C) When asked about voter and campaign mobilization, 
Pyshny claimed that FC's internet site was the starting point 
and that enthusiastic volunteers from this group were manning 
the tents.   In contrast, tent workers have confirmed to us 
that they are being paid for their campaign work.   We have 
also found that tent workers around Kyiv and Kherson, for 
example, cannot articulate if or why Yatsenyuk is the best 
candidate and are sometimes observed sleeping in the tents. 
 
 
5. (C) Shcherba claimed that FC has strong support in western 
Ukraine but is also targeting  voters in the more densely 
populated east.  In a separate conversation in mid-September, 
Shcherba told us that Yatsenyuk had reached an electoral 
plateau in western Ukraine and would attempt to expand his 
support by targeting eastern Ukraine. Neither interlocutor 
was able to expound on how they plan to tailor their message 
across demographics beyond saying that "Project Ukraine" 
means that getting the vote out in "Ivano-Frankivsk is just 
as important as (in) Alchevsk" (i.e., in the far west as well 
as the far east of the country). 
 
6. (C) Political expert Kohut, along with Ihor Zhdanov, 
director of the Open Policy Center, and Ilko Kucheriv, 
director of the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, told us 
that the nationalistic taglines and military aura of 
Yatsenyuk's campaign do not seem to fit his actual persona, 
and assess his chances at making it to the second round as 
low.  Results of a recent poll by the Ukrainian Democratic 
Circle -- which is linked to a BYuT MP, but shows Tymoshenko 
losing in the second round to Yanukovych--indicate a 
significant downturn for Yatsenyuk, who garners 10.8 percent 
in the first round against Tymoshenko and Yanukovych, who 
earn 20.8 and 28.9 percent, respectively. 
 
Yatsenyuk Expects a Dirty Campaign 
---------------------------------- 
 
7. (C) Pyshny repeated several times that Yatsenyuk is 
expecting the campaign to be nasty, and raised concerns that 
Ukrainian media is increasingly unwilling to appear critical 
toward the government. (Comment: We have not detected any 
clamping down on media freedoms.  End Comment.)  Pyshny 
claimed that literature offered from the campaign tents may 
end up being the only way for Yatsenyuk to communicate with 
voters. 
 
KYIV 00001727  002 OF 002 
 
 
 
Favors Pragmatism with Russia...and Campaign Advice? 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
8. (C) When asked how Yatsenyuk would approach the 
Ukraine-Russia relationship, Pyshny resolutely replied, "with 
pragmatism."  He said that the energy relationship would be 
the priority, adding that the current gas contract had made 
Ukraine a "slave" to Russia.  Pyshny was unable to follow
up 
with any details on Yatsenyuk's plans to pursue an energy 
consortium or redress problems with the gas contract, only 
remarking that there are no easy solutions in the gas 
relationship. 
 
9. (C) In June, according to local media, Yatsenyuk replaced 
his Ukrainian-led electoral team with Russian advisors 
associated with Yanukovych's 2004 campaign.  The Russian team 
is led by Vladimir Granovskiy, who worked under Party of 
Regions MP Andriy Klyuyev on Yanukovych's team in 2004, 
according to Ukrayinska Pravda.  In response to a question on 
campaign advisors, however, Pyshny remained vague and said 
that Yatsenyuk relied on a wide network of political contacts 
and advisors and insisted that Yatsenyuk is in charge of his 
own decision-making. 
 
FC Will Become an Official Party 
-------------------------------- 
 
10. (C) Pyshny explained that FC will become a formal 
political party in October and will participate in upcoming 
local council elections as well as an early Rada election if 
it is held.  When asked how FC would approach the requirement 
that a party be registered for a minimum of one year in 
advance of participating in elections, Pyshny said this was 
simply a "legal formality" that would not stand in the way of 
FC's ability to compete in elections.  Pyshny stressed that 
FC would register as a party out of electoral necessity but 
would strive to remain a grassroots civic organization in 
practice. 
 
Funding 
------- 
 
11. (C) Various political observers have told us--and press 
commentary speculate--that Yatsenyuk's funding may dry up. 
There is speculation that oligarch Viktor Pinchuk (son-in-law 
of former President Kuchma) may be waning in his support for 
Yatsenyuk. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
12. (C) Comments from Yatsenyuk's campaign leaders and 
workers, as well as Kyiv's political experts, belie a chronic 
lack of substance behind his "unorthodox" campaign materials 
and lackluster 'volunteers.'  FC members do not show any 
capability to deepen the message or expand their organization 
to effectively compete with the campaign machines of 
Yatsenyuk's principal rivals.  Yatsenyuk's previous hope to 
overtake Tymoshenko and stand as the new generation "Orange" 
candidate against Yanukovych in the second round is 
faltering.  As the official campaign prepares to get 
underway, he lacks endorsements, organization, and a clear 
message; and, unless something changes, his funding may dry 
up. 
PETTIT

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