Article published on the bne IntelliNews website on March 6th 2019.
All the essential elements of a typical Tymoshenko rally were present in Yuzhne on February 21, a small city 40km east of Odessa. There was the rant against president Petro Poroshenko as well as the complaining about the rise of energy prices. She didn’t forget the promises to bump up subsidies. And the event was crowned at the end with a small girl climbing on stage to hand the presidential candidate a huge bouquet of flowers.
More unusual was the substantive part of her speech that Tymoshenko dedicated to what she describes as preparations for mass electoral violations in the March 31 election. “44 candidates! 44 candidates!” she called out to the crowd gathered in the local palace of culture. “Who are those people?” She accused Poroshenko of using one-time subsidies payments as vote-buying schemes, and mimicked voters having to take photos of their ballot to prove they voted for the right candidate before receiving payment. Among the supporting crowd partly brought by bus from Odessa, the lively retelling drew laughter and applause.
One month ahead of the first round, of what will almost certainly be a two round election, concerns that the 2019 presidential election could be the dirtiest in the country’s history is growing.
The election has been hailed as exceptionally competitive, with three separate candidates having a real chance to reach the second round but they are running neck-and-neck in the polls. In this uncertain context, accusations of vote-buying and campaign violations are not only a threat, but they are also tools to be used by candidates to score points against each other.