Who are represented by candidates to local power in Mariupol? Are there supporters and representatives of democracy? What may political struggle turn into in the city? Journalists Oleksiy Matsuka (O.M.), Vitaliy Syzov (V.S.) and political analyst Kostyantyn Batozskiy (K.B.) were searching for answers to these and other questions on Donbas public TV air.
O.M.: Kostyantyn, do the political parties whose candidates ballot for the city council represent Mariupol residents or do they represent some other interests?
K.B. “Nash Kray” Party did not have enough representatives. They did not have the mayoral candidate though they nominated deputies who the present acting mayor supports. The party has rating and it is quite serious. It is higher than the rating of “Batkivshchyna”. They are working with people and have meetings with them, in particular, Yuriy Khotlubey. The party is moving forward though it is not so notable. They will show their results.
O.M.: Vitaliy, do you think we saw retransltors which political parties have or was it of “fake” nature?
V.S.: I think everything was normal. But we did not see the main subject of the election. It is not “The “Opposition Block”, it is “Metinvest”company and its campaign. The most popular word here, in Mariupol, is “Metinvest”. Formaly it was not present here. However, it is the force which dominates the whole city.
O.M.: Kostyantyn, has “Metinvest” “put its eggs into the political baskets” of Mariupol? “The Opposition Block” has been accused of being connected with “Metinvest”. Is it good or bad?
K.B.: It is not clear what the relations are between “Metinvest” and Yuriy Ternavskiy. He is a mayoral candidate person #2 according to surveys. He started at Illyicha Steel Mills in Mariupol; he heads the department of catering and trade and controls selling drugs and a dairy plant. His business is based on providing food to metallurgical mills canteens. He is quite influencial as he feeds 30 thousand people. It is big money. He has been a constant participant of elections though he is a political bankrupt as he has always failed. At the last election he was very close to Khotlubey. There were scandals, as Yuriy Ivanivych thinks that the victory was stolen from him. This person protests a lot, he critisizes plants a lot, sometimes without grounds. Whether he is a serious candidate, what the relations are between the contractor and the client are interesting questions. In fact, “Metinvest” itself created the problems which the city is facing. They chose the tactics of a bulldozer sweeping everything from their way. Maybe, it is because of the fact that Russians engaged in the election campaign did not understand that the situation had changed in Ukraine. They were fighting for the “Chechen” result to get everything and did not take into account the public movement in Mariupol. This pro-Ukrainian minority was growing and getting strength. These people were ignored.
O.M.: In other words, it is impossible to reach an agreement with “The Opposition Block”? They do not form any coalition.
K.B.: There is one more conflict, the conflict in the party. Oleksiy Bilyi is responsible for the election campaign of “The Opposition Block”, and he reports to Borys Kolesnykov. The plants managers are responsible for Boychenko's election campaign. It is very funny that plant directors in Mariupol have turned into political commentaors. Today they are on air, throw mud at competitors and do things which are not typical of plant directors. They “feel themselves citizens” only before the election.
O.M.: Vitaliy, you are not a Mariupol local. You have come from Kramatorsk where there was an election campaign too. What did you notice during the debates? Was there any monopoly, any progress?
V.S.: I have not noticed any desire to reach a resonable compromise on the part of “Metinvest”. They did not even delegate any representative. There was a representative of the political wing, not the plant one. They ignored the event. It is a minus because the plants will remain in the city.
O.M.: What is “The Opposition Block” like? What does it mean: A political wing? A plant one?
K.B.: When “The Opposition Block” condems the power and says that there is no power in Mariupol, it is not true because there is power in Mariupol today. If you look at the city council deputies, you will see that the majority of them are representatives of the plants, and 65 deputies from “The Opposition Block” - the biggets faction as they say that; And it is contrary to the whole country; in Mariupol there have always been three parties: “Azovmash”, “Azovsteel”, and Ilyicha Steel Mills. However, it is difficult to gather the deputies at a session of the city council.
O.M: Why? Because people have left due to hostilities?
K.B.: All plant workers are traditional, concervative; they obey commands and cannot make decisions by themselves. When they are invited to sessions, they ask their chiefs for the permission and what to do. Sometimes they get prompt answers, sometimes not. The result is that nothing happens, nothing is done. The majority of candidates today are recruits from the mills. These people are not politicians; they do not have any reputation or history; and the key requirement to them is loyalty, not professionalism. It is about the Party of Regions which reports to Belyi and Kolesnikov. A separate project is two directors: Enver Tskitishvili and Yuriy Zinchenko. The first one is the Head of “Azovsteel”. The latter is the head of Ilyicha MSM. Their common candidate is Boychenko. Boychenko is from Mariupol and was nourished as a specialist by Zynchenko. Zynchenko is not from Mariupol. He started and became known at Khartsyzsk Pipe Works. He has climed the carrier ladder within the group. The question arises why these people need power in the city. The explanation is, and the reasoning is quite rational: they saw what happened in the city on May 9 and understood that if a people's mayor appears in the city, the next step will be people's director. They got scared and understood that they should have the power in the city, the 100% of it. However, the economic situation got worse. How do Akhmetov's plants earn money? Their production is profitable due to the fact that they have the complete production cycle: coal, coke, metal. Then Avdiivka was taken out, then the railway transportation was taken out. It created problems fot the plants — now they have to buy raw materials, to change their schedule; besides market prices went down. Now they need the power to control the city and to keep it calm because the problems may cause sacking and destabilize the situation.
O.M.: Is it profitable for them, “The Opposition Block”, to destabilize the situation?
K.B.: They walk on the edge. On the one hand, they understand, if they do it, they will have to “bargain” with Kyiv. On the other hand, if they go too far, Mariupol will suffer as it depends on subventions.
O.M.: We know what this bagaining results in. Donetsk is a vivid example. And the external enemy may use it for their own purposes.
K.B.: What is bad about “The Opposition block” is that these people are withoutany ideology, they obey orders, and what is the worst — any orders. They have no values or constructs. How should the other parties behave in this situation? - To use the time before the election to make “The Opposition Block” and Boychenko to take as many responsibilities as possible. The society should fix their Ukrainian, civil position and control their work.
O.M.: Vitaliy, do MM reflect the situation in Mariupol today?
V.S.: It depends. There is the monopoly of the Mills’ MM. Half a year ago, some journalists represented the corporation. It is quite natural that there is not much pluralism in MM. However, there is the general policy of the parties. Though the monopoly exists, it is not a complete one because there are central MM.
K.B.: It looks like North-Korean TV.
V.S.: There is some information presented by central MM, by the Internet, social networks. Still, the monopoly is preserved. About “Metinvest” candidates. Any person may be their candidate. If to speak about Ternavskiy, he was closer to the former Ilyicha MMM owner. There were other candidates , and there business was also connected with Ilyicha MMM. They may be taken into account too.
O.M.: Do locals like or dislike when a candidate is connected with “Metinvest” or Rinat Akhmetov?
K.B.: The problem of Mariupol is that it is the city of senior citizens. Theit hopes are connected with the plants. Though people are quite pessimistic about the election, they think that Boychenko is winning. I think that there is a positive aspect in it because people connect all positive things with him and the plants. If Boychenko wins, the link between the central power and the plants will disappear, and the negative things connected with the life in the city will be connected with him and the plants. So, adoration of the plant, plant culture based on orders, corporative identity will be ruined under the pressure of the city problems. And they are huge.
O.M.: What recommendations can you, as political analysts, give to political parties with are taking part in the election?
V.S: All my recommendations are not topical. However, I believe, in towns like this, all forces which consider themselves democratic ones, should participate in the election as one team, maybe as one consolidated force to confront the opposition as much as possible. Still, I think the prospects are quite good because Mariupol mentality is not completely the mentality of the mining Donbas. Besides, I think parties should not only criticize.
K.B.: I have seen the rehearsal of the debates on the future of the Donbas. There is an abyss between the electors of “The Opposition Block” and activists who strive for changes. Mariupol demonstrates that it is impossible to reach a consensus. It is bad and should be overcome. I think this is a provincial factor connected with the lack of experience of participating in election campaigns and political life. The first thing I recommend the parties is to put some framework on the favourites of the election, make them take responsibilities, to speak about the first 100 days, the first three steps, to scrupulousely control them, all their actions. It will become a kind of a political school and create some plan for Mariupol development. And Mariupol has a lot of unsolved problems which should be sovled together.
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