The presence of hidden oligarchic interests, various sources of funding, excessive political ambitions, mutual distrust among leaders make it impossible to form a coalition of liberal forces and nominate a single presidential candidate.
At the moment, it is possible to distinguish 6 interest groups that form and define the agenda in the liberal segment. These groups of influence are likely to go to the election in three separate columns headed by Andriy Sadovyi, Anatoliy Grytsenko and Svyatoslav Vakarchuk.
- Fragmentation of the liberal camp makes it impossible for Anatoliy Grytsenko to enter the second round. The main intrigue of the presidential campaign is who of the candidates will compete with Yuliia Tymoshenko for victory – Petro Poroshenko or a united pro-Russian candidate.
- Andriy Sadovyi nominates his candidacy for the presidential election from the “Samopomich” party, and in fact closes all the talks on the nomination of a single candidate from the liberals. Sadovyi’s decision is the result of political and business arrangements with Petro Poroshenko, who is interested in the fragmentation of the liberal forces.
- Political investors of Sviatoslav Vakarchuk are not yet ready to be united with Grytsenko or Sadovyi, and therefore are oriented to the 2019 parliamentary elections. Currently, they search and negotiate on potential party platform on which the structure of so-called “Vakarchuk Block” would be deployed.
- Non-transparent financing of the election campaign and appointment of Viktor Baloga the head of the headquarters caused serious reputational problems for Anatoliy Grytsenko. In September, his ratings stopped growing for the first time. There are risks that the ratings of the leader of the “Civic Position” may quickly fail with the onset of media activation of the main competitors.
“Lviv King” Andriy Sadovyi
Andriy Sadovyi and “Samopomich” party, in comparison with other players, have the best financial and institutional capabilities for conducting presidential and parliamentary election campaigns. Andriy Sadovyi has media resources “24 TV Channel” and Radio “Lux FM”, a large faction in the parliament, controls the city of Lviv and Lviv region, and has a deputy representation in a number of regional and city councils.
In addition, the “Samopomich” party receives one of the largest state financings among the parliamentary parties (UAH 100 million in 2017). At the same time, since 2015, the party of Sadovyi suffers from a number of internal systemic crises accompanied by loud scandals around “Lviv garbage”, conflicts between the “Lviv” and “business” wings, and the disintegration of factions in local councils (Kyiv, Chernivtsi, etc.), loss of sponsors. The Mayor of Lviv Sadovyi does not want to lose his political subjectivity and unite with Anatoliy Grytsenko and Dmytro Dobrodomov (Dobrodomov’s project “People’s Control” has been a fierce enemy of Samopomich and Sadovyi in Lviv for a long time) due to personal dislike of them.
In addition, Sadovyi has political agreements with Petro Poroshenko, who is interested in fragmentation of the liberal camp. In general, Andriy Sadovyi is very comfortable to work in Lviv (Sadovyi even rejected the offer to head the government after resignation of Yatsenyuk in 2015), and use the “Samopomich” party it as a political immunity and a tool of influence at the national level. The leader of Samopomich considers his participation in the election campaign as a forced political and economic move aimed at strengthening his party’s positions before the 2019 parliamentary elections. Recent sociological surveys demonstrate that “Samopomich” support rating are at the level of 2-3%.
“The first impassable” Anatoliy Grytsenko
In the summer, Anatoliy Grytsenko was considered one of the most promising candidates for the presidency showing the most dynamic growth of ratings.
However, the situation changed after Grytsenko’s shadow electoral headquarter was headed by an odious Zakarpattia politician Viktor Baloga responsible for organizing the work of the election headquarters and building the party structure of the “Civic Position”. Headquarters of Grytsenko began to fill up with people with dubious reputation and former colleagues Baloga, who in 2005-2010 worked in “Our Ukraine”, and then reoriented to the Party of Regions. This is the reason for many ideological activists in the regions to cease working with Anatoliy Grytsenko. Grytsenko also failed to move forward in the search for political allies. Almost half a year in conducting an informal campaign ended up with enlisting with the support of small players as Dobromodov, Katerynchuk, Firsov. In the future, Grytsenko may receive support of some anti-corruption organizations (Avtomaydan, Shabunin Centre), Viktor Chumak and “Movement of New Forces” (Saakashvili-Derevyanko-Sakvarelidze).
It is believed that the election campaign of Anatoliy Grytsenko is funded by Igor Kryvetskyi “Pups” (a famous Lviv businessman, a former sponsor of the “VO Svoboda”), Viktor Baloga and Sergiy Lyovochkin, who are associated with the leader of the “Civic Position”. The aforementioned beneficiaries will form the electoral list of Grytsenko in the 2019 parliamentary elections.
Nomination of Andriy Sadovyi may also be considered a significantly weakening factor for the positions of Grytsenko, as they will compete for the same voter. There is a high probability that when the active phase of the campaign begins, Grytsenko’s ratings will decrease due to the media activity of Poroshenko and Tymoshenko, as well as the expansion of the campaign of other opponents of the liberal camp.
“Dark Horse” Svyatoslav Vakarchuk
Svyatoslav Vakarchuk constantly holds the Ukrainian society, politicians and Western partners in political tone. He cannot decide whether he is a professional politician or a civic activist and musician. Vakarchuk systematically writes analytical articles and goes to the press with loud political statements to foster interest of the press and sociologists. However, the singer did not make any definitive statements about his entrance in politics. It is believed in political circles that Vakarchuk will not declare his political ambitions until the end of December 2018, in order to avoid exposure to destructive criticism and media attacks as he painfully reacts to such things. Sociologists show that Vakchuk is more likely to support the anti-system and protest electorate, and in this regard, he intersects with Volodymyr Zelenskyi.
According to available information, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk already has a shadow office preparing analytics, writing texts and monitoring the political situation. The politician is supported by the oligarch Victor Pinchuk and influential banker and media magnate (owner of the “New Time” media holding) Tomas Fiala being CEO of Dragon Capital. In addition, there is a widely spread information about Vakarchuk’s financial cooperation with Russian businessman Mikhail Friedman who regularly finances and conducts the Alpha Jazz Festival in Lviv. Incidentally, Friedman is also a close friend and partner of the Mayor Andriy Sadovyi in a number of projects.
Thus, in the long-term plan, Vakarchuk has financial resources, access to the media, as well as support for civil society and Western embassies. Conversations about Vakarchuk’s intentions to take part in parliamentary elections rather than in the presidential ones are more prevalent in political and public circles.
However, the presidential campaign is always seen as an additional impetus for parliamentary elections.
Currently, there are several options for the development of the political future of Svyatoslav Vakarchuk.
- Political cooperation and association of Vakarchuk with Sadovyi on the eve of parliamentary elections in 2019. Vakarchuk and Sadovyi are connected not only with the regional Lviv relations and the consensus of the local elites, but also with friendship with influential businessman Michael Friedman.
- Joining forces with Victor Pinchuk-based groups of influence. This option involves the formation of a “Vakarchuk Block” on the platform of the “Democratic Alliance” (Leshchenko-Nayem), which can be reinforced by the “New Leaders” TV project running on the Pinchuk’s channel. Potentially, small projects, public anti-corruption organizations, as well as the NABU director Artem Sytnyk may join the project (in 2019, Petro Poroshenko or a new president will surely reboot the NABU management).
- Political cooperation with the “Power of People” party, which actively develops its structure and prepares for party primaries, but has no strong leader. Therefore, it is possible that this liberal force will also cooperate with Vakarchuk, and serve him as a platform for building a coalition.