May 22, 2009 (the date of publication in Russian)

Andrey Okara


Arseny Yatsenyuk: a plastic president for a banana republic?

On May 22, 2009, Arseny Petrovich Yatsenyuk, a native of Chernovtsy, Ukrainian SSR, has reached the age of 35 and thus acquired the legal right of being elected President of the independent Ukraine.

In some Ukrainian mass media, he is advertised as "Ukraine's Barack Obama"; "representative of the indigo generation", and not only a person with a great political future (though his political past is enough impressive: from a minister in the Crimean autonomy, he ascended to a deputy chair of the National Bank, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, later the Speaker of the Parliament) but also a herald the new counter-elite.

Other media, on the contrary, ridicule Mr. Yatsenyuk, displaying him as a "political phantom"; a phoney; a shrimp in a bad day for fish; a sneak at the office of the incumbent President, an enfant terrible, and point at his cronyism with dubious oligarchs.

The efforts of backers and rivals to paint Mr. Yatsenyuk white or black are in fact unnecessary: this person is very familiar to the public. Most of his career, without gaps, has developed before the eyes of the voters. He cannot really fascinate and really infuriate anyone. People who are ready to vote for him are motivated not with their sympathy or his charisma, but rather with despair from lack of any alternative.

The new political party, generated for his endorsement and named "Front Zmin" (Front of Changes), irradiates a neon glare of virtual reality. Though the bid is quite real, and the influence of it masterminds is definitely serious, the "Yatsenyuk project" does not accumulate any true-life energy: the whole campaign rests upon artificially augmented hysteria, resembling the style of Valery Khoroshkovsky's failed "Fall-Seeded Generation Party" back in 2002.

However, Mr. Khoroshkovsky's project was backed by a particular business group in Russia, while Mr. Yatsenyuk is perceived as a real alternative in influential international circles. In fact, Yatsenyuk's project is only starting.

Assessing the "Yatsenyuk project" with the classical SWOT method, we can judge upon this politician's perspectives from the aggregate result.

Arseny Yatsenyuk: SWOT-analysis


- a good, almost ideal correspondence of appearance with the strong demand for "new faces", "politicians of a new type", "leaders of the new generation", "an Obama for Ukraine" etc.;

- features of behavior not inherent in the "old type", such as presence of self-irony and absence of demonstrative pathos;

- intrinsic electability, revealed in plausible improvement in case of concentration of effort;

- top-level connections in international financial circles and informal decision-making centers;

- disappointment of international circles with PM Yulia Timoshenko and ex-PM Victor Yanukovich who are viewed today rather as "factors of catastrophe";

- a smooth and rapid political career;

- an ostensibly decent background without scandals in the past;

- disposal of a new political party without dubious background;

- absence of comparable rivals in the same political niche (ex-Defense Minister Anatoly Gritsenko has a strong reputation as a NATO lobbyist; Oleg Tyagnybok is regarded as an anti-Semite; Sergey Tigipko is viewed as a financial oligarch, etc.).


- a doubtful regional identity (descent from Bukovina suggests unpopularity in Eastern Ukraine);

- unreliable base of sympathy, originating mostly from disappointment with incumbent first-rank politicians;

- absence of existential challenges in personal experience (e. g. political struggle with risk for life and freedom; public fight for justice; strategic decision-making; responsibility for the team);

- lack of support from prominent scholars, scientists, writers whose view is significant for the public opinion, in the pre-election period;

- lack of historiosophic substantiation of the claim for leadership; absence of anything like a "Yatsenyuk project of Ukraine"; vagueness of strategic intentions and goal-setting;

- psychological instability, susceptibility to discomfiture and greed of praise;

- absence of remarkable achievements or any endeavors associated with his name;

- absence of a political team, except situational defectors (persons No.2 and No.3 in his list not being yet selected);

- absence of a determined socio-political subject interested in Yatsenyuk's victory;

- inefficient branding of the party;

- unreliability of polls.


- a doubtfully efficient effort to hail Mr. Yatsenyuk as "Ukraine's last opportunity" in an emotionally condensed, apocalyptical perspective;

- a more workable option of a "snowball effect" (a pattern of imitative behavior of large electoral groups) staged by means of indirect manipulation: first, provoke panic, second, point at the supposed savior;

- probable support from intellectual circles like Open Ukraine Foundation;

- probable financial support from the Bukovina business community, particularly from gas trader Dmitry Firtash (who also owns Inter TV Channel);

- use of the Galician origin of the candidate's mother for boosting his campaign in Lviv;

- a hypothetic consensus of a number of smaller rivaling parties around "the smaller evil" represented by Mr. Yatsenyuk.


- usage (or even utilization) of Yatsenyuk as a mere "technological" candidate in presidential elections;

- non-dynamic rating;

- low level of "mythologization" of Yatsenyuk's public image;

- problems with electorate's perception of Yatsenyuk's public image, i.e. his positioning as a "yuppie", a "mother's boy", a "four-eyed geek";

- probable exposure of Yatsenyuk's incompetence (by a strong and aggressive rivaling team);

- intrigues from PM Yulia Timoshenko who views Mr. Yatsenyuk as a personal rival;

- risks related to personal obligations to President Yushchenko;

- risks related to possible obligations to such an odious figure as Dmitry Firtash.

The backers of the "Yatsenyuk project" were supposed to create an image of "Ukraine's Obama", ascribing exceptional, salutary personal properties of "the last hope of the nation" to the candidate. But this effort is crumbling due to a formalistic, emphatically "technological" approach to the task.

At the same time, Mr. Yatsenyuk himself does not demonstrate any intention of search for Ukraine's political transformation and technological modernization on the base of a qualitatively new model.

For both reasons, Mr. Yatsenyuk's name is not associated with any breakthrough and modernization. Moreover, it is highly probable that in case the dynamic remains the same, his victory will result in:

- accession of a de facto regime of colonial administration;

- evaporation of the remains of Ukraine's political, economic and cultural sovereignty with eventual disintegration of the country;

- stagnation of development under influence of foreign subjects viewing the country as a preferably backward province;

- Ukraine's degeneration into a cesspool of hazardous industries;

- destruction of comprehensive education and welfare under the guise of "getting rid of Soviet heritage", etc.

However, the outcome – in case of Mr. Yatsenyuk's victory – depends on his own choice of behavior. There is no obstacle for him to become a subject of his own biography from a dummy who he is today – except himself. Political competition is usually a show. Still, under extraordinary circumstances, an actor may break the limitations of the role written for him, and start acting independently, challenging not only the manipulators but his own sins and flaws.

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