Here’s an update that I wrote a couple days ago. I have yet to settle into my own place in Kyiv, so the images may not be properly displayed, but I wanted to get this up. I leave for Luhansk later today to observe the elections.
Ukraine’s pre-term “emergency” parliamentary elections are less than a week away, and campaigning has correspondingly ramped up. The three main parties—the Party of Regions (PoR), Our Ukraine – Self Defense (OU-SD), and Block of Yulia Tymoshenko (Byut)—have dominated the advertising sphere. My own unscientific survey of political advertisements throughout Kyiv puts the PoR as the most prevalent, followed by the OU-SD, and then Byut, with the remaining few competing parties (Socialists, Communists, Lytvyn’s block, and Vitrenko’s Progressive Socialists) following, and a smattering of advertisements from parties not expecting to break the 3% barrier (i.e. Svoboda, Block of Kuchma, the Green Party).
Each of the main parties has a distinct campaign message they are pushing through the use of highly visible “bigboards” (billboards), streetlight posters, and other roadway signage.
The Party of Regions emphasizes its dominant campaign color, blue, with a bold white font expressing a short and simple message, accompanied by the party’s name and a map of Ukraine filled with the blue and yellow national flag.
The party’s two main slogans are “Stability and wellbeing!” and “A happy people – a successful nation!” More recently, posters with “Vote for no. 4!” have shown up, referring to the party’s place on the ballot. I have yet to come across any PoR advertising with party headliner Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich’s picture on it.
The OU-SD party sticks with its orange theme, a carry over from the predominant color of the Yushchenko-aligned Our Ukraine. The color has become incredibly symbolic following the winter 2004 “Orange Revolution” street protests that swept Yushchenko into Ukraine’s presidency. The party’s main slogan for this parliamentary election is “One law for all!” and is usually accompanied by a shot of the president in a working, intellectual pose (there are three separate pictures of him adjusting his glasses, seemingly pondering a particular weighty issue).
Other posters feature Yuri Lutsenko, the popular former interior minister and current head of the Self Defense part of the party. His serious, bespectacled face stares straight ahead while the slogan proclaims, “For Ukraine – a new parliament! For Kyiv – a new power!” Another series of advertisements features a lineup of the party’s top five delegates, headed by the youthful Lutsenko, who is flanked by four personified technocrats.
Byut’s advertisements similarly highlight the face of its headliner, the chiseled beauty Yulia Tymoshenko, who has retained her “peasant” halo-braid hairdo. Her stare, while slightly off center, also penetrates into the viewer, with the party’s logo and slogan off to the side. Her ads emphasize her plan of the country’s future progress entitled “Ukraine’s Emergence (Прорiв),” or something like that.
The bloc’s logo is a distinctive checkmark stylized to resemble a painted heart.
This corresponds to another of her main campaign slogans, “I love Yulia,” and is likely meant to provoke emotional appeal for both her and the promise of the country. (Similarly, she originally deliberately decided on the name for her eponymous party so its shortening—Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko—would be pronounced “beauty.”)
Television ads have also been prevalent, as TV remains one of the most effective ways to reach the Ukrainian public. Unlike its print advertisements, the PoR TV spots do feature Yanukovich who makes a speech that harkens back to the good ol’ days of Ukraine while demonizing the instability that threatens the country. There are also clips of “ordinary” Ukrainians who express their worries about the country, and how things used to be better for them.
The TV ads for the OU-SD party feature both the president—with his distinctive speaking style—as well as Lutsenko and the other main candidates, generally giving a few sentences from picturesque spots across Kyiv, before ending with a resounding and firm “one law for all!”
Yulia’s ads have her talking directly and emotionally to the viewer, as she shares her vision for a new and improved Ukraine. Other spots for Byut feature more “ordinary” Ukrainians tackling populist issues like the rising cost of gasoline and meat.
The Block of Kuchma’s ad is perhaps the silliest. It depicts two children, one little girl dressed as Yulia and one boy dressed in blue with a miner’s hat (referencing Yanukovich’s background from the coal-dominated Donbas region) fighting over a map of Ukraine. Volokov—the party’s headliner—walks into the room and silences the children, essentially saying, “Isn’t it time we tell these squabblers to shut up?” The ad has extremely amateur production values, as most of the budget probably went to paying the reputed staggering UAH 70,000 a second ($420,000 for 30 seconds) that prime-time political ads are now fetching on major channels.