Ukrainians Boggled by U.S. Campaign Techniques

By Sweat, Joseph | Nation's Cities Weekly, July 18, 1994 | Go to article overview

Ukrainians Boggled by U.S. Campaign Techniques


Sweat, Joseph, Nation's Cities Weekly


When the old, painted-over Communists in the "party of power" went before the Ukrainian voters in recent elections, they faced some opponents armed with a new arsenal of campaign weapons.

"Door to door!" One can just hear the muttering of some greying apparatchik. "Who ever heard of going from door to door asking for votes? Like a beggar asking for crusts of bread." This old party hack will be, most likely, a grim-faced man in a tired, black suit.

But those "beggars" among the Ukrainian candidates are showing the old heads a thing or two about winning public office in the emerging democracy. Scores of candidates for local office who had been trained in modern campaign techniques were victorious in the Ukrainian elections three weeks ago.

Some of the credit for those victories goes to a group of Western volunteers who have conducted dozens of campaign tactic seminars throughout Ukraine in recent months under the sponsorship of the National Democratic Institute (NDI). NDI was created by the U.S. Congress to promote democratic government in emerging democracies.

Ukraine has 14 major political parties and dozens of minor ones. You will not, however, find what the Ukrainians call the "party of power" listed among them. Yet, this group of ruling elite controls the government and just about everything else in the country.

Nearly all members of the party of power came from the provincial nomenklatura that used to run the Ukrainian Communist Party. In the parliament they often are veiled with other party labels, or simply listed as independents. Most particularly, they are ensconced in city councils throughout the nation.

Now, these local apparatchiks are feeling the first heat from the new campaign methods taught by American and Western European volunteers.

"Target, target, target," American Marilyn Edwards, president of the Tennesse Women's Political Caucus, told a group of candidates and campaign workers at a campaign planning seminar recently in Odessa. "Target the people likely to vote for you. Make sure they get your message and make sure they get out and vote. Then forget about the rest. Don't waste your time with them."

Many of the Ukrainians expressed dismay at Westernstyle, hit-and-run campaigning. For decades the Soviet style has been to harangue and wear voters down with words, even in one-on-one situations.

"People are very busy with other matters and really are not very keen on talking with you anyway," British political consultant Nigel Stanley told another group. "So you have perhaps two or three minutes at most to get your message across."

Stanley's seminars on message development stressed the polar opposite of those mindnumbing ten-thousand-word political tracts long common in Eastern Europe. …

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