By Natalya Dvali, Editor
As of evening 28 October, the Central Election Commission of Ukraine processed over 95,62% of protocols. As was supposed, six major parties pass to the parliament. Whereas everything was more or less clear in advance with the voting by party lists, the intrigue of the elections of majority candidates did not fade until the end. Opinion polls and exit polls showed leaders of the race, however, absolutely other people won in the end.
In district No. 220 (Podol district) in Kiev, there were three main opponents among majority candidates: journalist and TV presenter Dmitry Gordon (self-nominated candidate), multimillionaire Vyacheslav Konstantinovsky (People’s Front) and businessman Ivan Fishchenko (Petro Poroshenko’s Block). Konstantinovsky won. The editorial board of our on-line edition decided to ask Gordon about the reasons of his defeat and about the course of elections in general.
– Why did you lose?
– There are a few reasons, but I do not want to be like those who blame people around for their defeat. It is necessary to begin with yourself and to be able to lose with dignity. The main point is to remember that life does not consist only of victories or only of defeats.
– Different surveys indicated that you were the leader in the race. What has happened?
– I stood in a single-member district as a self-nominated candidate. There were neither parties, nor oligarchs, nor sponsors behind me. Now I realize that it was not against the concrete majority rivals that I was struggling but rather against parties: People’s Front, Petro Poroshenko’s Block, Batkivshchina, Oleg Lyashko’s Radical Party.
Some months prior to the elections to the Verkhovna Rada I ran for Kiev Council. I won though my opponent was a candidate of Petro Poroshenko and Vitaly Klitschko's coalition. It was the only case in Kiev when a person without party affiliation joined the race two weeks prior to the elections and defeated both the power and the opposition.
As a deputy of Kiev Council, I have done much for four months: from returning Gostiny Dvor to Kiev dwellers to asphalting Mezhigorskaya Street and sidewalks on it (asphalt had not been restored there for 45 years) and improvement of yards and facades.
According to all survey, I was 8% ahead of my main competitor Vyacheslav Konstantinovsky at these parliamentary elections. I was absolutely convinced immediately before the election day on October 26 that I would win. Exit polls on sites indicated that I was 1-3% ahead of Konstantinovsky. But these elections were preceded by a super-dirty election campaign. There has never been such unscrupulousness in Ukrainian majority districts before.
– What specifically do you mean by "a super-dirty campaign"?
– An incredible throw-in of not even compromising evidence, but absolutely gruesome staff, as well as numerous cases of falsification and bribery of voters.
For example, Lustrator newspapers were thrown into the mailboxes of all Podol residents; it said that when I lived in a communal flat in the childhood, I was allegedly so much frightened by rats that it was reflected in my karma. The anonymous author of the article assured that it was exactly after my interviews that the prominent actors Nonna Mordyukova, Vyacheslav Tikhonov, and the caricaturist Boris Yefimov died. In fact, when I interviewed Boris Efimovich, he was 107 years old. The famous Ukrainian artist Alexander Roitburd wrote to me on the Facebook after such "compromising evidence", "I am especially sorry for the untimely deceased Boris Yefimov – he could be still alive if it had not been for you". Others were joking, "Dmitry, if you have such a "karma", interview Putin".
Besides, leaflets were distributed among voters stating that despite participation in two Maydans, I am member of Party of Regions. In confirmation, they published a photo from the shooting of Ilya Khrzhanovsky’s film "Dau" about the Nobel Prize winner Lev Landau. Khrzhanovsky is known for inviting nonprofessional actors to his movies. The photo from shooting shows Nestor Shufrich, who also starred in the picture, attaching a Soviet award from his collection to my clothes. The picture had a notice, "Shufrich is handing an award from Viktor Medvedchuk to Gordon."
– The "compromising evidence" against you is somewhat strange…
– Three days before the elections, a leaflet with the heading "One Front, Two Brothers" was thrown to the to mailboxes of Podol residents. It claimed that Dmitry Gordon is a literary pseudonym and that I am actually Alexander Konstantinovsky – Vyacheslav Konstantinovsky’s stepbrother. I allegedly gave a starting capital for the first restaurant to Vyacheslav, we were now standing for the election together, but I decided to withdraw my candidacy in favor of my dear brother Vyacheslav.
– I do not believe that adequate people could believe in such "compromising evidence" looking more like a script to an Indian movie.
– I did not expect such nonsense to be treated seriously either. But I was wrong: when I was meetings voters, many of cultural, intelligent and educated people from among them asked me: "Dmitry, why do you withdraw your candidacy from the elections, even for the sake of your brother?" It is incredible, but many of them really yielded to gruesome technologies.
– Why were not you engaged in counter-propaganda?
– I am absolutely convinced that it is unworthy to be involved in such petty intrigues, as well as to buy votes. It is wrong, I am not ready for this.
– You mentioned cases of falsification and bribery of voters. Can you please give concrete examples?
– I need to make a reservation: I have no claims either to district police officers, or to district election commissions, or to those who were counting votes – they did their work in an honest and professional manner. However, when opinion polls showed that Konstantinovsky was losing, massive buying of votes began. As far as I know, 500 hryvnias were paid for each vote. Voters were asked to give passport data under the pretext of charity donations, then people were controlled to make sure they had voted "correctly".
One more scheme. The most needy voters and people living in hostels were told: it is necessary to control transparency of the elections so that separatists and dishonest people could not get to the Verkhovna Rada. Here are 500 hryvnias, please, come and observe the site for some time, and register yourself with our representative. Are you for fair elections? As a result, people naturally voted for the representative of People’s front, on behalf of whom they received decent money for a good cause.
In the morning October 26, people appeared at all districts who called themselves representatives of People’s Front. They had certificates of freelance correspondents of an unknown newspaper Gromadsky Zakhist Kyivshchyny registered in Brovary. The certificates were valid only until October 30, that is they were issued specially for the elections. These "correspondents" were copying voters’ passport data thus controlling which of those who received money voted "correctly".
At 9.30 our staff received a signal from one of the districts located in Voloshskaya Street, 47. Two persons were "working" with certificates from "Gromadsky Zakhyst Kyivshchyny". Believe me, one glance was enough to understand that they were not journalists but regular "titushkas". I told one of them: "You look like a journalist as much as I look like a swineherd".
As a matter of fact, one of them was detained by the public before the arrival of militia, the second one managed to escape. The militia took evidence upon arrival. The detainee was shivering like an aspen leaf, he was calling someone, he could hardly voice what exactly he was doing at the elections, what he did in general and how his work related to journalism. His senior arrived then, he was called Volodya, and he declared that he was a representative of People’s Front. When the detainee asked him, "What shall I write in the explanatory note for the militia?", Volodya answered, "I do not know, we are in trouble" – and quickly disappeared.
Besides, "carousels" were used. We realized it when first exit poll results came from central Podol districts on the election day. According to the opinion polls, I had 54% of votes there, but suddenly the situation changed dramatically, I began to lag behind almost three times. It alerted me because it could not be in principle. Actually, these were "carousels": a person comes into the voting booth with a hidden blank piece of paper looking like a ballot. In the booth, he puts the valid ballot in the pocket, and throws the fake one into the ballot box. Then he hands the valid ballot over to the person in charge and receives money. The person in charge puts a tick in the valid ballot opposite the necessary candidate and gives the noted bulletin to another bribed voter. That voter, in his turn, throws the marked ballot into the ballot box and takes out the new one in exchange. Such "carousels" allow for 50 to 100 votes at each site.
There were also numerous cases on these sites when people who received certificates of temporary change of the registration address were given party ballots along with ballots with majority candidates. It is forbidden by the law.
– We have been talking for several minutes only, and your mobile phone has already rung 100 times. Why do not you answer?
– It is a robot that keeps ringing me. An attack at my mobile began at the night of elections: every three seconds an unknown number calls me. Judging by the country code, the geographic coverage is vast: from Russia to Germany, from the USA to Switzerland. Attacks go on for the second day in a row. I am sure about it because the same numbers started calling my legal representative, lawyer Taras Bezpaly at the same moment.
I should add that a minibus full of wiretapping equipment appeared near our headquarters right after the closing of sites at 20.00. As soon as people who were sitting in the minibus became aware that we had noticed them, they disappeared immediately.
In addition, when I personally visited all districts to prevent falsification on the election day, I noticed a "tail" behind my car.
– Do I understand it right that your main competitor at the elections is to blame both for "compromising evidence" and falsification, and shadowing?
– I have no antagonism in relation to Konstantinovsky. I called him and congratulated him on the victory. It is correct and as it becomes a gentleman.
– What exactly did you say to Vyacheslav Leonidovich?
– "Slava, I have no complaints against you". He swore that he had no relation to the gruesome staff against me. I can believe it, but I think that Konstantinovsky was used blindly. Actually, People’s Front was working against me at elections trying to cast slurs upon me as much as possible.
– Why is Arseny Yatsenyuk's party so up in arms against you?
– Because every deputy in the Rada is extremely important for them. It seemed to me that Konstantinovsky is somewhat naive if he did not understand it.
I feel people who are comfortable to communicate with at physiological level. Vyacheslav is among them, he is a self-made man. According to Forbes, brothers Konstantinovsky’s capital amounts to 355 million dollars. Fools do not earn such money a priori. They have a little intricate biography, but it does not embarrass me. Vyacheslav is a decent person. Many of our mutual friends told me that Konstantinovsky lives a correct life, he has his own code.
Generally, I see three reasons for my defeat: I struggled against parties alone, there was an incredible throw-in of "compromising evidence" and numerous cases of falsification and bribery.
– After the bloody Maidan, annexation of the Crimea, war on Donbass and thousands of victims, very many people still accept buckwheat and sell their votes. Why?
– I am very much disappointed in people. I knew it before, and now I am fully convinced: despite all the events of the previous year, Ukrainians are still credulous, hypnotizable also zombified. They are simple to convince with the pre-election slogan "Sold a Rolls-Royce, went to the front".
I understand: previous political regimes reduced Ukrainians to such a bestial state that they are ready to sell their votes for 500 hryvnias or even less. I cannot blame them, but I have to state: if you want justice and sell your vote, you are not worth a dime. I remember an interview of the Ukrainian composer Vladimir Bystryakov to the Gordon Boulevard newspaper when he said, "Before re-electing politicians, we need to re-elect the people".
The people buried heroes of the 'Heavenly Hundred' and soldiers of ATO, mourned over them, and then sold their votes. Bitterly as it may sound, we must admit: a country that sincerely goes to Maidan and then sells votes has no future.
– What did you feel when you lost?
– Relief. I have had a very hard schedule for the previous month, every day I met one thousand to one and a half thousand voters. Now there will be more free time, finally, I will spend some time on my new book.
Once Leonid Kravchuk told me how confident he was when he went to early presidential elections because he had high ratings. As a result, he lost to Leonid Kuchma. Once the final results became clear, a doctor came to Leonid Makarovich and took his pressure. It was normal.
I have a similar situation: pressure is normal, I am not upset, I sleep well. I have a strong argument for any occasions: whatever happens happens for the best. Perhaps, my destiny protects me, maybe, I should have just gone through it.
If feel pity about my defeat, it is only because guys from my staff were upset. Taking the opportunity, I would like to thank the great team that organized my electoral campaign at the highest level. I had one of the best teams that can tackle any problems. These are highly intellectual professionals obsessed with their idea. Such people cannot be bribed, they are real patriots of Ukraine.
Getting to the Verkhovna Rada was not a matter of life or death for me. I did not need money or parliamentary immunity. I am a self-sufficient person, everything is good in my life: a job I enjoy, family, friends, thank God, Yanukovych is not in Ukraine anymore. However, a quarter of the country is not there either, and I do not know what to expect with such a parliament.
I was often asked, "Why do you need high politics?" – and I remember my interview with the outstanding actor and director Rolan Bykov. It was in 1989, I was 22 years old. Rolan Antonovich and I were sitting in his room in Kiev hotel "Zhovtneva". Bykov was telling me a fascinating story of his life. He usually worked at home at night and one night he suddenly heard a heart-rending woman’s scream at night. Naturally, he jumped out onto the landing, rushed to the apartment where he heard the cry. It turned out that the neighbor’s husband hanged himself.
Rolan Antonovich had to take the dead man out of the noose, do mouth to mouth, call the ambulance and militia. He spent almost the whole night in another apartment where the tragedy occurred, but none of the neighbors came following the cry. The house was sleeping, nobody cared. "I felt as if I were the last one. I realized: there is nobody behind me," Bykov told me.
After Maidan, after the war, I felt the same: normal people have to make everything not simple to change the system, but literally to save the country and themselves. We are the last ones, there is nobody behind us, but the idea of salvation is still impracticable for me. I hope, other people will successfully save our country.
Once Valery Lobanovsky was reproached for Dynamo’s unentertaining game: the team won, but it did not look very well in the field. Lobanovsky silently listened to everything and answered briefly: "Result is on the board".
Konstantinovsky’s surname is on the board today. He won. It is senseless and humiliating to appeal against this result. People wanted it – people got it. Let him work and try to do something good for Podol district. I will be glad if it works out. I will always give him a helping hand if necessary so I sincerely congratulate Vyacheslav on his victory.
Well, and the main point at last. About 20 thousand voters gave their votes for me and I will make everything in order not to let them down. Forgive me that I did not live up to your expectations and did not become a People's Deputy, but life goes on: anyway, it will be better tomorrow than yesterday.