Western Ukraine cannot be called the “domain” of President Volodymyr Zelensky and his political force. In the last presidential election, this region gave him the least votes. But what is Western Ukraine, actually? The toponym is unofficial, therefore some identify it with Galicia and refer Lviv, Ternopil, and Ivano-Frankivsk regions to Western Ukraine. Some add five more regions - Volyn, Rivne, Khmelnytsky, Chernivtsi, and Zakarpattia regions.
"Heart of Western Ukraine" - three regions of Galicia - in the 2019 elections showed the lowest support for Zelensky. Lviv region gave only 11.96% of the vote, Ternopil region - 14.67%, Ivano-Frankivsk - 16.07%. However, the Zakarpattia region reacted favorably to Zelensky and gave him 38.35%. But this is an exception. And yet, although the main electorate of the current government does not live in Western Ukraine, the government does not intend to evade local elections in this region.
Oleksandr Kornienko, the head of the Servant of the People party, recently promised that his political force would nominate its candidates in all regional centers of Ukraine without exception. All of them would fight for the mayoral offices. Servant of the People is already at a low start with a line of participants in the "electoral race."
Viktor Gevko, participant of the comic programs on television, would run for mayor of Ternopil. 35-year-old Gevko is a member of the League of Laughter project as part of the VIP-Ternopil team. In the background, the potential mayor has several victories in the show "Make a Comedian Laugh". If he wins the mayoral elections, he will accompany Serhiy Shtepa, a wedding photographer, who became an MP a year ago.
But Gevko's chances are low. Now his rating is only 6.5%, and Gevko's rival is the current mayor of the city, Serhiy Nadal, member of far-right Svoboda party and an ardent fighter with the coronavirus lockdown. According to local estimates, his activities are positively assessed by 78% of respondents. On the other hand, Gevko has a certain lobby in politics. His brother Volodymyr is the current MP from the ruling party, he also leads the regional cell of the party. And Viktor joined the ranks of the Servant of the People party very recently. Gevko’s example shows how Zelensky's team breaks its own promise not to bring "his own" people into power.
By the way, theoretically another showman could compete for the post of mayor of Ternopil - member of the Holos party Serhiy Prytula, who is a native of the Ternopil region. It would be interesting to watch the sparring of the two comedians. Prytula recently announced his intention to run for mayor of Kyiv.
In neighboring Ivano-Frankivsk, the Servant of the People candidate will have to fight incumbent mayor Ruslan Martsynkiv. He is also a member of the far-right Svoboda party, with a traditional set of ideological attitudes, hate of gays and minorities, etc. Three-quarters of the locals support Martsynkiv, so a second term as mayor is practically guaranteed to him.
The only worthy opponent of Martsynkiv, who theoretically could gain more than 10% of the vote, is leader of the European Solidarity faction in the Ivano-Frankivsk city council Petro Shkutyak. He is a popular Donbas veteran, and besides, he is the son of the ex-mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk in 1998-2006, Zynoviy Shkutyak.
As for the Servant of the People, the attempts of the curator of the Ivano-Frankivsk region from the ruling party in the local elections, MP Olena Vintonyak, to persuade some of the influential businessmen in the regional center to run for the Zelensky’s force, were failed. Ivan Melnyk, the founder of M Group Development, has not said his “no” yet. However, being a developer, that is, as a person very dependent on the city authorities, he is unlikely to agree to go to elections without agreements between the Office of the President and the incumbent mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk. In the end, even Vintonyak's assistant Oleksandr Bohachov is called a possible candidate.
Lutsk is an interesting city for many reasons. Firstly, the city does not actually have a mayor, rather an "acting" one. Secondly, “acting” mayor Hryhoriy Pustovit fell ill with coronavirus. The irony of fate is that Pustovit – like Nadal and Martsynkiv – rebelled against the decisions of the central government on lockdown. He strongly protested against the classification of Lutsk as a "red" zone and even took part in pickets on this occasion.
Since there is no "full-fledged" mayor in the city, it will be easier to fight for his seat. The candidate from the Servant of the People in Lutsk is head of the Lutsk city organization of this party Roman Bondaruk. In 2010, he became a deputy of the Lutsk City Council from the Batkivshchyna party and a member of the city executive committee. In 2014, he unsuccessfully ran for the Rada in the 22nd majority constituency, gaining 1.38% of the vote.
Theoretically, musician Oleksandr Polozhynsky, the former leader of the Tartak group, who was born in Lutsk, could take part in the election of the mayor of Lutsk. So he himself says, emphasizing: this is not his desire. “I don’t want to go to the mayor of Lutsk, this is unambiguous. But all the time I am pushed in this direction by different people and even associations of people ... In any case, I don’t want to go, but I don’t exclude this possibility,” Polozhynsky says.
Back in July 2018, the Chernivtsi City Council voted for the early resignation of its chairman, Oleksiy Kaspruk. The latter went to court, the proceeding is still underway.
However, Kaspruk does not pose a threat to his opponents –he is not too popular or respected in the city.
Chairman of the Chernivtsi regional organization of the Servant of the People party Vitaly Druhanovsky would become the nominee for local elections. In 1997-2007 he worked in the tax police department in the Chernivtsi region. Since 2007 he has been the director of the Retro Lux company, and also owns a restaurant in the center of Chernivtsi. According to LIGA.net, Druhanovsky is the godfather of Chernivtsi businessman and Zelensky's longtime acquaintance, Ilya Pavlyuk.
However, current chairman of the local regional state administration Serhiy Osachuk has intentions to competing for the chair of the mayor of Chernivtsi from the Servant of the People party too.
The city of Khmelnytsky is now headed by member of far-right Svoboda party Oleksandr Symchyshyn. Local media emphasize that the level of his support does not fall below 60%. Which is good news for the Svoboda party, whose national rating, according to the latest research by the Rating group, was only 3.3%.
So Symchyshyn could be considered one of the most powerful candidates for the mayor of the city. Who are his opponents? Possibly local governor Dmytro Habinet. And although the chairman of the Khmelnytsky Regional State Administration has not yet decided anything on this matter, such a possibility cannot be rejected. Earlier, the regional council deputy from far-right Svoboda Ivan Honchar and a local activist (potential self-nominated candidate) Artur Storozhuk also stated about mayor's ambitions.
As for the Servant of the People contesters, it might be the brother of first vice-speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Ruslan Stefanchuk, MP Mykola Stefanchuk, or Oksana Bochkariova.
Current mayor of Rivne 63-year-old Volodymyr Khomko announced that he would no longer run for office. Consequently, it is already easier for his rivals, especially if there are two candidates from the same party among them – Rivne governor Vitaliy Koval and MP Dmytro Solomchuk. Both of them can be nominated by the Servant of the People.
Local media write that President Zelensky would allegedly arrive in the Rivne region on August 18. He would present the candidate for the mayor of Rivne from the Ze-team. But it is still unknown which of the two names Zelensky would voice (if he will introduce anyone at all).
Koval has been employed in the banking sector and in the field of wholesale. Solomchuk was Zelensky's representative in the 2019 presidential elections, and after being elected to the Rada, he became one of the deputy heads of the faction, although not for long. According to the media, Solomchuk is loyal to the Chernivtsi businessman Ilya Pavlyuk, whom we’ve already mentioned above.
Several candidates are vying for the "throne" in Uzhhorod. This is current mayor Bohdan Andriyiv (a nominee of the Vidrodzhennya party), and Serhiy Ratushnyak (who ranked second in the last elections), and Ivan Voloshyn (ex-member of United center and National Front).
And the candidate from the Servant of the People is Viktor Shchadey. In 2005, at the age of 24, Shchadey was elected a deputy of the Zakarpattia Regional Council. In 2010 and 2015, he was elected to the Uzhhorod City Council from the Batkivshchyna party. In 2014, he unsuccessfully ran for parliament in the 68th majoritarian district, losing to Robert Horvat. And in 2019 he supported Horvat in early parliamentary elections.
As local media write, Shchadey is actively involved in the life of the city: he comments on the decisions of the City Council, debunks the abuses of officials, meets with Uzhhorod residents, helps solve problems of specific households, writes down appeals on any occasion, and the like. He acts together with Horvat, who, apparently, decided to contribute to Shchadey's political career.
Speaking recently about the elections in Western Ukraine, the deputy chairman of the faction, Yevhenia Kravchuk, assured that mayoral offices of Chernivtsi and Uzhhorod cities would be taken by the candidates from the ruling party. She also noted that the chances of the Servant of the People in Western Ukraine are usually underestimated.