Svyatoslav Vakarchuk case: What's it like being a rock star in Ukrainian parliament?

Author : Natalia Lebed

If Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of Batkivshchyna faction, lost the presidential election three times, then Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, leader of Holos faction, three times missed the chance to become something more significant than a rock star
10:13, 4 November 2019


If Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of Batkivshchyna faction, lost the presidential election three times, then Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, leader of Holos faction, three times missed the chance to become something more significant than a rock star. The difference between them is that Tymoshenko was purposefully pursuing the goal and actively fighting for it, while Vakarchuk did not seem to have a clear idea of what he was doing in politics.

Vakarchuk had the first campaign in 2007. He was number 15 on the list of Our Ukraine party. He acquired parliamentary powers on November 23, 2007, and resigned them (voluntarily) on September 11, 2008. For ten months spent in parliament, MP Vakarchuk has not written a single bill. But he prepared two amendments, one of which was taken into account.

It was his lost chance number one.

Lost chance number two was perhaps the refusal to run for president of Ukraine. We will never know what the rating of Vakarchuk candidate could have been if he had discovered his intention to take part in the presidential race. Rejecting such an opportunity, he noted that "I can do more for the country wearing jeans than wearing a tie."

However, Vakarchuk put on his tie while going to parliament. In 2019, he became MP for the second time and even held his own faction in the Rada. But, having won the election, he has so significantly slowed down that his passivity cannot be unnoticed.

Related: Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office summons oligarch Pinchuk for questioning

Own mission

"The Holos faction plays its own role in parliament. But has was not set high goals from the very beginning. It demonstrates a certain political position in the Verkhovna Rada but does not claim to be of key importance. Meanwhile, oligarchs are looking for leaders of a new political cycle," Ruslan Bortnyk, director of the Ukrainian Institute for Analysis and Policy Management, comments.

Vakarchuk himself explained the faction’s mission in an interview with Ukrainska Pravda: “We call it the word ‘overposition.’ That is, it is neither the opposition nor the coalition. We deliberately do not put ourselves in an opposite situation, because sometimes it’s beneficial for many political forces to position themselves as an opposition to the current government."

An indicative moment: when a UE correspondent asks Vakarchuk, whether his party is preparing for the local elections, he answers with the question: “When are they held?” And, having received the answer that, perhaps, in the spring, he comments on it like this: "You probably know better than me."

“Politics is a boring thing, it’s very difficult. If you become president, it’s still no matter where you stand, then you can endure parliamentary boredom - no, this is not for creative people who are used to the rock scene,” Vadym Karasiov, the director of the Institute of Global Strategies, notes. He adds: “Holos is a failed project. At least for now. We see no upward momentum.”

Holos voices the right things in parliament. That is correct in terms of their own electorate. The things that Svyatoslav Vakarchuk sometimes articulates, must fully comply with the expectations of his constituent.

Holos considers the decision on disengagement the troops without a seven-day truce to be erroneous and the statement that the supposedly seven-day truce has come up does not correspond to reality.

Related: Zelensky: Whether Vakarchuk to be Prime Minister - question for him

“If a person is not intended to do something, she is not intended to do it,” Andriy Zolotariov, the head of the “Third Sector” center, estimates Vakarchuk. “Shortly before the election, he developed an extremely favorable situation - better than Zelensky. But his vacillations and indecision led to that he actually turned out to be a spoiler for Zelensky.”

Bogdan Petrenko, deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute of Research of Extremism, also draws parallels between Vakarchuk and Zelensky. “The Vakarchuk phenomenon gave rise to the Zelensky phenomenon. It was Vakarchuk who launched this mechanism and opened the Overton window for the current president,” the expert is convinced.

An investor is not thrilled

Before the elections, there were rumors that Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk was the “father-holder” of Vakarchuk and his party. Svyatoslav himself denied such information and insisted that only one thing connected him with Pinchuk - participation in the supervisory board of the Babyn Yar museum and work around the construction of the memorial.

Moreover, Vakarchuk spoke very disapprovingly of the oligarchic component of Ukrainian politics. “Now oligarchs, through control over factions in the Verkhovna Rada, through their people in ministries, through influence on certain regulators, live by separate rules. This needs to be changed,” he said in an interview Radio Liberty.

Related: Holos party does not receive staffing proposals relating to offices in Cabinet and Parliament, - MP

And yet, the relationship between the musician and the businessman is a kind of open secret. Despite the fact that Pinchuk has his own interests in the Holos faction, its main political investor is Tomáš Fiala, he is precisely the main holder of the Holos shares.

Tomáš Fiala is a well-known businessman of Czech origin, as well as the general director of Dragon Capital, a Ukrainian investment company. Fiala has been always protecting his political investments in different countries with political projects. He actively supported the “Eurooptimists,” but they did not live up to expectations.

However, the question so far is not who invested in the Holos as a political project, the question is how “investors” of Svyatoslav Vakarchuk evaluate the measure of its effectiveness. The future of this party depends on it.

“Pinchuk sees that his expectations regarding Holos are not fulfilled. And in order not to be back at the bottom of the ladder, like [Ukrainian oligarch] Akhmetov during these elections, we need to feed political projects in time to represent the interests,” Zolotariov assures.

The information that Viktor Pinchuk is looking for a replacement for Vakarchuk on his playing field is widely disseminated by the expert circles. “Pinchuk is able to stay afloat in any circumstances, even when Kuchma no longer supports him. At the same time, he remains, so to speak, the representative of the US Democratic Party in Ukraine, and therefore he will definitely create new projects, and mainly of a patriotic direction," Bogdan Petrenko says.

What's next?

With the actual self-removal of Vakarchuk, the faction is led by Serhiy Rakhmanin, plus a couple more people capable of doing such work. Fortunately, Holos is an insignificant faction. But the lack of a charismatic leader still affects it. And what about Svyatoslav himself? Did he accidentally decide to escape, as is happened in 2008?

Political analyst Oleksandr Kochetkov notes in a commentary to Glavred that "the situation is repeating. Everything will become more clear in. In the spring, everyone, including parliamentary figures, is expecting some kind of crisis, and they have some chances for reformatting the parliament."

According to Bogdan Petrenko, the fate of Holos will rest on the ability of its actual "holders" to agree with President Zelensky. "Will Pinchuk find a common language with him? They will try to cooperate and create their own additional center of influence within the Servant of the People. Therefore, the task of Holos is to provide additional votes in case the Servant of the People needs them," Petrenko notes.

Related: Would Vakarchuk become Zelensky's 'little Poroshenko?'

But if nobody needs Holos and Vakarchuk, the party and its nominee leader will probably remain behind big-time politics. And excuses like “it was difficult for them, because there was a one-party-majority with a controlling stake,” would not save the situation, Andriy Zolotariov states.


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