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Voting with no real choice: the upcoming elections and Ukrainian reality

Serhiy Zhadan, popular Ukrainian poet, writer, translator and public activist
Voting with no real choice: the upcoming elections and Ukrainian reality
Article by: Serhiy Zhadan
Translated by: Christine Chraibi

What do we really want?

Against a backdrop of daily stupidity perpetrated by our “criminal government” and the undisguised sneaky backstabbing committed by former government members, who now comfortably oppose everybody and everything, what we’d all like to see is some new political stars on the political horizon…. so that regular (albeit doubtful) ratings not only request new names in surveys, but also provide logical choices of these same names, so that politics aren’t separated from reality, so that populism doesn’t have the chance to grow and spread, so that young and angry reformers are supported by a mobilized and enthusiastic need for justice among the electorate*.

(*Presidential elections are expected to be held in Ukraine on March 31, 2019-Ed)

What do we have instead?

We look at the results of fresh polls and we understand that everything will end in the traditional Ukrainian scenario of a heroic struggle for a unanimous choice between “the lesser of two evils”. After all, no matter how we twist the facts and how we analyze the facts, it will all end like this: when the time comes and we have to make that ultimate choice, when there’s no more room for maneuvers or grounds for unity, when everyone starts complaining about lost opportunities and wasted chances, a familiar method will be launched in society – THEY will start targeting and scaring all the credulous voters.  They will say – it’s either our candidate, or else. They will proclaim – despite all the mistakes and betrayals, our candidate is the lesser of two evils. They will tell us that if we really have to choose between two forms of evil, we should definitely choose the lesser one. Well, they assert, let’s say that our candidate is a little less evil than the other one… less to some degree. It’s only logical, they say, and they will start calling for a logical choice – choosing between an all-encompassing evil and an evil that we can somehow comprehend and identify. We should grab this phantom opportunity and refuse an excessive amount of evil.

You don’t have to be a great expert to predict that credulous voters will allow themselves to be intimidated and mobilized, and start looking for the positive things in the lesser evil. And yes, they will find them. Moreover, they’ll start persuading others that there’s no other way out, that we must choose the lesser evil; they’ll even start seeing more and more positive things in their choice. Of course, they’ll be truly offended about any accusations of being manipulated. They actually won’t be able to understand where the problem lies – because once again, we’re out to save democracy by voting for the lesser evil, because we simply must act logically and rationally, because by and large, we have no other choice. There really is no other choice. But, sometimes it seems that this suits everyone.

What should we do?

When speaking about the situation in Ukraine, it’s traditionally easy to answer the question – “Who’s to blame?” But, it’s traditionally more complicated to answer the question – “What should we do?”

Yes, indeed… What should we do? What can we do when we know in advance which strategies will be used to make us look like fools, which arguments will be used to explain and justify someone’s mistakes and helplessness. What can we do when we understand perfectly well that we’re all ready for it to happen, that we choose skepticism and sarcasm as the only protective mechanism: deliberately ignoring everything, demonstratively mocking everybody and everything, dissociating ourselves from everybody and everything, and writing on such issues, which I’m doing right here! But, we understand perfectly well that in one year, we’ll have to throw our skepticism aside, we’ll have to abandon our defensive ironic stance, and go to the ballot station to choose the lesser of two evils. After all, it’s something, and it will be good enough…

What am I getting at?

We’re all adults, conscious and responsible citizens. We love our country and we wish it well during these difficult times. That’s true, isn’t it? In addition, we’re not blinded by false hopes and illusions; we look at the world soberly and pragmatically. Isn’t that so? We’re all well aware of the enormous price our country is paying for changes and reforms, how difficult and dramatic this road to freedom really is, and how ephemeral these changes may sometimes seem. We all know that democracy isn’t limited to visiting polling stations every few years, that the government needs to be monitored and controlled, and that politics shouldn’t be based on populism. You probably agree that we know all this. Therefore, there’s nothing to worry about. Despite all the concerns that I’ve voiced in this article, we’ll take advantage of the time that we have, the opportunities that we have, and make the right choice.

Or maybe not…

Translated by: Christine Chraibi
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