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"Election Detector" is a weekly analytical review which timely captures the main topics, trends, manipulations, and changes in the information space, related to the election. Read more detailed analysis in our regular (television news, weekly TV magazines, political talk-shows, information channels, Russian propaganda) monitoring studies. Issues of "Election Detector", devoted to the presidential campaign are available here.
The main trends
Vasyl Holoborodko (crossed out) Volodymyr Zelenskyi started an informal tour in support of the "People's Servant" party in the last weeks before the election in order to create a picture resembling the TV series for television news and youtube videos. He has been "firing" officials and representatives of local authorities at meetings, threatening them with criminal proceedings, demanding that security forces prepare a report, giving orders to improve roads, violently fighting corruption, and "destroying the old system". In addition, he has been making bold statements with regard to Russia and Putin. Meanwhile, in his video announcements he has been hinting as to how to vote for "I-will-not-tell-which party." "1+1" has increased the amount of PR of certain candidates from the "People's Servant" party.
The small "bombs" that exploded in the last days – for example, Mikheil Saakashvili's call to vote for the "People's Servant" party or the "withdrawal of Ihor Mosiychuk from the election" (in fact, this is not the case, since his name was in the ballot, but he received a very small number of votes) in favor of Oleksandr Dubynskyi – did not change the course of the campaign. And the election itself, fortunately, was calm.
Each of the top ten parties already has a more or less reliable – usually less than more – sociological company which gives it a chance of passing the five-percent threshold, or at least receiving two percent of the vote, which guarantees state funding. At these elections, manipulation of sociological data remained widespread, but at least there has been no total blockade the way it was during the presidential campaign, when the leading TV channels did not announce real ratings.
Propaganda TV channels have obviously perceived this election as the last battle. "Ukraine" channel devoted the last episode of the "Opposition" talk show to the "Opposition Bloc" and the last episode of "The Main Topic. The Choice" to Hroisman and Lyashko. Trying to please their protégés, "Ukraine" demonstrated amazing ingenuity — for example, at the end of the campaign, they said that these particular three political forces have the highest number of women on their lists. "The election of the prime minister and the speaker" is another shameless manipulation on "Ukraine" channel: two weeks before the election, the news on Akhmetov's channels imitated popular and expert support of "candidates for the post of the prime minister and the speaker" Hroisman and Lyashko, concealing from the audience that both the post of the prime minister and the post of the speaker are the subject of coalition talks, and, according to real sociological surveys, both politicians are unlikely to be in the Verkhovna Rada.
"Inter" was just as desperate when it came to the defense of the interests of its owners and political patrons. Even in the evening of the election day when all other channels were announcing the results of official exit polls, they offered their audience the results of their own exit poll organized by the "Advanced Legal Initiatives" organization, which added four extra percent to the result of the "Opposition Platform - For Life" compared to other exit polls. Oversaturation of the news on "Inter" channel with the mentions of the result of the "Opposition Platform - For Life" (even on the days when campaigning is prohibited by law) contrasts with the total disregard of the party on other large TV channels. By praising the "Opposition Platform - For Life" and demonstrating the smallest details of the election journeys of Yuriy Boyko and Viktor Medvedchuk every day, Inter has practically stopped promoting other political forces, with the exception of several positive mentions of Hroisman.
On the threshold of the election day, Ukrainian television was even more segmented. Channels were bombarding its viewers with promotional materials about certain (not necessarily the most popular, let alone the worthiest) election participants, while ignoring others. In the willingness to violate standards for the sake of promoting the interests of its owner – Petro Poroshenko – and his political allies Channel 5 became similar to Priamyi channel, together with which they eventually held a joint marathon with a telling title "Stop Rematch" on the day of the election. Meanwhile, the marathon on ZIK channel, which since recently is owned by Medvedchuk, was called "War or Peace" — and guess which party has the exclusive keys to peace.
Except for the light coverage of the results of the work of the old parliament and even lighter forecasts of the work of the Rada of the new convocation, as well as issues related to the procedure for the printout of ballots, the number of violations, and the formation of election commissions, the majority of election information disseminated in television news was a hidden PR to a greater or lesser extent. "UA:Pershyi" once again stood out against this backdrop. It tried to provide viewers with useful information, once again conducted an informative and dynamic "Countdown" talk show, and, after all, did not promote anyone.
The most important events related to the election, which were covered in the media in the period from July 15 to July 21, 2019
The Cabinet of Ministers dismissed the head of the State Fiscal Service, who had got a scolding from Zelenskyi.
The parties in Minsk agreed to cease fire on July 21.
Representatives of the President's office stated that Medvedchuk is not Ukraine's representative in the world.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused Hungary of influencing the election in the Zakarpattia region.
The court overturned the decision to withdraw candidate Kunytskyi from the election.
Zelenskyi hinted at how to vote for the right candidates from the "People's Servant" party.
The Constitutional Court recognized the law on decommunization as constitutional.
Stolar and Co. On July 18, the news on "1+1" included information about the fact that Mariana Bezuhla, candidate from the "People's Servant" party, was accusing Lyudmyla Kostenko, representative of the "European Solidarity" party, of a mass bribery of voters. The only source of information was a press conference with Bezuhla and her lawyer who "made public a list of supposedly bribed participants of the so-called Kostenko's six, alleged recordings of phone conversations with some volunteers, campaigners from this list." The words "supposedly" and "allegedly" cannot hide the obvious fact that "1+1" journalists did nothing to check the allegations. The material does not include Kostenko's commentary (they said that the later "had refused to give a commentary"). But it turned out that "the representatives of the party found both the lists and audio recordings freely available on the Internet. And in addition they also said that Lyudmyla Kostenko had a direct connection with pro-Russian-minded Viktor Medvedchuk." Moreover, the channel included a soundbite of Bezuhla's words, who said that "according to media studies, Kostenko was associated with Stolar, and the latter is now a candidate from the "Opposition Platform - For Life" party, which - as viewers were reminded - belongs to Boyko and Medvedchuk. Thus, single point of view, "evidence from the Internet", "allegedly" and "supposedly" resulted in a statement about a connection between the "European Solidarity" and Medvedchuk - one of the leitmotifs of black PR against Poroshenko's party.
"The election of the prime minister and the speaker" are underway. Despite the self-evident fact that the prime minister will be appointed by the parliamentary majority and will not be elected in the election, "Ukraine" channel does not stop their "Ukraine Chooses the Prime Minister" PR project. One of his tools are street polls in which people say the same surnames as those appearing in the channel's news and talk shows: Yulia Tymoshenko, Yevheniy Murayev, and most often of all - Volodymyr Hroisman. Interestingly enough, sociological surveys on the same topic show that the majority of the respondents mentioned the name of Yuriy Boyko, whereas in the vox pops on "Ukraine" channel the leader of the "Opposition Platform - For Life" was not mentioned at all. Such vox pops appeared in the news every day until the end of the week.
"Ukraine" also continues to promote Oleh Lyashko as a speaker, which could only be the case if he became a member of the Verkhovna Rada and a part of the parliamentary majority (which would be rather strange given the opposition rhetoric of the Radical Party). On July 15, another vox pop was broadcasted, in which respondents mostly mentioned Lyashko and which was full of references to abstract "political experts": "The position of most citizens is shared by political experts. In their opinion, in order to achieve balance of political forces in the parliament, the post of the chair must be held by a representative of the opposition." This is a double manipulation, since there can be no "majority of citizens" - a vox pop is not a representative poll, and the "experts" only include Dmytro Levus, who sings Lyashko's praises. A similar vox pop, only without an "expert's" commentary, but with the predominance of the Lyashko's surname in the responses, appeared in the news on "Ukraine" channel on July 17 and 18. One of the women interviewed called Lyashko a "master of word". But this was not enough: on the same day, the channel broadcasted in the news a report from the village of Sapozhyn, whose residents were choosing politicians for the key positions in the state. By surprising coincidence, the peasants saw Hroisman as the prime minister and Lyashko as a speaker.
The main manipulators. On July 18, in addition to the story about black electoral technologies in the Kharkiv region, in which no political force was mentioned, except for the "European Solidarity" party (which was mentioned as a victim here), "Inter" showed the news about manipulations before the election in the Zaporizhia region. "Almost 400 violations of electoral law were reported to the Zaporizhia Police. Unlawful agitation and bribery of voters were the lion's share of the violations. Candidates from the "Opposition Bloc" party were among the leaders of pre-election schemes. According to the results of an investigation, political forces organized a concert. Law enforcement officers began criminal proceedings on this matter. There were also violations in the placement of the political party's promotional materials," the statement read. Nobody knows what "among the leaders" means, who else belongs to these leaders, and what is the number of violations they referred to. Instead, a representative of "Opora" mentioned the names of the offenders from the "Opposition Bloc", while representative of the prosecutor's office spoke about the bribery of voters. The story did not include the positions of the accused candidates. The same episode also included a "loud political reformatting": allegedly, most of the deputies from the "Opposition Bloc" of the Kherson regional and district councils (districts were not specified) left the faction and joined the "Opposition Platform - For Life". "At a press conference, it was explained that they united with Yuriy Boyko, since his professional team was already taking the steps which were most urgent now. In particular, leaders of the "Opposition Platform - For Life" party have already held a series of talks on reducing gas prices and facilitated the release of four captive Ukrainians," the story told. The story included soundbites of the words of several defectors, but did not include the position of the "Opposition Bloc" party.
The Choice between OP and FL ["Opposition Platform - For Life"]. This time, the quasi talk show "Podrobytsi Vyboru" [Details of the Choice], which had been created for the PR needs as an addition to the "Podrobytsi Tyzhnia" [Details of the Week] on "Inter" channel, was fully devoted to the "Opposition Platform - For Life". The first part of the show only featured one speaker - Vadym Rabinovych, even though in previous episodes there usually had been three or four candidates from the "Opposition Platform - For Life" and two or three political commentators. The host Oleksiy Fadeyev, trained by the Chinese television, did not dare to stop the flow of political patron's manipulation. And the manipulations were outstanding. For example, Rabinovich stated that a candidate from the "People's Servant" party called on people "to chop off the heads in the Donbass"; ascribed such program objectives as "legalization of gay marriages, Vakarchuk as a prime minister, and a 20% increase in prices for Russian-speaking people in restaurants" to "Holos"; and called for a refusal to cooperate with the International Monetary Fund. And finally: "If you choose a party that sings, dances, and does not know how to implement economic reforms and buy cheap gas, you choose a cold winter for yourself and your family." The did not stop Rybinovich, and in the second part of the program he moderated speeches of three candidates from the "Opposition Platform - For Life" at once - Mykola Skoryk, Vitaliy Sautenkov and Oleksandr Popov, - as well as two political commentators. The second batch of oppositionists complained about the "Opposition Bloc" party (billboards in Odesa, which discredited the "Opposition Platform - For Life") and made skeptical remarks about the "People's Servant" party — "people who do not know gas prices."