May 16, 2019 / 9:54 AM / 5 days ago

Ukraine rock star sets up party ahead of parliamentary elections

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian rock band frontman Sviatoslav Vakarchuk said on Thursday he is setting up a political party ahead of parliamentary elections because the public are sick of corruption and want new faces in politics.

Ukrainian musician and frontman of a popular rock band Okean Elzy, Sviatoslav Vakarchuk addresses his supporters as he announces the launch of his political party, which will participate in the October parliamentary elections in Kiev, Ukraine May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Graft, falling living standards and the dominance of old political forces have reduced trust in the government to just 9%, the lowest rating of any electorate in the world, a Gallup poll in March showed.

Parliamentary elections are due in late October, six months after a presidential vote in which political novice and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy defeated the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko.

Vakarchuk, 44, had also been seen as a potential participant in the presidential election, but two months before the vote he refused to join the race, saying he was not interested in the presidency but in real changes in the country.

“We, the party ‘Voice’, go to parliament to destroy the old policy and create a new policy that will bring us real changes,” Vakarchuk told his supporters in the centre of Kiev.

“Parliament has become a toxic swamp which drains our future. We have to change that,” he said.

Vakarchuk said his party will favour European and Euro-Atlantic integration and a free economy and will fight corruption and the influence of oligarchs.

An active supporter of the Orange Revolution in 2004, Vakarchuk became a member of parliament in 2007 but stepped down a year later.

An opinion poll in April showed that if Vakarchuk had a political party then it would have had support of less than 1% of voters. But analysts say his new party should be able to overcome the 5% support threshold required to enter parliament.

“Society wants new faces in politics, and new politicians,” said Volodymyr Fesenko from the think tank Penta.

“He has a chance. He has a high personal rating, and recently he was actually the second-most popular man in the country after Zelenskiy,” he said, without citing a source.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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