“In regard to the last mayoral elections of Kyiv, when we speak about the victory of one candidate or another, it is very conditional.”
EVSTRATIJ (Zorya), bishop of Vasyliv, vicar of the Kyiv Eparchy, head of the Information-Publishing Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate
“And again hello!” from the election campaign in Kyiv where Leonid Chernovetskyi won a second term. Did religion play any role in the outcome? If yes, then why in Kyiv, where the most Orthodox Christians live, was a person closely linked with the Embassy of God, a Pentecostal church, chosen as mayor? We asked Yevstratii (Zoria), bishop of Vasylivskyi, vicar of the Kyiv Eparchy, press-secretary and head of the Information-Publishing Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate, to comment on the situation.
-- [Bishop Yevstratii] In 2004, the Razumkov Center conducted social research across all of Ukraine. As a result of the information gathered, it became clear that the religion factor does not influence political preferences. Remember: this is because a person seeks in religion and from religion entirely different things than from politics and politicians. In the church a person seeks that which he cannot find in the world. Therefore, he does not want to bring politics into the church and spiritual world.
In regard to the last mayoral elections of Kyiv, when we speak about the victory of one candidate or another, it is very conditional. First of all, there was a very small turn-out—a little more than 50%. Second of all, close to half of the residents of Kyiv are registered in other cities. These people live and work here, and create the face of Kyiv, but they do not have the right to vote. For example, I have lived in the capital for 14 years, but am not registered in Kyiv; therefore, I am not a voter in Kyiv. Thus, the percentage of these people who voted, either those for the victor or the defeated, is very low, and to talk about an overall preference, or an absolute victory, is very difficult.
I am certain that the religious factor, especially in this election, did not play a role. This was a political battle, a battle not only in the scale of Kyiv, but in all of Ukraine – different political camps competed against one another with the strength to influence the situation, or lack thereof.
I think that for the future in politics in total, and in especially in Kyiv, the religious factor will play solely a background role. Because, for example, it is hard to recognize the allegiance of today’s mayor of Kyiv to a concrete denomination if in the evenings he goes to the Embassy of God and the next morning goes to pray at an Orthodox monastery where he declares himself devoted only to this denomination and a proponent only of this denomination of Christianity. That is why it is hard for me to recognize which views and which convictions are true to this person. And, certainly, it is difficult for the voter to know. Therefore, he does not pay a lot of attention to these things.
It saddens me that in the last election there again were appeals for a repeat vote. All this highlights the overall low political culture. That is because in politics and in elections there are always winners and losers. And if each time the losing side requests another vote because they did not win, in hopes that they will win, then we will never be done with these elections. And the outcome will be that people will altogether stop voting in elections, because they will no longer be interested. Elections will only be interesting for politicians.
It is unpleasant to observe that the voters are indifferent; that there were people that accepted giving away their votes for money. Furthermore, it was done with such thinking: “I am indifferent, there is no meaning, but at least I can make some money”… And all of this is in Kyiv (!), which for four years was an example of civic consciousness and devotion to issues of freedom and truth.
Today people are becoming victims, voluntarily or involuntarily, to political technology. They do not chose personalities or activists who will truly make initiatives in the government or politics. People factually do not know who they are choosing, but are only looking at the “package” – at all the advertising flashiness, which is formed around one or another candidate. And an impression is built that it is enough to have several million dollars and to hang one’s posters all over the city; and thus in one day become famous. But this does not make a person a politician; it does not make him a famous statesman or a civic activist. But for these candidates, one replaces the other: quantity of money replaces the quality of politics and quality of leadership.
In about a year a new election campaign will begin. I do not know how people will perceive this, especially when this will relate to the presidential election campaign. How politics will develop in Kyiv, how Kyiv will develop – it is still hard to predict. Nevertheless, we see that the political situation in Kyiv is certainly a hostage to the all-Ukrainian political situation. The processes which happen in state politics have a much larger influence on Kyiv than let’s say on Poltava or Zhytomyr.
Overall, my conclusion is this: democracy is a good instrument in capable hands. This is an instrument which allows us to build true and mutually beneficial social relations for citizens. We have it as an instrument. But we still have a lot to learn and to learn how to use this instrument. So far we are using it very awkwardly. That is why instead of bringing benefits, democracy is bringing disappointment.
-- [Correspondent] What can the church do to foster a mature person who will competently use this instrument and will consciously vote, critically evaluating the situation?
-- [B.Y.] The church should, first of all, be a church. Stay a church. In no instance should it pursue politics or politicians, because politics and politicians are temporary. Today their names are known, but after a few years people may entirely forget them. Today some things are really relevant and painful, but in a month no one will remember them because new problems will appear. And the church fosters its faithful as responsible people, reminding them that responsibility is an integral part of freedom. The church educates them to be responsible citizens and responsible members of society who will make responsible choices. And that is why I must repeat that the assignment of the church is to be a church.