In recent days, the list of candidates has significantly decreased: five candidates for the presidency have withdrawn their candidacies. However, not everything in this situation looks clear. Opinion found out whether former candidates are always technical, why politicians make such decisions, what are the chances of the electorate transition after the unification, and what should voters do.
Does it always mean that a candidate was ‘technical’ if he withdrew in someone’s favor?
As Dmytro Sinchenko, the head of the public organization Association of Political Sciences, explained to Opinion, the candidates are considered technical when their goal is not to win, but to donate their quotas in the election commissions to the main candidate.
“It is quite simple to distinguish a technical candidate from a real one. Firstly, the names of such candidates are mostly little-known, secondly, the origin of their bail funds is not clear, thirdly, such candidates practically do not conduct an active election campaign, or imitate its conduct, and at the same time, they have completely filled quotas of members of election commissions, trustees and observers. This information is publicly available on the CEC website. If you have time and desire, you can check in favor of which candidate the technical candidate is working. The trustees of such a candidate are connected to the main one, while the technical candidate himself is unlikely to even know which people he registered,” the expert believes.
But Liliia Brudnytska, the expert of the Center of Structural Politics “Choice”, believes that it is not so easy to distinguish between a technical candidate and a normal one. Moreover, those politicians who were at first real contenders for the presidency may become technical later.
“Withdrawal in someone’s favor is not always a sign of a ‘technicality’ of a candidate. It is almost impossible to distinguish, because the true causes of alliances are little-known even in narrow political circles, including the leaders themselves. Even if the candidate is perceived as technical, he may not be – he might have not found funds or his financial sources suddenly dried up.
On the other hand, in the process of campaigning, even a non-technical candidate may become technical. It depends on how we perceive technicality because such a candidate performs a certain function. Therefore, it is better to call them functional. A feature of the functionality of the candidate is, first of all, his public rhetoric, which is reduced to two or three theses, or shocking behavior. If motives for joining the elections claimed by a candidate are, shall we say, unconvincing, he may as well be technical? Some candidates ran for the presidency on their own, but their goal could have been to convert their 1-2% of votes to re-offer them to a more successful candidate in exchange for something. They are half-technical,” the expert comments to our journal.
Maksym Dzhyhun, the political scientist and political expert of the analytical center Inpolit, in his turn, emphasizes: in this electoral campaign, the majority of openly technical candidates did not withdraw their candidacies, because they provide more profitable services for their clients.
“Those candidates who refused to participate in the elections did it consciously. The reasons for it may be different: some count to be in the electoral list of the candidate in whose favor they withdrew, some succumbed to the trend of ‘candidate-fall’ in favor of Anatoliy Hrytsenko, and some simply have no funds for carrying out a full-fledged electoral campaign. Technical candidates are needed to provide additional seats in election commissions or to drag votes from specific competitors. In this aspect, Yurii Tymoshenko is a good example, who is needed in this election only for ‘eating’ the votes of Yulia Tymoshenko. And as sociology shows, he does it well,” the political scientist is convinced.
Andrii Khorosheniuk, Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences, the political expert and historian, believes that the practice of some candidates withdrawing in favor of others is not unique or new. However, the expert notes that the presidential elections should be viewed through the prism of parliamentary elections.
“The pretentious statements of some politicians and even of political corpses covered in talcum of history, about their official registration as a candidate for the presidency are rather an investment in their political future or the future of their political force. Therefore, their goal is not to win today and at any cost. Most candidates are technical at this stage of the electoral process. Their technicality is an attempt to either strengthen the position of the client or an attempt to partially neutralize competitors. In addition, technical candidates are given additional seats in election commissions. Thus, they get an additional opportunity to influence these commissions. Another tool of technical candidates is the opportunity to ‘grab the heat with someone else’s hands’. Technical candidates are used for the purpose of so-called black PR. In this case, the main candidate remains on the sidelines.
This negates the very essence of the election, convinces in the frivolity of the process. Such manipulation primarily concerns young people who do not yet have the experience of political choice. Or it is aimed at the politically inert part of society, to support their beliefs. This, of course, sounds cynical, but it helps to disperse the attention, and as a result, voters are not serious about their right to vote and responsibility for the future of the state,” the expert explained to Opinion.
The political scientist Vladyslav Serdiuk also noted that some candidates consider the presidential elections as a pass to the Parliament, however, there are those whose participation is rather an instrument of dragging the votes of a competitor.
“These elections gave Ukraine 44 candidates among which, we need to be frank, only 3-5 people are relevant players in our political arena. Some run for the presidency to get a conditional ‘pass’ to the Verkhovna Rada because of the increase in recognition, and some just try their hand. Yurii Tymoshenko is a good example of a technical candidate, whom someone needs to drag the votes of another candidate with an almost identical name.
For example, the withdrawal of Sadovyi from the presidential race was an expected step among the society, which required the unification of opposition forces. But the withdrawal of other candidates who were virtually unknown to voters does not really change anything. For the candidates themselves, it was an opportunity to remind about themselves again,” the comment says.
What are the chances of voters’ transition from one candidate to another?
Maksym Dzhyhun notes: we should not always expect a complete overflow of votes from the withdrawal of one of the candidates in favor of the other.
“There is some sense only in the union of the candidates from a single electoral field. The union of Sadovyi-Hrytsenko is undoubtedly justified and will for sure give some percent to the latter. After all, both candidates have common basic values and the vision of the country’s development,” the expert cites as an example.
But Dmytro Sinchenko believes that the ratings of the united candidates never add up, the same goes for the electorate.
“Let’s simulate the situation. For example, candidate A withdrew from the election and called to vote for candidate B, which takes second place in the race in all ratings. Both candidates are for European integration. However, candidate A is Ukrainian-speaking, and candidate B is Russian-speaking. For the majority of voters, this may be a significant factor in voting for or against candidate B, thus their votes may take a completely different candidate to the second round.
Serious sociological researches are conducted to predict the behavior of voters; however, they do not guarantee that the overflow of votes will occur in one way or another. After all, the electoral campaigns are very dynamic, and any event or statement can significantly affect the opinion of the electorate,” Mr. Sinchenko explained.
Liliia Brudnytska agrees with the position of the previous speaker. The expert is sure that each of the candidates has an electoral core, but other sympathizers are unlikely to unconditionally support the joint candidacy.
“They have a free right to decide, no one should encroach on this right. Therefore, the candidates who withdrew, when they motivate such a determined step, mean themselves by saying ‘in favor of this or that’. And they just explain this position. And it is for voters to decide if they support it or not. By the way, the outflow and overflow of voters occur, because the withdrawal of a candidate is a big disappointment for a part of the sympathizers,” Ms. Brudnytska noted.
How are differences in programs regulated in the case of a union?
According to Dmytro Sinchenko, most often this does not happen at all, because voters are extremely rarely interested in the programs of candidates and resort to their analysis.
“A decisive role in the associations of political teams is played by the agreement on the distribution of positions in case of victory, the distribution of seats in the electoral lists, and sometimes more banal – a specific amount of money,” the expert is convinced.
Maksym Dzhyhan has another opinion. The political scientist is convinced that common views are the key aspect of the association, at least in the main issues.
“The most important thing is that the association takes place between the candidates who agree with each other in basic, fundamental issues. If there is no common vision, no alliance will help the politicians. Moreover, such an association is simply not likely to happen,” the political expert states.
Liliia Brudnytska also tells that the attention should be paid to the key points of the campaign of the candidates.
“Differences in programs are regulated by negotiations and by a new program, not always before the day of voting. Therefore, here it is important to say slogans and key theses. But this campaign is so dull, slogans are so unclear that it is not necessary to regulate anything, because there are no significant differences. Except for the conditional ‘candidates of peace’, but they unite and do not pretend to reach outside their electoral field. The rest have comparable theses,” the commentary says.
What should do the voters whose candidate has withdrawn?
The expert agreed in this matter with one idea: they need to look for another candidate, but should not focus only on the “united” candidate.
Dmytro Sinchenko: “It’s simple – the voters need to find another candidate to give their vote to. It does not have to be the one in whose favor their favorite withdrew.”
Liliia Brudnytska: “They need to find another one. By the way, there might be a decline in voter turnout, because if your candidate withdrew, then why would you go there? Some will vote for whomever ‘just for fun’. The latter option, by the way, will add votes to Zelensky. It will probably be reflected in the March ratings. In general, it will be chaotic, spontaneous, emotional expression of the will, which can also be a technology in itself.”
Maksym Dzhyhun: “It is worth noting that in this electoral campaign all the candidates who withdrew from the elections without exceptions indicated in whose favor they did it. For example, if the voter of Sadovyi shares views of his leader and trusts him, he will vote for Hrytsenko without hesitation. However, if the latter for one reason or another does not meet the needs of the citizen, it is necessary to choose another candidate according to the program, ideological and personal criteria.”
By Dmytro Zhuravel