Ukraine election to see popular figures

Ukraine election to see popular figures

Ukraine election to see popular figures

Ukraine’s recently-retired football star Andriy Shevchenko signs autographs during a campaign rally of Ukraine Forward! party in Kiev. AFP photo

An extravagantly dressed pop diva, a retired football star, the son of a famous actor, an opposition leader suspiciously cozy with the government are some of the candidates that will run in Oct. 28’s parliamentary election in Ukraine.

The two main pro-Western opposition parties hope to challenge President Viktor Yanukovych’s nearly three-year grip on power. They aim to wrestle the parliamentary majority away from his Party of Regions and undo actions that have been judged undemocratic by the West, such as the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

The Party of Regions has tried to raise its profile by offering the No. 2 spot on its candidate list to pop diva Taisia Povaliy, which guarantees her a seat in Ukraine’s Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada.

“I never thought that I would run for Parliament, I never planned it. And then I discovered that people, the people themselves, want me to represent them,” Povaliy said on a TV celebrity gossip program. Ukraine Forward, led by former Tymoshenko ally Natalia Korolevska, is widely believed to be supported by the ruling party and aimed at siphoning off opposition votes. To lead her party’s candidate list, Korolevska brought in retired football star Andriy Shevchenko and actor Ostap Stupka, the less illustrious son of late renowned actor Bohdan Stupka.

Sports and health issues
Giant billboards of her and the two celebrities went up along streets and roads. Shevchenko, the 36-year-old striker known as Sheva, is extremely popular in Ukraine, but many wonder how he would make the transition to lawmaker.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Shevchenko said he planned to concentrate on sports and health issues in parliament and cited the poor athletic condition of many Ukrainian school students as one of the top problems in the country. World boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, 40, is also running for Parliament, but he has years of political experience and a record of challenging Yanukovych’s party in the Kiev city council.