WITH the fall of communism millions of people in the...

Salmagundi

August 03, 1994

WITH the fall of communism millions of people in the former Soviet bloc are getting a new view of the political process. It's not always an easy change, especially for candidates. Earlier this year, a group of Western volunteers traveled to Ukraine to conduct workshops for aspiring candidates in this summer's elections. Nation's Cities Weekly recently reprinted a report on the trip from Joseph Sweat, executive director of the Tennessee Municipal League.

"When the old, painted-over Communists in the 'party of power' went before the Ukrainian voters in recent elections, they faced some opponents armed with a new arsenal of campaign weapons," Mr. Sweat wrote.

" 'Door to door!' One can just hear the muttering of some graying apparatchik. 'Who ever heard of going from door to door asking for votes? Like a beggar asking for crusts of bread.' This old party hack will be, most likely, a grim-faced man in a tired, black suit.

"But those 'beggars' among the Ukrainian candidates are showing the old heads a thing or two about winning public office in the emerging democracy. Scores of candidates for local office who had been trained in modern campaign techniques were victorious in the Ukrainian elections. . . .

" 'Target, target, target,' American Marilyn Edwards, president of the Tennessee Women's Political Caucus, told a group of candidates and campaign workers . . . in Odessa. 'Target the people likely to vote for you. Make sure they get your message and make sure they get out and vote. Then forget about the rest. Don't waste your time with them.'

"Many of the Ukrainians expressed dismay at Western-style, hit-and-run campaigning. For decades the Soviet style has been to harangue and wear voters down with words, even in one-on-one situations. . . .

"'People are very busy with other matters and really are not very keen on talking with you anyway,' British political consultant Nigel Stanley told another group. 'So you have perhaps two or three minutes at most to get your message across.' "

Two or three minutes? By current American standards, that's a mighty big sound bite.

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