The presidential hopeful who changed his name to trick voters

Unlike most European voters, Ukrainians have the option of voting "Against all". So if you're planning on garnering those votes, what better way to do so than changing your name to "Against all"? Which is what one of the presidential hopefuls for the January election has done. Read more...


Gumenyuk – or Protyvsikh – displays his new passport, with his new name. Image posted on Gumenyuk’s website.

Unlike on most European voting slips, voters in Ukraine have the option of selecting "Against all". That means if you don't like any of the candidates running for office, you can let them know. And if you're a candidate who wants to garner those votes, what better way than change your name to "Against all". Which is what one of the presidential hopefuls for the January election has done.

If enough people tick the "Against all" box on their ballot slip, then nobody is proclaimed winner, and a new election is called with different candidates. It's never actually happened, but this year, the possibility is looking high; of the four main candidates running for president in the Jan. 17 election, none is overly popular with the electorate.

And then there's Vasyl Gumenyuk. Despite being a seasoned politician -- he is the former mayor of the western city of Yaremche and a permanent representative of the Ukraine within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) -- his name doesn't even appear in election news. He's about tenth in the running order, meaning that less than 1% of the population support him.

Seemingly in response to this quandary, Gumenyuk officially changed his surname. He's now running for presidency under the name of Vasyl Protyvsikh, or "Vasyl Againstall", and his slogan is "Against all - For life without Ya and Yu" (Ya and Yu are the first letters of the names of the four main candidates: Viktor Yanukovich, Viktor Yuschenko, Arseniy Yatseniuk and Yulia Timoshenko). 

Whether Gumenyuk is making a political statement for change or just hoping that people will see "Against all" and tick the box without realising, remains unclear. What is sure, is that "Mr Protyvsikh" is certainly set to garner more attention than Mr Gumenyuk would have.

Gumenyuk’s election campaign slogan “Against all – For life without Ya and Yu”. Posted on the Autoua forum.

Party time with Protyvsikh

Promotional video by the Young Movement Against All.

“I think that Protyvsikh [Gumenyuk] could be elected in the first round”

Taras Panchiy is a "Young Movement Against All" activist from Kiev.

We support Protyvsikh [‘Againstall', Gumenyek's new name] because he himself supports young people. For example, he promised to enforce a 30% employment quota for young people in the civil service. He also wants to reduce mandatory education back to 10 years [currently 11 years, the reduction would mean starting school at seven rather than six]. And he said he'll go back to entrance exams for each university, replacing the current test system which is not fair and allows corruption.

I think that Protyvsikh could be elected without even needing a second round. I can't speak for older people but the young generation certainly supports him. And people are fed up with all the current Ukrainian politicians, so they will vote for Protyvsikh."

“Judging by his campaign activities, it's very possible that he’s a spoiler candidate”

Andriy Bychenko directs the sociological service of the Razumkov Centre for Sociological and Political Research in Kiev. 

I don't know if he really thinks this trick will help him to get a big chunk of votes, but if he does, he's mistaken. He doesn't have a chance. People are indeed disappointed with current politicians, but for the very reason that they have a negative attitude. They don't want another negative campaigner; on the contrary, they want a candidate who finally offers a positive programme.

Judging by his campaign activities, it's very possible that there's another politician behind him, who hopes to employ him as a spoiler candidate against his or her main rival. Spoiler candidates come in two forms.

The first is used to shift votes away from a rival candidate by waging an information war against them. Both the rival and the spoiler are involved in a negative campaign, but not the politician behind the spoiler. Gumenyuk hasn't so far dabbled with negative dealings however.

The second type of spoiler is used to increase the number of representatives the politician has on the electoral committee of each polling station. Each presidential candidate has the right to ‘election commission members' [but in order to have them represent you, you have to collect signatures]. Since, unfortunately, Ukrainian elections are not completely free of fraud, and election commission members are supposed to prevent these, it's not unusual for candidates to have as many of them as they can get. The more members you have representing you on each station's committee, the safer you are against other candidates' potential scams. It is possible that Gumenyuk's running to unofficially gather election commission members for another candidate. [Spoilers do this and then sell the representatives to genuine candidates for a price]. He might even be planning to sell his election commission members to not one but numerous candidates, though in no way do I believe that to be the case.

In any case, he has no chance of winning."