* Offers to sell Ukrainian votes appear on Internet
* Indicates cynicism of electorate, says analyst
By Richard Balmforth
KIEV, Jan 12 For sale: my vote in Ukraine's
election on Sunday. From 300 to 500 hryvnias ($37-$63). Can
gather others who want to sell.
Several offers have appeared on the Internet from
disenchanted citizens in the ex-Soviet republic who say they are
ready to sell their votes in the Jan. 17 election for president.
"I don't believe in our democracy and so I am selling my
vote in the elections. Maybe there will be 10 other votes for
sale. The only discussion on price will be upwards," said one
Internet advertisement from Lviv in western Ukraine.
The State Security Service had no comment to make on the
offers, but a central election commission official said buying
votes was illegal and subject to criminal prosecution. It did
not appear, however, to be an offence to offer votes for sale.
Another offer from the capital Kiev read: "I am completely
indifferent to who wins. There are three votes for sale -- two
in Kiev, one in Bila Tserkva. 500 hryvnia apiece."
Some have accompanying e-mail addresses. Other appear with a
contact telephone number.
Reached by telephone by Reuters, Vadim, a 25-year-old Kiev
construction worker, said he had already received offers in
response to his Internet posting.
"The politics of Ukraine don't interest me at all. I am not
interested in who will be president. I am not a patriot," he
Vadim said he could gather a total of about 10 votes for
sale from among his family and friends and the going rate for
each was 500 hryvnias. "I have had offers already and I am
deciding," he said.
He would not say whether the offers had come from political
parties, their agents or individuals.
Sunday's election for president, the fifth since
independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, takes place amid
deep economic gloom in Ukraine where the global recession has
hit jobs, family budgets and pockets.
"This is a reflection of disappointment and the increasingly
cynical attitude of voters towards politics and politicians,"
said political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko.
"There is no trust among Ukrainians in the overwhelming
majority of candidates."
Sunday's vote is not expected to produce an outright winner.
Opinion polls suggest that pro-Western President Viktor
Yushchenko, who came to power after mass street protests against
election fraud in 2004, will not go forward.
A second round run-off is expected between the two
front-runners, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Prime
Minister Viktor Yanukovich, on Feb. 7.