What follows is simply a transcript of the First Yushchenko / Yanukovich Debate with lots of unnecessary things simply cut out. I think the resulting text is both highly instructive and hilarious, especially towards the end. As I said, all I did was to cut the transcript; The words I added to preserve the meaning are in square parentheses. Enjoy!
[Yanukovych]. Good evening, dear viewers. Good evening, dear voters. Dear friends! I want to talk about the people who made us poor, to talk about the people who are now fighting to regain power, to talk about bankrupt government officials, bankrupt politicians whom we no longer trust. And when they talk about me - the dirt that has been poured on me all throughout this election campaign - I would like my opponents to look at themselves first, who they are and what role they are playing in our country today. Are these representatives of the old authorities who are again trying to return to power.
[Yushchenko] Dear compatriots, dear voters, dear Ukrainian people! You are not billy goats, you are not cattle but citizens who have the right to vote. Corruption is widespread and people want to see a candidate who proposes a future without corruption and who is honest. I am convinced that an honest government employee will not raise a hand. Please, look at the statistics. Now you can buy 35 kilos of lard on your entire [monthly] wage. Two years ago, you could buy 63 kilos of this product. In 2004, the total amount allocated for preventive medicine was 10m hryvnyas, while the amount for the hospital for senior officials in Feofaniya was 99m hryvnyas. 74m hryvnyas was allocated for treating tuberculosis, because the rate of infection is five times greater here than in our neighbours, and for repair of the presidential administration building - 80m.
[Yanukovych] Dear viewers, you know that social policy is my government’s priority. We started with an empty treasury. I wish it had only been that, an empty treasury, without debts. But the debts were huge. Why was all this debt accumulated? Because it is easier to govern the poor. And if we are to return once again to the time when esteemed Mr Yushchenko worked in government as head of the National Bank, we remember well how inflation reached 10,000 per cent in those years. And we remember how our wealth was stolen from us overnight during currency reform, as was the wealth of the state. Therefore, I believe the time will come when it will be necessary to answer for that. I will do everything to restore people’s trust in the authorities. Esteemed TV viewers, esteemed voters. I report to you that when my government and I started working, Ukraine’s economy was in a very difficult situation. When we just started working, only 48 per cent of Ukrainian companies were turning a profit. There was a lot of barter operations, which prop up the shadow sector of the economy, into which the previous governments had driven businesses. That was also the fault of the National Bank, which esteemed Mr Yushchenko chaired.
[Yushchenko] Dear TV viewers. In 2002 [when Yanukovych became prime minister], economic growth, which was being reflected in budget revenue figures, was 8.2 per cent. In 1999 [when Yushchenko came to power], all we had was a 4 per cent fall in GDP, 4bn [dollars] in debt, a country facing default on its debt, and 257 corrupt government decrees. That was all I inherited from the previous government. So don’t anger God, you were lucky. And don’t anger God by saying you haven’t been long enough in government. Two years is an infinity for a prime minister in Ukraine.
[Yushchenko] Dear friends! Leaving emotions aside, I would like to say just one thing: we have an unprofessional government. I hear today from my opponent declarations of a Ukrainian economic miracle. We have 13.4 per cent of GDP growth. We have already overtaken Singapore! But do you know how much extra budget revenue we have got from this miracle? It is 1.8 per cent. The very simple economic question is, Mr Yanukovych, where is the rest? Where did it all go? Who gains from it? You said you were going to be a president of rich people. But two thirds of my nation are poor people, who are below the poverty line. So where is this difference between 13.4 per cent and 1.8 per cent being channelled? This, Mr Yanukovych, is where we have to talk about shadow economy. And in this country, the shadow sector makes up 55 per cent of the economy. My question to you is, how does the shadow sector come about? My own answer to that, my version, not yours, is that the shadow economy is always created by the government, starting from the presidential administration, the Cabinet of Ministers, the state tax service and police and the security service.
[Yushchenko] Now, friends, let us say that the government is sustaining the shadow sector, that is props it up and serves as a cover for it. What sort of pathological decisions is the current government making, and where are they leading us? And since my opponent has quoted statistics, I will do so too. Why is it now that while the GDP is growing at a rate of 13.4 per cent, this government is the first since 2000 to start borrowing on the foreign markets? As much as 5bn has already been borrowed in this way. Mr Yanukovych, do you realize that you are putting your hand in our children’s wallet? You have this great GDP growth, so why don’t you collect budget revenue and pay for social spending, wages and pensions? Furthermore, Mr Yanukovych, you have not paid 7.5bn to honest businessmen in VAT refunds. That’s during your tenure. Another 3bn in VAT refunds has been delayed for three or four years. So you have in effect illegally borrowed another 10bn. What is the government doing to the economy, my friends? Can this policy continue for another year or two?
[Yushchenko] Another thing. Mr Yanukovych, are you aware that the government had forced honest businessmen to pay 3 bn in taxes in advance? Take these four figures into account, and it becomes clear that over the past 10 months, out of the 46bn of government spending, 9bn is deficit. That’s 9bn! Friends, one hryvnya in five has been plucked out of thin air! What sort of an economy is it, what sort of surrealism?
[Yushchenko] I think, Mr Yanukovych, that either they misinform you, or you deliberately quote figures that do not correspond to reality. But let us leave boring figures now. Let us think about what kind of evil can come about as a result of such policy. What kind of problems can ordinary people expect as a result of such policies? I would like to say that in 2004, wholesale prices in Ukraine have gone up by 17 per cent.
[Yushchenko] The present government, it is known, is corrupt and controlled by the oligarchs. On the list of the world’s top corrupt countries Ukraine rates next to Guatemala and Sudan. This government’s domestic policy, I want to stress, is destructive and dangerous to my society. This government is acting against peace and stability in Ukraine. The main principle of its work is divide and rule. But evil deeds will always recoil against the evil doers.
[Yushchenko] When we are divided, the authorities can steal Kryvorizhstal is stolen by Mr Yanukovych’s partner and Kuchma’s son-in-law. The difference between the highest bid from buyers and the lowest bid is 5bn. So I want to ask, what are we short of to make sure that teachers and doctors have decent salaries? Is it money or something else? When we are divided, the authorities can brutally deny the sacred right to vote to millions of people. Three million people came [to polling stations] on 31 October and could not vote, because they were on the list of dead people or had wrong surnamed, names or patronymics? Whose job is it? Who is responsible for the election? Who is responsible for preparing the voters’ lists? Why couldn’t millions of Ukrainians vote? The current government is responsible, beginning with a local administration and ending with the prime minister.
[Yushchenko] When we are divided, the authorities can rig the election. We have hundreds of reports which have been signed and sealed but where all the lines are empty. Who is responsible for this? Which commissions and who controls them? What falsification has been done electronically, when my nation was being misinformed about the winner of the election for six days. Who needs this manipulation? It is possible only when we are divided, dear friends.
[Yushchenko] In this election, the authorities did not stand against the opposition. The authorities stood against the people. Nonetheless, I defeated the candidate backed by the authorities in the first round. The main thing is that it is not my victory. It is the victory of the Ukrainian democracy, and the Ukrainian people. I am convinced that after 21 November we shall change this country. I believe in it with every fibre of my body. It will be so. We have created a strategy for Ukraine. I have already approved a package of presidential decrees which I will sign right after my victory. The first one, is a determined fight against corruption at all levels. State officials will declare not only their personal incomes, but also their spending, not hiding behind the backs of their family members. I will ban state officials from accepting presents.
[Yushchenko] I will ban officials from buying expensive cars, having luxury flat renovations and constructing government buildings. All this money will go on social programmes for people. The priorities of the law enforcement bodies will change. Police will protect the life and peace of ordinary Ukrainians and not serve the oligarchs. The courts will be purged of judges who are implicated in corruption or give verdicts to order.
[Yanukovych] Dear viewers, dear voters. We have to ensure that the authorities work more effectively for society, so that the authorities will never again work so badly for the state, and so humiliatingly for society, as it has worked up until now. And it was not us who increased foreign debt, it was you who increased foreign debt in all the years of independence. For the last two years when you have now set yourself the goal of fooling society, all the time you talk about this. And at the same time you talk about God. I want to tell you that you are bankrupt government members, bankrupt authorities and not opposition.
[Yanukovych] And you call God’s name, too! So I would like to tell you this. You are bankrupt government officials, a bankrupt government, and not opposition. Second, it was your policy that made Ukraine poor and, in some instances, dependent. And I will quote examples if you have forgotten. I will remind you how you went about privatizing - since you keep mentioning the word - regional energy distribution companies and whose hands these companies went to, whom you gave the master switch and what happened later, how you went to London and found buyers there and sold them to foreign buyers making the whole of Ukraine dependent. Therefore, esteemed Mr Yushchenko, do not sin. Tell the truth. Enough deceiving everybody.
[Yanukovych] And when you talk about VAT, you should be ashamed of yourself. You introduced this tax. You amassed the debts that my government inherited and kept trying to repay. And we have repaid them now, and all business people and industrialists who have encountered this tax know this was the most criminal tax, with kickbacks constantly reaching 30-50 per cent. And it was you who did it. I would like to tell all the esteemed viewers, that we must learn to see the difference between lies and the truth. When we need to make some conclusions, we must always be open, meaning truthful and honest.
[Yanukovych], Ukraine is ready, together with European countries, together with Russia, to discuss the issue of creating a common security system. This worries us, we must ensure that our citizens feel unsafe.
[Moderator] Sorry, you have misspoken, you meant safe.
[Yanukovych] Safe. Foreign policy is when we stand for the interests of our country and citizens in our foreign orbit, in all directions. Thank you.
[Yushchenko] Mr Yanukovych, I ask you, as you are a professor, why would the government want to borrow money? It had a balanced budget! Spending and revenue were in balance! Why would a government borrow if it does not run a deficit?
[Yanukovych, interrupting] I can answer that.
[Yushchenko, interrupting] Excuse me, it is my time to speak now, you will have your five minutes. [Addressing the moderator] Give me another minute to compensate for this hollow discussion.
[Moderator] Viktor Andriyovych, are you giving up your time to let Viktor Fedorovych respond to your question because he has used up his own time?
[Yushchenko] He has his own time. The authorities tell us that Europe does not want us. But, excuse me, it’s not Europe that’s to blame. Nobody except the current authorities wants to live according to underworld ethics.
[Yushchenko] Dear friends, dear Ukrainian people, dear voters! We can live according to the rules of the criminal underworld, or we can live in freedom and democracy. I am convinced that on 21 November my nation will be courageous and wise, and will have the right answer. I want everyone to remember one commandment, written or not, No 11 from Moses - do not be afraid. Go to the polls. Vote, and defend your vote from the gang which calls itself the Ukrainian authorities. In your hands alone, my friend. It is not in the hands of skinheads. It is not written in prisons or other places. Thank you.
[Yanukovych] Dear friends, esteemed viewers. You have probably seen for yourselves that my opponent’s campaign has been based on lies, total falsehoods, deceit and intimidation. Ukraine has seen a lot of lies and liars in all the years of its independence. But it has never yet seen an attempt to seize power by lying. I will sort things out and I will do my best to correct the mistakes and injustice that have been allowed in all the years of independence. I promised this and I will do it. I will answer each of the letters I received from you. Unfortunately, they are many.
[Yanukovych] I also wanted to tell you this, Mr Yushchenko. To you any government is criminal if it isn’t your own. I know that the lie you have been using for the two years since your departure from government is easily debunked. Why aren’t you talking about your so-called feats? Why aren’t you talking about the Ostarbeiter money that disappeared from Gradobank together with your partners? Those people are already in prison. Why don’t you tell us about your partners with whom you were siphoning gold and currency reserves to Cyprus, causing more than 20bn in losses -
[Yushchenko, interrupting] What are you talking about? You must have got a few zeros wrong.
[Yanukovych] Of course you wouldn’t. All of this is the embodiment of the part of the authorities, and I repeat, the part of them that really is criminal. And your friend [former Deputy PM Yuliya] Tymoshenko, who is on an international wanted list. Everything you said about me is simply a blatant lie. I am a believer - and you often talk about morality - I have often asked God to forgive you for your sin. And I thought, maybe that was because you were ill, and your emotions, as you said, got the better of you. I would really like that you understand me as a human. So I have got the blessing of the old men on Mount Athos, in Jerusalem, and here in Ukraine. And without their blessing I would not have run for presidency. I felt people’s support. And I am absolutely confident that our future is not a walk in the park. And we know that we must work round the clock - and we did, and all the ordinary people know that only by their work can they earn their future. I believe in our common victory, and I believe that Ukraine will win.
[Moderator] Thank you, dear participants in the debate. Before saying goodbye, I would like to ask you if you have any complaints about the national TV company or the presenter?
[Yanukovych] I don’t, personally.
[Moderator] And you, Mr Yushchenko?
[Yushchenko] I don’t.
[Moderator] Because today information was published on an Internet web site that your moderator is a media assassin. I hope you do not share this view. That was published by Our Ukraine [bloc, led by Yushchenko]. In that case I sincerely thank you for taking part in the debate.
[Yanukovych, interrupting] Thank you, Mr Moderator.
[Presenter] Thank you, dear viewers. This was the final TV debate in the runoff round between presidential candidates, Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych.
[Yanukovych, interrupting] Goodbye.
[Moderator] Ukraine, make your choice.