Populists will do whatever it takes to come to power including using lies and deceit. We have seen this in the British Brexit referendum where lies were spread by the Lave campaign and in the case of Donald Trump, he cannot exist without falsifying reality, exaggerating and lying.
The reason for large amounts of doubt in the minds of Ukrainian voters is because Yulia Tymoshenko has long been seen as a politician who will do and say anything to take power. Again, this is the same as populists in Europe and the US who also make promises that cannot be met and lie without any limitations.
Since 2017, Vox Ukraine has ranked every six months the top liars in Ukrainian politics and in the top five are populists. Yulia Tymoshenko always comes first followed by three Opposition Bloc MPs Yuriy Boyko, Vadym Rabinovych and Oleksandr Vilkul. While we should not be surprised by three former pro-Russian Party of Regions leaders being in the top five liars in Ukrainian politics, what should concern Ukrainian voters is how can a supposedly pro-European politician (Tymoshenko) be ranked in first place.
This is how Vox Ukraine explained why Tymoshenko is the biggest liar in Ukrainian politics. Tymoshenko, leader of the Batkivshchina (Fatherland) party, always comes out on top. In the first two months of the Vox Ukraine project they collected 46 checkable fact-based citations from Tymoshenko:
‘Of these, only four contained no lies or manipulations — that is, less than 10%. Three out of the four true quotations were reiterations of the information that, according to UN data, 60% of the people in Ukraine are below the poverty line. The UN really said so; however, we couldn’t find any information on how the organization calculated the percentage or how it defined the poverty line.’ And Tymoshenko was being at this level of untruthfulness prior to the 2019 election campaign during which it is certain her lying would dramatically increase.
Vox Ukraine continued:
‘In the course of the project, the fact-checkers performed a content analysis, evaluating the connotation (emotional coloring) of politicians’ statements. 95% of all the quotes from Tymoshenko appeared to be negatively charged. “Impoverishment”, “genocide”, “extermination of the people” — these epithets that Tymoshenko likes to use so much have already become memes in social networks.’ It is this kind of low level populism that makes Tymoshenko’s rhetoric so similar to the pro-Russian populism of the former Party of Regions and now Opposition Bloc.
Tymoshenko is an expert in manipulating real facts to suit her populist argument. As Vox Ukraine write: ‘The politician’s favourite rhetorical technique is to take correct statistical data and distort it beyond recognition.’ Vox Ukraine go into more detail about Tymoshenko’s manipulations:
‘Tymoshenko is a long-term professional politician and so she corroborates her statements with statistics: 70% of her quotes contain data. Most frequently, she uses correct, rather than imaginary, statistics. Why, then, is there so little truth in her words? Patent untruth can be found in 26% of Tymoshenko’s statements. Manipulations were discovered in nearly half of Batkivshchyna leader’s quotations.’
Tymoshenko acts very much like Soviet Communist party leaders in manipulating and fabricating ‘information’ and in this sense is at the top of her class in producing fake news. As Vox Ukrane write, ‘Tymoshenko’s quotes can be used as the basis for manipulation guidelines:
- omits some of the information;
- substitutes notions;
- overstates or understates things;
- improperly compares data.
Vox Ukraine give a concrete example of Tymoshenko’s expertise in producing fake news:
‘A striking example of Tymoshenko’s manipulation style is the way she described the pension reform this autumn. She said the authorities had raised the Ukrainians’ retirement age to 65 and reduced the pension calculation coefficient for each year worked.’ Tymoshenko as usual manipulated the facts to suit her populist agenda of attacking President Petro Poroshenko at all costs:
‘That much is true. Except for a few details. Ukrainians will retire at 65 only starting from 2028. Second, the coefficient has indeed been reduced, but at the same time there is an increase in the salary rates used in the calculation of pensions. That is the way in which the pensions of those who retired at different times in the past are brought in compliance with the new pensions. That is, Tymoshenko deliberately omits a part of the information.’
Tymoshenko also makes many factual mistakes either deliberately (while producing fake news) or because of incompetence in her election team:
‘Quite frequently, Tymoshenko’s statements contain arithmetic errors. For example, she says that the 1.7-fold reduction of GDP in dollars amounts to minus 70%, and that the 1.35-fold decrease of the pension calculation coefficient means minus 35%. In reality, however, the real figures are -41.5% in the former case and -26% in the latter case.
Tymoshenko is the ultimate populist because she is a Homo Sovieticus in her mindset. While populists in Europe and the US routinely lie, because Tymoshenko was born in the closed Soviet city of Dnipropetrovsk she lies far easier and on steroids.