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In Ukraine's Capital, Mayoral Campaigns Offer Hugs and Sermons

Looking for votes among Kyiv's skeptical evangelicals.

Kyiv mayoral elections, scheduled for Sunday, almost seem like a niceness contest. The subway TVs run clips of one of the candidates and his supporters walking around with "free hugs" signs, giving free hugs to willing passers-by. One channels a lovesick Mr. Darcy in huge banners posted on the sides of buildings. And prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko smiles slightly behind Oleksandr Turchynov in a million pamphlets that look like the cover of a romance novel, complete with a little red heart. The current frontrunners seem to be boxing champion Vitali Klitschko (who enjoys a certain amount of star power), and the incumbent, Leonid Chernovetsky.

While the election may look like a political version of Ukranian Idol, it is also revealing deeper issues about Ukranian attitudes toward democracy and religion.

Ukraine's election is both a symptom and an outcome of the country's comparatively rapid process of democratization. The national parliament called early elections only two months ago, the short ...

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