Maragana Girl Ch. 28bycaligula97236©
Chapter 28 -- Candidate Vladim Dukov
By the beginning of October, Upper Danubia had reached an important crossroads in its history. The "Progressives", now aided by corporate campaign donors and foreign professional political advisors, were well organized and campaigning aggressively. Their advisors had developed a slick advertising campaign against the Party of the Duchy in particular and against traditional Danubian values in general. Their candidate was a charismatic banking executive from Rika Chorna. He had a flamboyant personality and shady past, but was a gifted speaker and accustomed to appearing on television.
The opposition candidate mobilized the anger of the eastern part of the country into a populist movement of uneducated voters to oust the country's old leaders once and for all. It looked like Upper Danubia was about to be thrust, completely and fully, into a global economy of which its people understood nothing. The capitol's intellectuals saw disaster looming in the frantic rush for change, but were unsure what to do about it.
The first priority for the conservatives was to choose a viable candidate for Prime Minister, someone respected and not associated with the recently defeated government. Finally, in a closed meeting of top conservative leaders, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court suggested an unlikely candidate, a complete political outsider he had confronted many times in court when he was still a prosecutor. Most of the others reluctantly agreed. It was a choice being made out of desperation.
Two weeks after the Equinox, as Kim and Tatiana were reading over their first major college assignments for the year, a group of old-guard Danubian political leaders entered the office. The two Apprentices were a bit awestruck, since the visitors included the country's ex-Prime Minister, several current Cabinet Ministers, and even the country's Grand Duke, who was a direct descendent of King Vladik the Defender.
The men formed an archaic and pompous group, but they greeted Dukov fully understanding the future of their country was at stake. The group also had enough common sense to realize their time had passed. They no longer were in any position to lead the Danubian people, which was why they had come to the Spokesman's office.
Dukov came out into the waiting area, a bit taken aback by the presence of men to whom he owed allegiance as a public official. He realized that was about to change when the group saluted him. Dukov invited his unexpected guests into the back office, while Kim and the two secretaries scrambled to find enough chairs, make tea, and gather up whatever refreshments they could find from other offices. They quickly entered the back room, distributed seating, teacups, and plates of sweet rolls. The three assistants then saluted and backed out. Kim glanced at Vladim Dukov, sitting at his desk. He looked very nervous.
Kim returned to her reading, although she hardly could concentrate, knowing something very important was happening on the other side of that closed door just a couple of meters away. After two hours the dignitaries came back out, as the three women stood to salute them yet again. Kim noticed the visitors seemed to leave in a much better mood than they had been when they went in.
As soon as the political leaders left, the three women rushed into Dukov's back office. He was standing behind his desk, pale and with a stunned look on his face. After a moment he seemed to partially collect his thoughts.
"I need to meet with this city's other Spokespersons," he began quietly in Danubian. "We will reassign most of my clients, except...well, three...three who I think I...absolutely need to keep. I...I need to have you train under someone else, maybe Spokesman Havlakt...because...I am...I will not be available. And...Tatiana...and Kimberly, I am leaving this office to you."
Dukov turned to his secretaries.
"You need to help me transfer the files. The path of my life...is not to be a Spokesman anymore."
Kim and her companions assumed the worst, that perhaps Dukov had been fired for his political activities. "Spokesman...what happened? Are you in trouble?"
"Trouble? Yes, in a manner of speaking. I am in deep trouble, because the tranquility of my life has just ended. I have been called upon to change my path, and I must serve."
For the first time during the time she had known him, Kim saw Dukov a bit disoriented. He stared straight ahead as he spoke.
"Kimberly, I believe you have an expression in your country: 'no favor goes unpunished' or something similar to that, is that not so?"
"It's 'no good deed goes unpunished', Spokesman Dukov."
"Yes, yes. 'No good deed goes unpunished.' That is indeed the expression you have." Dukov took a very deep breath and continued. "I am not a politician. I never wanted to be a politician. But...now, because of what I wrote earlier this year, and that speech I gave last month...I...have become...a politician. The ex-Prime Minister and the Grand Duke...they want me to lead the Party of the Duchy...in the upcoming election. If they...I mean we...win, I would become this country's next Prime Minister."
"Spokesman Dukov, that's great! Congratulations!"
Dukov angrily shook his head. "This is not something I want to do, Kimberly! At first I refused. I have never been a member of the Party of the Duchy. I do not support much of what they have promoted. In fact, I supported the 'Progressives' until all those foreign advisors took over and poisoned their souls. I want reform, but not reform as the foreigners define it. We need to make our own path for reform, not walk in one laid out by foreign money."
Dukov seemed to recover from the shock of the sudden upheaval of his life. His mind began focusing on his new task, to become a Spokesman for the Danubian nation.
"I do not like the 'Nobility'. I never liked them and I let them know it. I warned those leaders I would demand changes in their party's policies if they insist on running me as their candidate. The conservatives do not really like me either, but they seem to think I am the only public figure from Danube City with enough respect in the east to win the next election. For once they seem more concerned about the Duchy's future than about themselves. They conceded to my wishes on the policy matters, which gave me no choice other than to accept the candidacy. I now am obligated to win an election...as the candidate for the conservatives."
Dukov's mood seemed to shift, as he looked out his window at the distant mountains that rose above the housetops of Danube City. Those same mountains separated the capitol from the Duchy's interior and divided the country in more ways than one. The Spokesman's voice sounded much more distant to his three assistants as he concluded:
"There is much anger in the east, and right now it is a very destructive anger. The government never really understood the rage that arose from all those burnt villages is quite justified, not until it was too late. By ignoring what happened in the east last year the Prime Minister forfeited his right to govern. That is what I told him, and he actually accepted my rebuke. However, the message I must convey to the eastern provinces is that destroying ourselves as a nation is not the way to address that anger. We must not abolish who we are just because of a fire and some foreign money. I will speak for both past and the future of our country, and I can only hope enough of our people will listen."
With that Spokesman Vladim Dukov began the complicated task of ending his career. Within an hour he was giving an impromptu speech to the city's other Spokespersons and seeking their approval to leave his position. Following the official blessing by Dukov's peers, the staff from the 20 offices spent a very long night dividing up his caseload and transporting files.
The following morning Spokesman Vladim Dukov officially turned in his resignation, as did his two secretaries. They would follow him to his new position and cast their fortunes with his. Shortly afterwards he appeared on television in the National Parliament as the official leading candidate for the Party of the Duchy. He lost no time making everyone realize he planned to take both the party and Upper Danubia in a totally new direction and in detail laid out policy changes he planned to pursue if elected.
Spokesman Vladim Dukov proved to be a formidable candidate and a huge asset to the faltering Party of the Duchy during the days following his appointment. His years in court made him a good public speaker and skilled debater. He had a dignified, subdued presence that contrasted with his flamboyant opponent. At first the opposition's foreign advisors scoffed at facing a public defense attorney as their main opponent. However, within a week they began to view Dukov's candidacy with some concern, because it turned out he was indeed the one public figure with enough credibility to possibly win an election for the "Nobility".
The campaign quickly got ugly. Dukov found himself being attacked for not only his political beliefs, but also for his personal life. The public learned he had been a convicted criminal for five years, and learned why. It turned out he and his wife had been members of a radical group of dissident students 30 years before. Oh, yes, "Vladim the Subversive" may look serious and quiet, but secretly he has extremely anti-democratic and anti-free market ideas. The past doesn't lie.
Dukov countered by explaining, in detail, the student group, his role in it, the conditions of his sentence, and how his personal and political beliefs had evolved since he was sentenced. Instead of trying to avoid the issue, he agreed the question was a reasonable one, and tried to address it as honestly as he could. The attack against his past backfired to some extent, because in answering the questions about his early political activities Dukov had the opportunity to explain why he believed what he believed and how his ideas had formed over time.
The election brought out a serious division in Danubian society. The division between the two parties was not just geographical and ideological, but also professional. The ex-Spokesman's team consisted mostly of legal experts, a retired police commander, two provincial governors, and several judges, while the "Progressives" top group mostly consisted of economists, stockbrokers, and bankers. As for Danube City's businesses, the owners were evenly divided between the "Nobility" and the "Progressives". Older, more established businesses and trade unions mostly supported Dukov, but younger business owners, entrepreneurs, and importers mostly supported the opposition.
The owner of the Socrates Club and the owners of several music stores pledged their support to Dukov. They genuinely believed that Dukov was the best candidate, but also had a personal interest in seeing the "Nobility" win the election. If the Greater Danubian Progressive Party won and proceeded with its plan to build prisons, the decades-old Socrates Club would be put out of business, with all of its clients locked up. Dukov enjoyed additional support from the music storeowners largely for the same reason. With criminals in confinement, the tradition of Danubian musical groups would disappear, and with it, the entire independent Danubian music scene.
Immediately after ex-Spokesman Vladim Dukov announced his candidacy as the leader of the Party of the Duchy, Sergekt called Dima and Eloisa to discuss what role, if any "Socrates' Mistresses" might have in the upcoming election. The couple adamantly wanted to provide whatever assistance to Dukov's candidacy possible. They met with the band's other 13 members that evening to make sure no one had any objections to participating in Dukov's campaign. The meeting was mostly formality, because the band members were personally indebted to Dukov from the time they had been criminals. All of them enthusiastically supported the suggestion the band support Dukov's candidacy.
Eloisa, Dima and Sergekt went to Dukov's campaign office to meet with him. They walked though a barrage of reporters and conservative dignitaries, then saluted as they greeted him. Dukov greeted the band's two leaders with enthusiasm. He made no effort to conceal his gratitude. His candidacy needed any help it could get, and the support of Upper Danubia's most popular band was a tremendous asset to his campaign. The support of "Socrates' Mistresses" offset some of the publicity the "Progressives" were receiving from their foreign donors. Sergekt promised performances in four different provincial capitols and a final one in the capitol.
Dukov's candidacy changed Kim's personal plans, the most important of which was the date she and Sergekt planned to get married. At first Kim wondered how she could salvage her wedding plans now that Upper Danubia's political situation had so completely intruded into her life. It was obvious Dukov would not be able to take time out from his campaign to attend her wedding, but to Kim it was extremely important that he and his family participate. Finally she accepted the obvious, there was no way she could get married in October and have the wedding she wanted. Marrying Sergekt would have to wait. Kim brought up the problem to her fiancée, who sadly agreed. They could not get married until after the election.
Kim called Cindy to ask her to postpone her family's trip. Cindy changed the reservations their parents, but decided to keep her own reservation. She was working on her M.A in political science, and decided to be present for Upper Danubia's election. She commented to Kim. "You guys are going up against American political advisors. Some of those consultants are people I've actually heard of. Let me come out and see if I can do anything to help Dukov's campaign." Kim agreed, and a couple of days later picked up Cindy at the airport.
Cindy brought with her a suitcase of political science journal articles and campaign guidebooks to prepare some briefings for Dukov. She spent hours in the former Spokesman's vacant office watching the opposition's campaign ads and having Kim translate them for her. As Kim watched her sister pour over her research material and prepare PowerPoint presentations, she realized what Cindy wanted to accomplish. Her ambitions went way beyond simply collecting research material for her Master's thesis. Kim's sister wanted to take part in altering the course of history.
Finally, on October 18, Kim's birthday and the date she had hoped to get married, she instead sat with Cindy in a room of Dukov and other Party of the Duchy dignitaries as she gave her first presentation. Cindy spoke with confidence about campaign strategies as Kim translated. Dukov listened attentively to the young woman, who for free, was giving him the political advice he needed to counter his well-funded opposition.
The week after Cindy gave her first briefing, "Socrates Mistresses" accompanied Vladim Dukov to Rika Chorna and gave a concert during a party rally. The presence of Upper Danubia's most popular band helped Dukov's cause in that city tremendously. However, when the band got back to the Danubian capitol, there was trouble waiting for them. A group of attorneys from the band's record label had traveled to Danube City and demanded to speak alone with Kim. At first the owner of her music store, Spokesman Havlakt, and Dima wanted to accompany her. She decided no, I'll see them myself and find out what they want.
Kim sat in a conference room full of rather sinister-looking older professionals. This group was a bit of a shock to her, given that she had always been treated well, and in a friendly manner, by the representatives of her firm. The lawyers quickly made it clear why they were in Danube City. They explained to Kim that by supporting Dukov "Socrates Mistresses" had embarrassed the company. There were very important business interests depending on a victory by the Greater Danubian Progressive Party. "We thought you had things figured out, Miss Lee. Our associates are advising the 'Progressives' and paying for their campaign. We have the Embassy involved. And here you and your little criminal friends go off and sing for that group of has-beens. What are you trying to do to us?"
Kim sat in shock as the lawyers made it very clear that under no circumstances were the members of "Socrates Mistresses" to offer any further support to Vladim Dukov. They insinuated that Kim would end up in serious legal trouble in the US were she not to adhere to their advice, and the group would lose its contract.
Kim walked out of the meeting in shock, while the lawyers were confident they had made their point and there would be no further trouble from "Socrates' Mistresses". Alone, Kim left the hotel and walked past the old city wall. She continued through the quiet streets of the capitol to the Plaza of the Ancients, her mind in turmoil over how to react to this sudden sinister turn of events. Then, by pure chance, she ran across Dima, who was visiting some former co-workers at his old restaurant. As Dima joined her, Kim wondered if it really was chance, or fate, that had led her to Eloisa's long-suffering fiancée. She told him about the meeting, and about the threat to the group's contract. His response somewhat surprised her. There was no hesitation whatsoever in his voice.
"Kimberly, you should understand that the path of our lives is to sacrifice to safeguard our honor, our friendships, and our nation. We will stand with Spokesman Dukov and we will suffer the consequences, just like we stood by Eloisa and suffered the consequences. What I believe is the path of our lives is to be Danubian, not a bunch of rich singers."
"But...just like that? You really don't care about...the band?"
"I care about the band. But without our honor, our music means nothing. I never believed it was the path of our lives to be rich. I never felt good about that, all those foreign concerts and all that money. Now the money is going away, and I'm glad about it, because there won't be anything left except the music and our honor. You can ask any of the others, if you think I'm not speaking for them. What happened at your meeting doesn't matter to me at all. Tomorrow we're going back east and we're singing, no matter what the record label says."
Kim nodded. Dima had told her, deep down, what she really wanted to hear. Finally she responded "...then I'm one of you...I'm Danubian, and I'll sing for Spokesman Dukov."
The next day Kim was supposed to have a follow-up meeting with her record label's attorneys. She missed that meeting to travel to the other end of Upper Danubia to sing at a campaign rally for the Party of the Duchy. She dedicated the final song of the concert, the English rendition of "The Wall that Divides my Soul", to the corporate lawyers by name. That night the infuriated legal team left Danube City to return to New York.
The recording company responded to the group's arrogance by filing several lawsuits against the members of the band, and against Kim in particular. When the corporate lawyers called her to announce the pending suit, Kim's answer stunned them: "Well, you can sue me all you want, but if you do, you'd better hope your candidates win. If Spokesman Dukov wins, you won't collect shit from me."
The company announced the distribution of the group's music would stop immediately. Overnight CD's from "Socrates' Mistresses" vanished from music stores worldwide. Radio stations stopped playing the popular music to the ire of the group's many fans. Even DVD's from the Gaul movie were pulled from distribution.
The day after the lawsuits were announced and their group's music was pulled from the shelves, Kim and Eloisa gave the first out of a series of press conferences to explain the group's position and why they felt helping Vladim Dukov's campaign by touring for him was so important. During the conferences Eloisa and Kim showed themselves as stubborn and determined young women, loyal to ideas and principles much more important to them than their careers or contracts. The press conferences made the group's die-hard fans support them even more, because now they had rebelled against the international music establishment. The music from "Socrates' Mistresses" suddenly became subversive and underground due to the group's ostracism from the mainstream music industry, and very much in demand.