When I went to vote in the Kiev city council elections Sunday, the ballot I got had a candidate on it named Darth Leonidovych Vader.
Odessa’s news websites say local elections throughout that region featured 15 Darth Volodymyrovych Vaders, six Darth Mykolayevich Vaders, four Darth Oleksandrovych Vaders and one woman: Darth Oleksandrovna Vader.
Apparently, an Emperor Palpatine won a seat in an Odessa suburb.
These are all people who legally changed their names to run as Star Wars characters in local elections. Now, a video of a fully-costumed Chewbacca being arrested by Odessa police is making the rounds on social media worldwide.
Here's the backstory to the incident: Darth Vader ran in full costume for the mayor of Odessa. He brought a Chewbacca along to vote, both of them looking like they just came from the set of "Star Wars." Chewbacca was spotted driving a car, and the cops on hand asked him to produce some ID. He had none, and a spectacular Chewbacca detention and handcuffing scene ensued, captured on video by an onlooker.
The police took Chewbacca to court, where he was fined the equivalent of about $8. In Chewbacca’s defense, Darth Vader said he was a pet, lived in Odessa’s catacombs and couldn’t possibly have any documents.
Yes, it's absurd and amusing, a testament to Odessa's fame as a font of witty humor.
So too is a recent transformation of Odessa's Lenin statue into Darth Vader — the artist Alexander Milov pretty much only had to cover Lenin’s head with the iconic helmet and "Grandpa," as Soviet children used to call Lenin, transformed into Luke's Father. Milov said it was just part of an effort to rid Ukraine of Communist symbols.
But something tells me, and other suspicious Ukrainian voters, that this political pranksterism has been a little too easy to pull off. And given all the woes Ukraine faces, from war to economic collapse, having a sideshow of "Star Wars" characters running for office may not be exactly what we need.
In September, the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice officially registered the Darth Vader Block as a political party, its leader listed as Princess Leia.
Previously, the Vaders ran on the ticket of something called the Internet Party: Last year, a Darth Vader ran for president, and later in 2014, several Vaders ran for parliament. Funding behind the Ukrainian Darth Vaders has never been clear. Ukrainian journalists who've tried to dig into the mystery have mostly hit a wall, transparency not being a strong aspect of Ukrainian politics, despite attempts at reform.
But given that Darth Vader first appeared on the Ukrainian political scene when ousted president Victor Yanukovych was still in power, many suspect politicians close to him created this movement.
The original idea was to lure young voters who otherwise might be voting for the opposition. And it's worked: Many young voters say they've lost trust in the “new” (reformist) politicians and they’ll vote for Darth Vader out of protest or just for fun. They may in fact be supporting what remains of the Yanukovych camp.
None of the Darth Vaders on the ballot won in this year’s local elections.
But elections in Ukraine are frequent and, according to Darth Vader’s statement, his party “will now let Ukrainians, who always face a choice between two evils, vote for the ultimate good.”
The question I am left with is this: who is Luke's real father? Darth Vader? Or Soviet "Grandpa" Lenin, whose political descendants may be seeking a return to power via some very odd means?