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Monday, October 22, 2012

The upcoming parliamentary elections in Ukraine

Ukrainian Parliament

On Sunday, 28 October 2012, Ukrainian citizens will head to the thousands of polling station across the country and also abroad to take part in the parliamentary elections and to vote for the new Parliament. It will be the first parliamentary elections during the time of the rule of Victor Yanukovich, Ukrainian current President, and there will be also the first elections since 1998 where the prominent oppositional leader and the country’s ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko won’t participate due to her trial and imprisonment.

Those parliamentary elections are extremely important for Ukraine and for its future relations with the world, especially with the Western countries, as the conducting of the democratic, fair and transparent elections, the results of the polls and the following actions of the future Parliament will be among the most decisive conditions for the future of Ukraine and EU.

Here is some information regarding the issue of the Ukrainian parliamentary elections to be held on 28 October.

The rules of choosing the Parliament members

It is worth mentioning here that Ukrainian election law has been changed in November 2011 when the ruling parties and also the majority of the oppositional political forces voted for the mixed voting system.

There are 450 seats in Ukrainian Parliament chosen for the term of 5 years. According to the new election law the half of those seats, so 225 of them, will be distributed on the proportion basis among the political parties taking part in the elections. The party should receive at least 5% of the votes to enter the Parliament. In addition to that it is forbidden for the political blocks and unities to take part in the election. Another half of the seats will be distributed in the majoritarian single-mandate districts. There are two possibilities for the candidates to run in the districts: either as the members of the political parties or as the individuals, so as the independent candidates.

The parties which run for the Parliament’s seats

87 political parties and powers run for the seats in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Ukraine this year. As always there are only a few strong and prominent political powers, but the majority of the parties running in the elections are marginal and not very popular in the country. For example, there is a political party which has only two members, or there is even a political party of the retirees which has actually no retires in its lists. But of course only a few parties will be able to receive those 5% of votes which are necessary for entering the Parliament or to get the seats through the majoritarian districts.

Victor Yanukovich, Ukrainian President
The most powerful and influential forces in these elections are the ruling Party of Regions and the oppositional forces, such as Batkivshchyna Party (Homeland) and UDAR. The Party of Regions is associated with the current Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovish as he came from this party. The Batkivshchyna (Homeland) Party is the party of Yulia Tymoshenko, prominent Ukrainian oppositional leader and ex-Prime Minister who is currently imprisoned and facing the trial. But Yulia Tymoshenko herself, the same as Yury Lutsenko, other oppositional leader and ex-Minister of Interior, who is in the jail too, cannot run for the seats during these elections, according to the High Court’s decision. As the forming of the political blocs are forbidden during the upcoming election a lot of prominent oppositional figures run for Parliament as the members of this political party (for example Arseny Yatsenyuk).

The good chances for the victory and the good results at the upcoming elections have the ruling Party of Regions and also some oppositional forces, among them the aforementioned Batkivshchyna (Homeland) Party and also UDAR, Ukraine Forward! and Svoboda (Freedom) Party.

UDAR is the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for the Reforms and is headed by Vitaly Klitchko, famous Ukrainian boxer. The name of the party refers also to the Ukrainian word “The Hit”. This party is a strong contender to the ruling Party of Regions too.

Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukrainian
ex-Prime Minister and prominent
oppositional leader
The Party Ukraine Forward! is headed by the young Ukrainian politician Natalia Korolevska. It’s the self-proclaimed oppositional and democratic party with the young team with the good perspectives. Natalia Korolevska was the member of Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna (Homeland) Party but she was excluded from it at the beginning of 2012 due to the accusations of her cooperation with the authorities.

Svoboda (Freedom) is the nationalistic and ultra-right party led by Oleg Tyagnybok, young but already famous in Ukraine politician known for his nationalistic and also anti-communist rhetoric. His party has good chances too as it is very popular predominantly in Western Ukraine.

Those prominent oppositional forces, Batkivshchyna (Homeland), UDAR and Svoboda (Freedom), are currently holding the negotiations about the future blocs and the candidates in the majoritarian districts.

The election campaigns and the promises of the parties

It’s worth mentioning that the pre-election programs of all the main parties and powers are generally similar in many moments. Among the main issues of the future policies are the economic development, economic and social reforms, rising the living standards, increasing the salaries and social payments such as pension, the reforming of the educational and medical systems etc. But of course there are some differences between those programs.

Arseny Yatsenyuk, one od the leaders of the
oppositional party Homeland
Another important moment that there is actually lack of information regarding issue of the political programs and their full texts as the access to them is not so easy. Most of the information about the parties and political powers is known from their election campaigns and media advertisement which is predominantly fairly negative and contains the accusations of the rival powers. The only one political power which doesn’t use this condemnatory narrative is the party of Natalia Korolevska.

The currently ruling Party of Regions builds its campaign predominantly on the accusations of the oppositional forces and particularly so called Orange Forces. The Party of Regions opposes their “stability” to the “chaos” and “crisis” of the times when the parties of Yulia Tymoshenko and other Orange forces were in power (2007-2010). The ruling party also uses freely the fact of organizing and conducting of Euro 2012 as one of the greatest efforts of the Party of Regions. Among the main promises of the party are the program for supporting of the local gas and other resources suppliers and the lowering of the energy import, the cancelling of the conscription after 2014 and granting Russian the status of the second state’s language (this is one of the most tense and contradictory issues among the citizens of Ukraine which causes a lot of argues and discussions). Regarding the issue of the foreign policy of Ukraine Party of Regions says it is willing to develop Ukraine’s relations with USA, EU countries, China and Russia. It’s also worth mentioning that the main foreign partner for the Party of Regions is the neighboring Russia, and its influence is already felt in Ukraine. Party of Regions also promises the Association of Ukraine with the EU but insists Ukraine won’t be a member of any military unions or blocs.

Vitaly Klitchko, leader of the oppositional party UDAR
The main opponent of the ruling party is Batkivshchyna (Homeland). Their main purpose is fighting with the real evil which is from their point of view the ruling political power. The leaders of Homeland even promise to declare impeachment to the President Victor Yanukovich. Among other election promises of the oppositional party are the cancelling of the immunity for the deputies, ministers and other authorities, the dismissing of the current Constitutional Court, releasing of all the political prisoners and liquidation of the crisis in the relations between Ukraine and EU countries. The oppositional party is willing to raise the living standards in Ukraine, to increase the salaries to the European level, to reform the system of education granting the free access to it to all the students etc. Homeland party promises also the negotiations with the EU and the signing of the Association Agreement and the simplifying of the visas regime.

Another prominent oppositional party, UDAR (led by Vitaly Klitchko), avoids in its election campaign the tense moments such as the language issue or the foreign relations. Their program and promises aim to target the majority of the voters and their interests. Thus, among the election’s promises are the fight with the corruption, the reforms of the social sphere, the increasing of the living standards and also the laws which will give more chances for the average Ukrainians to participate in the political process with the possibility of vetoing some authorities’ decisions etc.

Natalia Korolevska, leader of the oppositional
party Ukraine Forward!
The ultra-right nationalistic party of Oleg Tyagnybok Svoboda (Freedom) concentrates on the national issues such as Ukrainian language, traditions, history and Ukrainian national self-identification. The main motto of the election campaign is “The hand won’t shake to change everything for the Ukrainians”. Anti-Russian and also anti-communist rhetoric is also very strong in their program.

The political party Our Ukraine which is popular as one of the main Orange forces of 2004 Revolution and is associated with Ukrainian ex-President Victor Yushschenko promises to develop the local economy and agricultural sector and calls for supporting the local producers and cutting the import. Their election campaign is rich on the using of national Ukrainian symbolic. But on the eve of the elections the campaign of Our Ukraine became more aggressive and accuses its political opponents, both the ruling party and the oppositional forces.

Victor Yushchenko, Ukrainian ex-President and
leader of the party Our Ukraine
Another prominent political party which also has some chances for entering the Parliament is Communist Party of Ukraine. This party was in the parliamentarian majority since the presidency of Victor Yanukovich (2010). Their main calls are the fighting with the “oligarchs” and with the “capitalist decline”. The alternative to the capitalist rules is the returning to the ideals of the communist times, and even the media campaign of CPU is built according to the tradition of USSR propaganda sometimes even using the same slogans. Generally the campaign of the Ukrainian communists is fairly aggressive. As for the interior policies, the communists promise to give Russian the status of the second state’s language, but unlike the ruling Party of Regions the communists call for the national referendum regarding the language issue. They also speak for the strengthening of the “national sovereignty” of Ukraine what they somehow see as the deeper and closer cooperation with Russia and signing the agreement about the economic union. The Communist party also speaks against the further cooperation with the IMF (International Monetary Fund).

Thus those are the main political powers running for the upcoming parliamentary elections and expecting to receive the needed 5% of the votes. Other parties and unities are mostly marginal and not popular within Ukraine.

As for the majoritarian and individual candidates they are focusing more on the concrete problems and issues of their region and on the interests of their potential voters.

Sociological polls’ results

The results of the elections are difficult to predict as there are still a lot of undecided voters. But several sociological research groups have been conducting their polls to study the situation on the eve of the elections.

Petro Simonenko, leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine
The results of the most trusted sociological groups show that the ruling Party of Regions has all the chances to remain in power and to win the first place in the parliamentary elections. The Batkivshchyna (Homeland) and UDAR parties possibly will follow the ruling power. Communist Party of Ukraine can enter the Parliament too, according to the polls’ results. Svoboda (Freedom) Party and Ukraine Forward! would probably receive less than needed 5% votes and won’t enter the Parliament.

The results of the September polls showed that nearly 21% of the voters would choose the Party of Regions. Homeland Party would probably get around 17% and UDAR nearly 13%. More than 9% of votes could be given to the communists. Nearly 15% of voters still didn’t take a decision whom to vote.

The results of the October polls showed a little bit different picture. The Party of Regions is still on the first place; Vitaly Klitchko’s UDAR is the second one with around 16% followed by Homeland with more than 15%. According to this poll Svoboda (Freedom) could also receive more than 5% which are needed for entering the Parliament.

Will the upcoming elections be fair and transparent? The possible future of Ukraine after the elections

We would remind here that EU and US representatives have been calling for the conducting of fair and transparent democratic elections in Ukraine. The process of the elections, the results and the following actions of the future Parliaments are among the most important and decisive conditions on the path towards the European integration of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich also stated that the elections should be transparent and all the political parties should have the equal chances for their campaign and free access to the media sources etc. The special web-cameras were bought for the controlling of the election’s process.

Oleg Tyagnybok, leader of the nationalist Freedom party
But according to the sociological polls more than half of Ukrainians have doubts that the elections will be fair and transparent. A lot of citizens are sure that the elections would be held with the violations. Even if the voting process at the polling stations would be fair the huge violations are expected to take place during the counting the votes, think a lot of average Ukrainians.

It’s also worth mentioning that the local and international observers have already found and documented several violations during the election campaign. Most of the documented violations were committed by the ruling party, such as wide use of the administrative resources, the direct agitation on TV and in the media sources and even some cases of bribery and giving the gifts to the potential voters.

EU and other international observers and the politicians have some doubts regarding the holding of the upcoming elections, they also express deep concern over the situation with the human rights violations, freedom of expression, political repressions and selective justice in the country. But there is hope that the electoral process will be transparent and Ukraine will continue its cooperation with the EU and other countries.

Thus the upcoming parliamentary elections which will take place on 28 October 2012 will become the real democracy test for Ukraine and the results of the polls will have a great impact on the development of the future relations between Ukraine and the international community.