The elections in Ukraine: What’s next?

  
Disclaimer: all opinions in this column reflect the views of their authors’, not of EurActiv.com PLC.

The Ukranian Parliamentary elections on Sunday (28 October) will not trigger improved relations between the EU and Ukraine. In fact they could make them worse, says Roman Rukomeda.

Roman Rukomeda is a political analyst at the Ukrainian Foundation for Democracy “People First”.

"The Ukrainian parliamentary elections on 28 October are interesting for the Ukrainian people and the international community from several perspectives. First of all, these elections can really change the shape of the political balance in the country if Vitali Klitschko's UDAR party and the nationalist union 'Svoboda' (Freedom) receive a large portion of votes.

These two new players could create problems for the current president, Viktor Yanukovych, who could even lose his parliamentary majority, and potentially rival him in the 2015 presidential elections.

Though we have no illusions about the political independence of the new parties as their member lists show a certain dependency on key Ukrainian businessmen, a situation all too familiar in Ukraine.

What do the polls say?

Effective from 18 October, the Ukrainian government forbid polls from being announced ahead of the parliamentary elections. Ratings before that date put Yanukovych's party on top.

The ruling Party of Regions held a majority of some 20-23%. Klitschko's new party, UDAR, short for the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, was sitting in second with around 13-15%. The United Opposition party - made up of imprisoned former prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchina party and Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Front of Changes - came a close third with 13-14%.

The Communist Party of Ukraine occupied the fourth spot in the polls with 9-12%. Svoboda was on the brink of receiving enough votes for parliamentary representation, with approximately 3-6%. Under the current Ukrainian constitution the barrier is 5%. The party Ukrayina - Vpered (Ukraine – forward), led by Nataliya Korolevska, was expected to receive a similar number of votes, notching up  3-5% in the polls.

Analysis

Support for the Party of Regions has fallen by one or two percentage points, down from 25%.

UDAR has risen to the second position, due perhaps to support from voters in Eastern Ukraine. The figures suggest Klitschko has the political clout to be a contender in the 2015 presidential elections.

The United Opposition party lost about 5-8 percentage points, down from 23%, most probably the result of a weak electoral campaign and stronger action by its competitors.

The Communist party of Ukraine led a successful electoral campaign, and as a result may be able to secure more seats in parliament, some 10%.

Svoboda can provoke the rebirth of the nationalist movement in Ukraine and command a strong presence in parliament over the long run.        

Main intrigue of the Elections - a few questions

Will the ruling party secure a majority in parliament and how large will it be? If it is enough for a constitutional majority, will the Party of Regions and Yanukovych be able to make changes to the Constitution? Who will they form a coalition with, the obvious ally being Communist Party?

Will the President Yanukovych try to dismiss the newly elected parliament if the ruling Party of Regions does not have a majority?

Will the Svoboda and Ukrayina-Vpered parties pass the 5% barrier and secure their place in the parliament? If yes, they will support strongly the opposition forces.

Will Klitschko’s UDAR come in second after the Party of Regions? If so, then Klitschko will be able to become an alternative centre of opposition and a prospective candidate in the presidential elections in 2015.

Will there be internal violations during the elections? Will they be enough to provoke massive protests in the general population?

Will the international community – and specifically the EU and the US – consider the elections fair, transparent, and legitimate?

What kind of sanctions could be possible if the elections are not considered legitimate by international observers from the EU and the US?

Most expected violations

The unfair count of electoral bulletins on the district electoral constituencies is expected as the commissions in charge of them do not include representatives from UDAR and Svoboda and are formed by the help of small unknown parties oriented towards the ruling party.

Commentators also foresee the bribery of voters from the majority of candidates from all parties and possible pressure from authorities on citizens before and during the elections.

The direct falsification of voters' bulletins during the counting procedure is another of the expected violations.

Post-election forecast

The parliamentary elections will not trigger better relations between the EU and Ukraine. It could even make bilateral relations worse. But I am almost certain that it will not mark an improvement.

The reason is the absence of real progress in key EU demands, of which fair elections is only one of them. Political persecution is not over yet. Tymoshenko, Lytsenko and some other politicians are in jail despite a positive decision from the European Court on Human Rights regarding the case of Lytsenko.

Key reforms in the economic sphere have not gone through. Ukraine has not yet begun complete cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The investment climate is unacceptable. Human rights are being violated, such as attacks on freedom of speech.

So the EU is expected to take a break in its talks with Ukraine. An EU–Ukraine summit will be held in first half of 2013, depending on the ability of the Ukrainian authorities to move forward on the path of European integration.  

The most EU-oriented parties in the new Ukrainian Parliament would be the UDAR, the United Opposition and Svoboda. The Party of Regions as well as the Communist party will be mostly oriented towards Russia. Klitschko could also be one of the most Europe-oriented politicians. Many big Ukrainian businessmen, who earn their money principally through exports to Europe, are now latently making their bets on Klitschko.

The electoral game is getting close to the start of the second round. As for what will happen - let's wait and see."

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