Election The 2012 Parliamentary Election in Ukraine: Growing Radicalization in Ukrainian Politics Ukraine after the Orange Revolution
The 2012 parliamentary election is an important step towards the presidential election of 2015. Certainly Victor Yanukovych plans to be reelected to a second term. His strategy for the upcoming years will be to neutralize possible competitors. It is therefore unlikely that Julia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lursenko will be freed from prison before the presidential election.
Published on balticworlds.com on december 4, 2012
In 2012, Ukraine and Poland hosted the UEFA European Football Championship. Spending more than €11 billion, Ukraine set a record in spending money on a football tournament. It remains to be seen whether the successful organization of Euro 2012 will boost economic growth, or attract record-breaking investments activity to Ukraine. What can be seen, however, is a very fast reversal of the democratic achievements of the previous six or seven years, which certainly does not make Ukraine more attractive to foreign investors.
This reversal of democracy leads to growth in corruption, the shadow economy (which is already more than one third of GDP), and business environment complexity. After two years of President Victor Janukovych’s tenure, the 2012 election of the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada) may improve or ruin his image and that of his government in the eyes of half the population and of the western European public and political leaders. Today many opposition politicians, civic activists, and independent media find themselves in a very uncomfortable position. Key leaders of the Orange Revolution and leaders of the strongest opposition parties have been removed from political competition. Juriy Lutsenko, the leader of People’s Self-defense Political Party, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment on accusations of negligence in office as Minister of the Interior in Julia Tymoshenko‘s government. Tymoshenko herself, the leader of the All-Ukrainian Union Fatherland (Batkivshchyna) and former Prime Minister, was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and €150 million damages on accusations of incurring large financial losses for Ukraine by failing to negotiate lower prices for natural gas with the Russian energy monopoly Gazprom during the “gas war” of 2008. Opinion polls suggest that 44% of ordinary Ukrainians think the authorities use political repression, and 35% think they don’t. These are not the first politically motivated repressions of opposition leaders in the history of independent Ukraine, but these are much farther-reaching than the 2001 trials, in which Tymoshenko spent 40 days in prison accused of “smuggling Russian natural gas” and tax fraud, while several rank-and-file activists were sentenced to various prison terms after the major campaign for a “Ukraine without Kuchma”.
The Orange Revolution in 2004 had three major and long-term results. First, it demonstrated that opposition parties, civic organizations, and ordinary people can win in peaceful confrontation with conservative parties, ministers, and the president, even against “administrative resources”: the use of state authority to advance a person’s or a political party’s interests in elections. Second, in spite of internal conflicts between the former political allies of the Orange Revolution during the five-year term of President Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine successfully conducted a free and fair parliamentary election in 2006, an early election in 2007, and a presidential election in 2010, in which Victor Yanukovych defeated Julia Tymoshenko. Third, the largest sponsors of the major political parties, who had previously stayed in the shadows, now became public figures and announced their positions; some of them were elected to parliament in 2006. These developments weakened the existing regional clan system. The Orange Revolution was not followed by prosecution of those responsible for election fraud in 2004 or any other politically motivated prosecution of opponents. Presumably this was part of a tacit agreement between the opposing sides in 2004. The victors of the Orange Revolution did not fulfill the expectations of some of their supporters, and had limited success in reforming the country, partly because of insufficient support in parliament and partly because of inner conflicts and an unwillingness to engage in too broad transformations which could reshape regional elites.
Rolling Back Political Reforms and Election Legislation
After the Orange Revolution, the political system in Ukraine was transformed from semi-presidentialism to semi-parliamentarism. This reform significantly limited the authority of the incoming president. It was a political treaty between competitors for political power that made possible a resolution of the escalating civil conflict. The reform was far from perfect and gaps in the new legislation fed conflicts between the president and the prime minister, and the poorly regulated working principles of the parliament resulted in an unstable majority, since individual members could move freely from one group to another, eventually altering the parliamentary majority. This instability of the parliamentary majority and the continuing conflict between Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko and President Viktor Yushchenko, along with the sudden coalition between the Socialist Party and the Party of Regions, eventually culminated in the dissolution of parliament by the president and early an parliamentary election in 2007.
After Viktor Yanukovych’s victory in the presidential election of 2010, his allies in parliament initiated the reversal of the previous political reforms. The Constitutional Court of Ukraine ruled that the “political reform” of 2004–2005 was illegal because the parliament had not fully complied with the legal procedure for constitutional amendments (that is, it had not obtained a statement on the constitutional reform from the constitutional court). The constitutional amendment must therefore be reversed, restoring Ukraine’s semi-presidential political system with very strong presidential authority. In this system, prime minister is appointed by the President with the consent of simple majority in parliament, but the parliament has no direct influence on the composition of the cabinet. The cabinet ministers are selected jointly by the prime minister and president. A simple majority of parliament (that is, 226 or more of the 450 members) may pass a resolution of no confidence in the government to force the resignation of the prime minister and the cabinet.
It was remarkable that in November 2011 both the majority and the opposition in parliament voted for the new electoral law, transforming the electoral system from a proportional to a mixed proportional-majoritarian system, in which 225 members are elected according to a proportional system and 225 elected in single-member constituencies. The law also sets a 5% hurdle for proportional representation and prohibits party blocks. This new law was the result of compromise, and it was a significant improvement over the mixed system that had existed before 2004.
In the 2012 election, five major political parties cleared the 5% barrier on proportional representation and will seat members in Parliament. Smaller parties will also be represented by members elected in the single-member constituencies. As many as 44 members with no party affiliation will have to decide group in parliament they will join. The majority of the smaller parties that participated in the election can be characterized as “virtual” parties, or political projects aimed at weakening the opposition. For instance, Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party, with one seat in the new parliament, opposed the Party of Regions but used its resources especially intensively and aggressively to criticize the large opposition parties. The sources of financing of the virtual parties are obscure, but often they are promoted by the heads of regional administrations appointed by the president, or by the same private companies who also sponsor the Party of Regions.
In all, some 87 political parties presented candidates for constituency election, and 22 of these parties presented lists for proportional election. Before the election, opinion polls suggested that at most five parties would clear the 5% threshold and take seats in parliament. The most successful parties are the Party of Regions, led by Prime Minister Muykola Azarov and President Viktor Yanukovych (opinion polls: 20.1% or 23.3%; exit polls 28–32%; votes in the 2012 parliamentary election: 30%); the United Opposition Fatherland, chaired by Yulia Tymoshenko and Arseniy Yatseniuk (opinion polls: 12.1%; exit polls: 23–24%; 2012 vote: 25.5%); the UDAR party, led by Vitaliy Klychko (opinion polls: 11.5%; exit polls: 13–15%; 2012 vote: 13.9%); the Communist Party, led by Petro Simonenko (opinion polls: 10%; exit polls: 12–13%; 2012 vote: 13.2%); and the Svoboda Party, led by Oleh Tyahnybok (opinion polls: 5.1%; exit polls: 11–12%; 2012 vote: 10.5%). The final composition of the parliament will be known after the remaining 225 members elected by the single-member constituencies have decided which parliamentary group they will join.
The Party of Regions has the largest group in parliament, and its leader Mykola Azarov was nominated by President Viktor Yanukovich in 2010 to serve as Prime Minister of Ukraine. The ideologies of many Ukrainian political parties are very vague, and the Party of Regions is no exception. The party was established in 1997 as a centrist and conservative party. It has good relations with the Russian political party Edinaia Rossiia (United Russia). The renowned expert on Ukrainian politics Andrew Wilson suggests that the Party of Regions is a party of “old guard” businessmen, and in particular the party of Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, the owner of System Capital Management Group and president of the Shakhtar Donetsk football club, the Ukrainian and 2009 UEFA champion. While the party’s ideology remains blurry, its clearest formulations have been presented in reference to foreign policy and regional and cultural policies. The party promotes closer relations with the Russian Federation, supports Ukraine’s integration in Europe, and rejects NATO membership. The party is oriented towards providing more autonomy to the 27 administrative regions of Ukraine. It also authored the new language policy legislation aimed at promoting the Russian language, under the guise of promotion of regional languages. This policy was criticized by Viktor Yanukovich’s opponents as significantly strengthening the influence of Russia and undermining Ukrainian culture and identity. The majority of Party of Regions supporters live in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. These are the regions with the greatest numbers of Russian speakers and Russian-oriented populations, which is also evident in migration flows from these regions to Russia. The author’s online panel study, conducted with support from OMI (Online Market Intelligence) Nordic OY, demonstrated that a majority of young people (57%) in Eastern Ukraine perceive the influence of Russian companies on business in Ukraine positively, and many young people (45%) said that they were ready to emigrate to Russia in search of jobs. Overall, the bulk of supporters of the Party of Regions are over 45 years old and live in east Ukrainian towns. In 2012, the party’s campaign strategy focused on the “successes” of the Mykola Azarov government, and aggressively criticized Tymoshenko’s government and opposition leaders.
A very close ally of the Party of Regions is the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU). The two parties in effect formed a parliamentary majority, in spite of any ideological incompatibility between the presumably liberal party of big business and a party that claims to represent the working class. The CPU upholds the communist ideology of Marxism-Leninism and strongly opposes the Ukrainian nationalist movement. Before 2000, the CPU’s platform didn’t contain a single word about an independent Ukraine; instead the CPU advocates the restoration of the Soviet Union, the nationalization of “strategic” enterprises, and increased social benefits. Like the Party of Regions, CPU gets most of its support from the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, appealing mostly to the older population: 71% of CPU supporters are over 55 years old.
The largest opposition party, the All-Ukrainian Union Fatherland, was established in 1999 by Yulia Tymoshenko and Oleksandr Turchinov. Originally, the ideology of Fatherland was centrist or moderate leftist, its leader Yulia Tymoshenko’s rhetoric is evidently populist (this was especially visible in the work of her governments in 2005 and 2007–2010, with plans to review the results of the earlier privatization of hundreds of companies, increase welfare benefits, etc.) with signs of moderate Ukrainian nationalism. In 2011, Yulia Tymoshenko was imprisoned; this inevitably affected the parliamentary election campaign. Some observers questioned the legitimacy of elections held when opposition leaders are in prison. In 2011, several leading opposition parties decided to join their forces before the 2012 election and create an alliance with Fatherland, calling it United Opposition Fatherland. This alliance includes Fatherland; Front for Change (Front Zmin), led by Arseniy Yatseniuk, a former speaker of parliament and now a spokesman for United Opposition Fatherland; the People’s Movement (Narodnyi Rukh), led by Borys Tarasyuk, the former Foreign Minister; National Self-Defense (Narodna Samooborona); For Ukraine (Za Ukrainu), led by Vyacheslav Kyrylenko; Reforms and Order (Reformy i Poryadok), led by Serhiy Sobolev, the shadow prime minister; and Civil Position (Hromadyanska Pozitsiya), led by Anatoliy Hrytsenko, the former Minister of Defense. Many of these parties are very well known, and some, such as the legendary party People’s Movement, founded by Soviet dissidents, would not win seats in parliament if they stood alone, yet have a very important meaning in the historical memory of many voters. Now the allies have joined their efforts, aiming in particular at wining more seats in the single-member constituencies. Formally it is the Fatherland party that participates in the elections, but in reality it the alliance has brought together many prominent figures of Ukrainian politics, some of whom even represent opposing ideologies. Fatherland and National Self-Defense clearly represent the leftist-populist wing of Ukrainian politics. Their ally Reforms and Order is well known for its liberal views, while People’s Movement is a moderate nationalist party. This mix of ideologies makes it hard to create a consistent positive platform beyond demands for President Yanukovych’s impeachment and the resignation of Azarov’s government.
In the past few years the radical opposition political movement Svoboda (“Freedom”) has increased its support from around 1.5% to around 10%. The party has entered national politics. Svoboda attracted the votes of nationalistically minded voters who were disappointed by the failures of moderate nationalist parties, such as Our Ukraine, led by the former president Viktor Yushchenko, or People’s Movement, led by the former Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk. Svoboda did not join United Opposition Fatherland, but agreed to coordinate its candidacies in the single-member constituencies. Svoboda, led by Oleh Tyahnybok, professes a radical Ukrainian nationalist ideology, demands a radical reformation of the political system, appeals to young people, and advocates publishing the names of former KGB collaborators. Svoboda also cooperates with European right-wing parties such as the National Front of France and the Freedom Party of Austria.
Another political party that aims to attract “protest” votes is the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms (UDAR), led by Vitaliy Klychko. A world heavyweight boxing champion, Klychko is the best-known and one of most popular athletes in Ukraine. Klychko brought with him many young politicians and a strong team of experienced politicians, such as former head of Ukraine’s Security Service, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, and the liberal economist and former head of Ukraine’s National Bank, Viktor Pynzenyk. In fact, it is precisely the composition of this new party’s lists of candidates that has caused doubts among some Ukrainian commentators about its exact mission. Some active members of UDAR previously participated in smaller, now nonexistent parties, or had connections with the controversial Ukrainian millionaire and natural gas trader Dmitri Firtash. During the campaign, Vitaliy Klychko’s strategy was to avoid public debates and opponents’ direct questions about his party, instead travelling extensively to agitate in constituencies and appearing regularly at press conferences. Hence the information available to ordinary voters is limited: many know that Klychko worked abroad for many years, and expect him to fulfill his promises to bring European norms and practices to Ukraine’s politics and economy. So far, UDAR relies mostly on young, European-minded voters across Ukraine: 44% of the party’s supporters are under 30 years old. 
The Electoral Campaign
Although the 2012 parliament election campaign was clearly a step backwards from the campaigns of 2006, 2007, and 2010, the level of fraud is probably below the level of the 2004 presidential election. In the past six years there was no need for expensive video monitoring of all polling places. This idea was borrowed from recent elections in the Russian Federation, where the government also faces growing mistrust among the population and the problem of demonstrating the legitimacy of elections. In Ukraine, video monitoring at polling places is aimed at improving the image of government. Opposition parties will hardly be able to make any practical use of this video evidence in Ukrainian courts. Fraud and falsification most often take place not at the time of voting, but before or after voting. Before the election, the conditions for competitors were far from equal, and after the voting, votes are counted by commissions dominated by representatives of the Party of Regions or representatives of the virtual parties loyal to it. After the election in Russia, Russian courts did not invalidate the results in any constituency, nor did they punish cheaters even where cameras registered obvious fraud.
The October 2012 parliamentary election demonstrated that the Ukrainian leadership strives towards similar limitations of democracy as in Russia. There was an attempt to close down a cable television channel, TBi, that openly supported the opposition and remains very critical of President Yanukovych and the Party of Regions. There were attacks on critically-minded journalists and civic activists. One specific case may serve as an illustration of these threatening tendencies. In the eastern Ukrainian town of Deprodzerzhinsk, police opened an investigation against the opposition candidate and the author of a poster that showed a picture of an old lady and her cat. The legend on the poster read, “When I found out that my grandson had voted for the Party of Regions, I changed my will and assigned the deed to my house to my cat.” Overall the campaign advertising materials showed very little of the battle of ideologies. In its commercials, the Party of Regions accused its opponents outright of all possible misdeeds, blaming them for the recent economic downturn, rising energy prices, etc. The United Opposition Fatherland talked about justice, a fair state and fair politics, and welfare in general. The Svoboda party pointed out threats to Ukraine’s independence and Ukrainian culture. UDAR generally spoke about European values and bringing Western practices to government.
The political geography and voting in this election very precisely reflects the polarization of the population and the division of Ukraine along an east-west axis. The reintroduction of single-member district voting very significantly weakens the chances of opposition parties to win a majority in parliament. Before 2004, there was a widespread practice of producing virtual and twin parties that were aimed at diluting support for the opposition and spreading negative information about opposition parties and candidates. Sponsors of the Party of Regions, with their significant financial resources, returned to this practice in 2012. Dozens of self-nominated candidates or representatives of small parties that win seats in the single-member vote will certainly join the parliamentary group of the Party of Regions. That is why the opposition parties intensively coordinated their candidates lists before the election, withdrawing weaker candidates in an attempt to avoid situations where their competing candidates would lose to a candidate from the Party of Region, but could attract more votes jointly. The return of virtual parties and “technical” candidates is evident in the statistics of the Central Election Commission of Ukraine. Opposition parties will have very little opportunity to monitor voting, participate in counting votes, and influence the decisions of district commissions because of their misrepresentation in those commissions. Of 4042 seats in district election commissions, the Central Elections Commission filled 2436 with representatives of virtual parties. These virtual parties have few candidates and in several cases no candidates at all in the proportional voting or in the single-member constituencies. Before the election day about half of the district election commission members were replaced. The OSCE/ODIHR observers had collected verified evidence in a number of cases that election commissioners nominated by technical parties were in fact affiliated with other parties, especially the ruling Party of Regions. These 2436 members of district commissions officially represent the interests of only 379 candidates. In contrast, opposition parties have only 448 seats on district commissions, and will try to defend the interests of at least 1335 opposition candidates. While parties in parliament have own quotas in district election commissions, the Central Elections Commission used a lottery to distribute the remaining seats on district commissions among non-parliamentary parties. The results raised many questions about the organization of this lottery in which small parties (parties with few or no candidates) received disproportionately large representation, which is unfair in relation to large parties with hundreds of candidates running in elections.
The Results of the Parliamentary Election in Ukraine
Although international observers generally evaluated the voting positively, they also pointed out significant problems that affected the fairness of competition between candidates. Walburga Habsburg Douglas, the Special Coordinator who led the OSCE short-term election observation mission and the Head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation, said, “Considering the abuse of power, and the excessive role of money in this election, democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine”.
In the eastern Ukrainian towns, voters received significantly less information about opposition parties such as Fatherland, UDAR and Svoboda. For some reason there were almost no posters or other advertisements of these parties. Presumably to avoid possible mass protests in the capital, the state administration of Kiev organized, at the initiative of representatives of the Party of Regions, an exhibition of military equipment on Maidan Nezalozhnosti, the central square. Also on the day before the election, the Kiev district administrative court prohibited any protests or mass gatherings on the main square in Kiev and near government buildings and the Central Elections Committee. The aim was to prevent protest and to justify the use of police force if parties tried to organize such action.
The voter turnout in this election was 58%, which is similar to that of the previous parliamentary elections in 2007 and 2006. In contrast to the Russian Federation, there is no single region in Ukraine that showed abnormal voting activity. The highest turnout was in the Donetsk, Lviv and Ternopil regions (68–77%), and it is likely that the recent turn towards Russia in Yanukovich’s economical and cultural policies mobilized voters to turn out and support the moderate nationalist and populist opposition party Fatherland, the radical nationalists of Svoboda, and the promising new pro-European party UDAR. The lowest turnout was in southern Ukraine: Zakarpattia, Crimea, Sevastopol and Odessa (37%–46%). The Party of Regions won the election in these regions, but the relative passivity of voters may indicate that many were disappointed with the Party of Regions because they had expected that President Viktor Yanukovich would be more active in promoting the interests of Russia and Russian speakers in Ukraine. The Zakarpattia region is the only western Ukrainian region that supported Yanukovich and the Party of Regions in this and previous elections. Zakarpattia is characterized by large proportions of Hungarian, Romanian, Russian and Rusyn inhabitants, and their very active civil-society organizations.
Although there was no large-scale fraud in this election, typical violations were: voting at home by presumably forged permission, agitation on voting day and voting by groups, called “carousel voting”. According to representatives of the Central Election Commission, voting in the 225 single-member constituencies created numerous problems. First, very long lists of candidates and parties made it very difficult for some voters to choose. Second, the procedure of counting votes at the polling places and reporting the results to district commissions is very bureaucratic. The author’s own work on a commission at a polling place involved a significant amount of bureaucratic routine and reporting, making dozens of protocols, and various statements during and after the counting of used and unused ballots. Third, there were numerous accounts of conflicts between opposition and Party of Regions candidates and independent candidates. There were several dozen constituencies where the difference between the results of an opposition candidate and his or her competitor was small, and the local commissions, in most cases dominated by representatives of the Party of Regions and the loyal representatives of virtual parties, refused to report the results to Kiev or invalidated the results from several polling places, thereby fixing the victory of a particular candidate. In five districts Central Election Commission cancelled the majoritarian elections and asked the parliament to provide the legal basis for repeat elections, as a result parliament will have 445 instead of 450 members.
In the new parliament, the Party of Regions will be the leader of a majority group with 185 seats (113 seats from single-member constituencies and 72 seats from proportional voting). The election demonstrated that support for the Party of Regions is fixed at the level of 30%. This corresponds to the level of support for President Yanukovich. Without further political maneuvering in coming years, this will probably remain the absolute maximum result for the Party of Regions. Although it won the election, the party cannot control a simple majority of 226 seats without recruiting independent members or entering a coalition with other parties. Its most likely allies are: a majority of the independent members (43 seats); the People’s Party, led by the Speaker, V. Litvin, with 2 seats from single-member constituencies; Lyshko’s Radical Party, with 1 seat from a single-member constituency; the Party Union, with 1 seat from a single-member constituency; and the Communist Party, with 33 seats from proportional voting. The resulting coalition led by the Party of Regions may total about 260 seats, which is 40 votes short of the two-thirds majority required to amend the constitution. It is unlikely that the Party of Regions will try to build a stable constitutional majority, so that any vote on a constitutional amendment will require negotiations with opposition parties.
Composition of the parliament of Ukraine after the 2012 election, based on preliminary electoral results by Central Election Commission of Ukraine with 100% of the votes counted.
The Communist Party of Ukraine is likely to add its 33 seats to the new majority in parliament. Compared with previous parliamentary elections, there are two outstanding results for Communists in Ukraine: the CPU received twice the support in proportional voting (13.2% compared to 5.4% in 2007), yet failed to win a single seat in the single-member constituencies. This indicates that most Communist Party voters were ideologically motivated, driven by stereotypes and nostalgia about the Soviet system. They voted to support an ideology, but not any specific person; the party failed to present strong individual candidates and activists. Second, the CPU competed mostly in the eastern and southern Ukraine, where local resources were directed to supporting candidates from the Party of Regions. In these regions, the Communists lost to the Party of Regions.
United Opposition Fatherland achieved a very strong result with 101 seats in the new parliament (39 seats from single-member constituencies and 62 seats from proportional voting). It remains to be seen whether its parliamentary group will remain united. In the previous parliaments, individual members have migrated from Fatherland to the Party of Regions. United Opposition Fatherland won the proportional vote and most of the constituencies in Kiev and the Kiev region, but Svoboda also received several seats from Kiev. The strong performance by the nationalist organization Svoboda in both proportional voting (25 seats) and the single-member constituencies (12 seats) is another remarkable outcome of this election, and may have very far-reaching consequences for the political system in Ukraine. For the first time in Ukrainian history, radical nationalists may get some 37 seats in parliament. Unlike many other wining parties, Svoboda is clearly an ideological party, with strong ideological unity among its members.
For the leader of the UDAR party, an electoral success and 40 seats (6 seats from single-member constituencies and 34 seats from proportional voting) in the new Parliament are especially important. Vitaliy Klychko is a young politician with ambitions of becoming President of Ukraine. After this parliamentary election, his next goal will be to win election as Mayor of Kiev in 2013.
The 2012 election demonstrated that Ukraine remains politically polarized along an east-west axis. Parties oriented towards Russia, such as the Party of Regions and the Communist Party, have greater support in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, while United Opposition Fatherland, Svoboda and UDAR win more support in the western regions of Ukraine. Overall the biggest surprise of this election was the strong support for the Svoboda party. Evidently both Svoboda and UDAR attracted protest votes from voters who were disappointed with older parties. Certainly some of those who had previously voted for Yushchenko and Tymoshenko now voted for Svoboda or UDAR. It is also likely that some voters disappointed by the conservatism of the Party of Regions voted for UDAR.
The opposition won in proportional voting and lost in the single-member constituencies. The members elected by constituencies represent a much wider political spectrum, and many independent candidates enjoyed the support of state administrations, which were apparently able to use their resources to create more favorable conditions for pro-government candidates. Svoboda won especially strong support in western and central Ukraine, and also in polling places located abroad. Strong performance by Svoboda is an indicator of the radicalization of a certain part of Ukrainian society. In particular, these are voters who strongly disagree with the cultural (i.e., language) policies of Azarov’s government.
The political situation in Ukraine is most likely to develop according to one of two scenarios. President Yanukovych may choose a liberal line of action, trying to find some sort of middle ground to promote the effectiveness of the new parliament’s work. The president’s changes in the government will respond to some of the demands of the most radical part of parliament (particularly those of the Svoboda members). Yanukovych’s opponents demand the resignation of Mykola Azarov’s government and the revision of its economical and cultural policies. The opposition most severely criticizes the work of Vitaliy Zakharchenko, the Interior Minister, and Dmitro Tabachnyk, the Minister of Education. This strategy would be a logical continuation of President Leonid Kuchma’s line. Kuchma is well known for his political maneuvering skill: in his first tem he appealed to the leftist electorate of the eastern Ukraine, but before his second term he had changed his views, borrowed much nationalist rhetoric, and appointed Victor Yushchenko’s liberal cabinet of ministers. Members from Fatherland and especially UDAR will be offered posts in the new government. Cooperation between the Party of Regions and UDAR would allow to Yanukovich to maneuver, saving own image in eastern Ukraine and attracting some support from the younger electorate in central and western Ukraine. However, such an alliance could put an end to Klychko’s political career.
There is a high probability that President Yanukovych will choose a revanchist response to the polarization of the Ukrainian parliament. Many of his supporters in Ukraine, as well as his allies in Russia, easily use the term “fascists” in reference to members of the Svoboda movement and to Ukrainian nationalists in general. This is a false allegation based on a Bolshevik interpretation of Ukrainian history, and mistakenly links nationalist movements to scanty and marginal groups of neo-Nazis (such groups exist in many European countries, including Ukraine and Russia). Such a revanchist response would fit well into the existing tendency of borrowing certain ideas from Russia and emulating Russia and Belorussian political models. As a result, we might see an escalation of political conflict in Ukraine; pro-Russian policies would be strengthened, repressions against political leaders of the opposition and ordinary activists would continue.
A combination of these two strategies is less likely, because the strength of the opposition parties and repression would automatically cut off any channels for cooperation. On the day after the election, a high-ranking representative of the Party of Regions mentioned that he saw an opportunity for cooperation with UDAR. But so far, UDAR has positioned itself in opposition to the Party of Regions, and such cooperation could alienate the supporters of Vitaly Klychko.
It appears that President Yanukovych is trying to avoid a problem that President Putin met after the recent Russian Duma election, when accusations of mass electoral fraud, unequal competition, and the impossibility of defending opposition candidates’ rights in courts raised concerns about the legitimacy of the parliament. Unlike Russia, with its “systemic opposition” (the Communist Party, LDPR, and A Just Russia — which could also be characterized as a “virtual” opposition, posing as opposition parties in the media, but supporting President Putin and his government in reality), Ukraine has several large and influential opposition parties. The sharp regional differences among the population on the issues of Ukrainian nationalism, the Ukrainian language, Ukraine’s relations with the West and Russia, and other issues help to maintain strong, real opposition parties. Unexpectedly, after this election, candidates from the Party of Regions and independents more often appealed to the courts to defend their victories in the single-member constituencies.
The 2012 parliamentary election is an important step towards the presidential election of 2015. Certainly Victor Yanukovych plans to be reelected to a second term. His strategy for the upcoming years will be to neutralize possible competitors. It is therefore unlikely that Julia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lursenko will be freed from prison before the presidential election. Yanukovych will also try to weaken the positions of other possible candidates, such as Arseniy Yatseniuk and Vitaly Klychko. However, there is little chance that the president will have the support of a two-thirds majority in parliament, which he could use to implement the Party of Regions proposal to have the president elected by parliament. In November Yanukovich signed a law enabling constitutional change via referendums instead of via parliament, in a move the opposition criticized as aimed at ensuring his own re-election in 2015.
It is hard to assess the scope and pace of Ukraine’s return to the conservative politics of balance between the West and the Russia. Yanukovych and his allies find inspiration in the Russian and Belorussian models of political systems. Unlike Russia and Belorussia, Ukraine still has a very strong opposition and experienced and politically educated voters. The Belorussian model is not attractive to wealthy Ukrainian businessmen. The new Ukrainian political system will strive towards a Russian model with a façade of Europeanization, that is, intention to join the EU. It has been reported that Ukraine and the EU have already agreed on the text of an Association Agreement, but the fact that the next EU-Ukraine summit, where this document will be presented, has already been postponed until 2013 indicates that the EU sees little reason to anticipate Ukraine’s effective integration in the EU. The ratification of the Association Agreement by the European parliaments will be a long and complicated process.
- Do authorities engage in political repression? (Чи вдається діюча влада до політичних репресій?) Survey by the Razumkov Center 2012–9–7 to 2012–9–12; 2008 respondents; uncertainty 2.3%. http://razumkov.org.ua/ukr/poll.php?poll_id=830, accessed on 2012-10-30.
- “KIIS Sociologists Show Downturn for ‘Regionals’ and UDAR; Gap Remains”, http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2012/10/11/6974400/, Ukrainska Pravda, 2012-10-11, accessed on 2012-10-12.
- “2012 Elections: Whom Will Voters Vote For and Why? Ratings, Voter Motivation, Public Challenges”, The Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, http://dif.org.ua/ua/publications/press-relizy/vibori-2012-z.htm, accessed on 2012-10-10.
- “Elections-2012. Exit polls”, Ukrainska Pravda, 2012-10-28, accessed on 2012-10-30.
- “2012 Parliamentary Election. Results.” Central Election Commission of Ukraine. http://www.cvk.gov.ua/, accessed on 2012-11-28.
- Andrew Wilson, The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation, New Haven 2009: Yale University Press (3rd ed.).
- On-line panel of 726 young people in Ukraine aged between 17 and 35, representative for gender and regions. March 10-20, 2011. OMI (Online Market Intelligence) Nordic OY, http://www.omirussia.ru/.
- “Who Will Pensioners and Youth, Rich and Poor Vote For”, Forbes Ukraine, http://forbes.ua/nation/1337778-za-kogo-budut-golosovat-pensionery-i-molodezh-bogatye-i-bednye, accessed on 2012-10-12.
- “Who Will Pensioners and Youth, Rich and Poor Vote For”, Forbes Ukraine, http://forbes.ua/nation/1337778-za-kogo-budut-golosovat-pensionery-i-molodezh-bogatye-i-bednye, accessed on 2012-10-12.
- Svoboda. About party. http://www.international.svoboda.org.ua/pro_partiyu/istoriya/ accessed on 2012-10-10.
- “Oligarchs on elections” Ukrainska Pravda, 2012-09-10, http://www.pravda.com.ua/articles/2012/09/10/6972416/, accessed on 2012-10-15
- “Who Will Pensioners and Youth, Rich and Poor Vote For”, Forbes Ukraine, http://forbes.ua/nation/1337778-za-kogo-budut-golosovat-pensionery-i-molodezh-bogatye-i-bednye, accessed on 2012-10-12.
- “Z kotom, a ne “po poneyatiam!”” Ukraina Moloda. 2012-08-17. http://www.umoloda.kiev.ua/number/2126/180/75768/, accessed on 2012-10-10.
- “International Election Observation, Ukraine — Parliamentary Elections, 28 October 2012: Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions”, OSCE. http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/96675, accessed on 2012-10-30.
- “Ukrainian elections marred by lack of level playing field, say international observers”, press release by OSCE PA, 2012-10-29, http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/96673, accessed on 2012-10-30.
- “Ukraine leader signs law to change constitution via referendum,” Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/27/us-ukraine-president-referendum-idUSBRE8AQ0R520121127, accessed on 2012-11-28.