The Petro Poroshenko bloc may be a frontrunner in this weekend’s parliamentary elections in Ukraine, but there are plenty of plotlines and intrigue ahead of the final vote.
On Oct. 26 Ukrainians will vote for the parliament's 424 members: 225 of them are to be elected by party lists, with the election threshold set at five percent, and 199 by single-seat constituencies. Photo: Alexandr Maksimenko / RIA Novosti
The upcoming elections to Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, are viewed differently within Ukraine, depending on whom you ask. For some, the election represents a logical continuation of the ongoing change of power and a longed-for sense of purification.
However, many other voters are skeptical about the real possibility for change. And the focus is increasingly turning inwards, towards corruption, domestic power politics, and the inertia of bureaucracy.
Just about everybody agrees, however, that Ukraine really does need to refresh its parliament. For the country has yet to begin any real reform of its body politic, a process which is only feasible if all branches of government act in unison and the legislative component is allowed to assume the leading role.
Clearly, the reform of the economy and the political system will require something less than popular measures, and until there is willingness to take responsibility for such decisions at the parliamentary level, any talk of national development is premature.
In a time of war, it is particularly important to act clearly and consistently, which, given the present state of the Rada, is near impossible. However, this parliament does deserve some plaudits. Despite the acute situation and periodic attempts to sabotage crucial decisions, some timely and considered steps have been taken all the same.
To date, the balance of power looks as follows. According to opinion polls, the frontrunner to the Rada is the Ukrainian president’s party, the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, with more than 30 percent of the vote, followed by Oleg Lyashko’s Radical Party and Popular Front (in which the key figures are Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk and former members of the Fatherland Party, speaker Alexander Turchynov and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov), both of which are projected to win about 10-12 percent of the vote.
Also likely to cross the threshold are Samopomich, led by Lvov’s mayor, Andrei Sadovy, and Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party (both around 6-8 percent), as well as the Opposition Bloc, led by former Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Boyko, and Sergei Tihipko’s A Strong Ukraine (both edging towards 6 percent). Also in the running is Anatoly Gritsenko’s Civil Position. Down and out already is the utterly discredited Communist Party.
The rival factions running for office can be provisionally divided into the “parties of peace,” “the parties of war,” and those parties focused exclusively on the southeastern regions of Ukraine and which are, in many respects, the remnants of the previous government of Viktor Yanukovych.
It is obvious that the latter will try to oppose the current government and denounce whatever decisions it takes, i.e. act like a real opposition. But the relations between the “parties of peace” and the “parties of war” are more nuanced.
The “parties of war” are said to include the Popular Front, the Radical Party, and Fatherland, due to their radical solutions to the issue of Russia’s relations with the Donbas region. The main “party of peace” is the Petro Poroshenko Bloc. The president is seeking a peaceful settlement of the conflict, including an agreement with the Kremlin, the introduction of a “peace plan” in the east, as well as other initiatives.
The radically minded forces are at times openly critical of Poroshenko’s actions, proposing a more active military stance and a more hostile attitude to Moscow. In many ways, their forcing through of the decision to impose martial law in Ukraine is regarded by political analysts as an attempt to disrupt the elections – for some, to win time and publicity for their parties to recruit more support, and for others, to keep Yatsenyuk and other individuals in their posts for as long as possible (since the new Rada could appoint a new prime minister).
If elected to parliament, the “parties of war” – chief among them the Popular Front – may try to create an informal alliance as a hefty counterweight to the presidential bloc. Incidentally, Fatherland’s leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, recently announced a change of tactics, declaring that she would not go into opposition, but instead join a coalition of parliamentary factions. The question is: What form will this coalition take?
The Petro Poroshenko Bloc is obviously counting on forming the majority in parliament, and in the unlikely event of a shortfall in votes could try to form a majority with another party, probably Samopomich.
Despite the broadly similar opinion polls, intrigue still remains over how the Donbas region will vote, since the majority (some 70 percent) of respondents there declined to answer the question about their political preferences.
The eastern provinces are not, to put it mildly, favorably inclined towards the government in Kiev, and appear willing to support such parties as Opposition Bloc and A Strong Ukraine. That means that polling day could see a serious swing in favor of these parties on the back of the Donbas region.
The Donetsk and Luhansk regions remain highly volatile, and there is still no certainty that the elections will take place at all, since the militants there are not governed by the Minsk agreements, and if ordered to disrupt the elections, they (with the support of their patrons) are quite capable of doing so in some areas.
It is premature to say that the new Rada will help settle the conflict with Russia. If the radical opposition and the presidential bloc lock horns in parliament, or if the activity of opposition forces increases, much will depend on the ability to find compromises that may run counter to the individual interests of any particular group. Judging by the campaign tactics so far, which have involved entering candidates with the same name and using similar color schemes on promotional materials to "steal" votes from rival groups, plus harsh criticism of opponents, just about the only certainty is that confrontation will inevitably take a seat inside the new Rada.