title: 'ukraine election analysis babich' published: true publish_date: '31-08-2016 14:56' taxonomy: category:
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Official results of the Ukrainian parliamentary election on Sunday are yet to be announced, but it is already clear that the opposition won’t dispute the vote’s legitimacy – at least, it won’t demand a recount. The reason is that the opposition seems to have done relatively well at this election. The vote revealed only a relative superiority of a coalition of political forces that support Viktor Yanukovich, the current president of Ukraine. Yanukovich’s Party of Regions, according to several exit polls, got from 27,6 to 30,5 percent of the vote. The Communist party of Ukraine, which often allies itself to the Party of Regions during crucial votes, got between 11 and 13 percent, according to the same polls. So, the pro-Yanukovich camp is expected to get 38-43 percent of the vote. The opposition factions are expected to do not much worse – the three main opposition parties will most likely get no less than 39 percent. It should be noted that these figures reveal only the preliminary results of the vote on the so called party lists. UNEXPECTED SOFTNESS FROM EUROPE Analysts expect the Party of Regions to improve its final results from single-seat constituencies, which is to provide one half, or 225 seats in the 450-seat parliament, the Supreme Rada. (In the morning on October 29 the Party of Regions was leading in 113 constituencies out of 225). However, the unexpectedly high results on party lists already inspired the opposition leaders. They are already talking about a possible impeachment for president Yanukovich, who is very unpopular among both Ukrainian nationalists and representatives of the European Union. Meanwhile, since the EU is expected to synchronize its appraisal of the vote with the opposition’s attitudes, non-recognition of the vote by European structures is unlikely. This was already indicated by representatives of the European parliament in Kiev, reports Kiev-based Golos Stolitsy radio. This view is shared by Andrzej Brzeziecki, editor-in-chief of the Polish magazine New Eastern Europe, specializing, among others, in Ukrainian politics. “I think the EU’s recognition or non-recognition of the vote will depend on the stance of the opposition parties. It is very important that this election’s results were positively received by the opposition leaders. This will have a positive effect on the stance of international observers, including those from Poland. Most likely, I think, the EU will recognize this election,” Brzeziecki said. WHO MAKES UP UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION What does the Ukrainian opposition stand for? For the moment, opposition is represented by a rather rag-tag amalgam of parties, from radically nationalist Svoboda (“Freedom”) to the pro-European party named Udar (Punch), led by the boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko. However, the backbone of the largely pro-European opposition is expected to be provided by Batkivshchina (Fatherland), a party formed by the former prime-minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Mrs Tymoshenko is now in jail on charges of abuse of power during her time as prime-minister. Her 7-year jail sentence has already led to a protracted crisis in Ukraine’s relations with the the EU and the United States. The EU put on hold Ukraine’s association agreement pending Mrs Tymoshenko’s release. So, what are the results for these parties? If exit polls are to be believed, Fatherland, having merged with a smaller party Front for Change, founded by Arsenyi Yatsenyuk, indeed came out as the biggest opposition group, with 23-25 percent of the vote, only 3-5 percent behind the Party of Regions. Klitschko’s Udar comes third with a projected 13-15 percent of the vote. Svoboda, a nationalist party, widely perceived as xenophobic and even neo-Nazi because of its lionization of pro-Nazi Ukrainian nationalist leaders of World War II, is expected to poll 11-12 percent. What is important, rumors about a possible alliance of Vitaly Klitschko with Yanukovich’s Party of Regions were quickly dissipated by Klitschko on Sunday night. He said his party would ally itself with Fatherland and Svoboda, thus creating a strong nationalist bloc inside the parliament. Vladimir Fesenko, head of the Kiev-based Penta centre for political research, expects some rivalry to emerge between Klitschko and Fatherland’s leader Arsenyi Yatsenyuk. However, this rivalry will reveal itself later and not while the results are sinking in. “They have a common foe,” Fesenko says. “If they act disparately, their opposition will quickly be defeated. And together they will have at least 150 seats in parliament – in fact, it is a blocking share, if we use business language. If Klitschko and Yatsenyuk put their individual presidential ambitions on the back burner, they can achieve a lot and cooperate on a number of issues. They can only survive if they stay together.” TOO EARLY TO TRUMPET VICTORY The results of the vote-counting in individual constituencies, where the Party of Regions is expected to show a much stronger result, support Fesenko’s theory of Yanukovich still being a strong rival to the opposition. Party of Regions’ candidates are leading in 113 individual constituencies out of 225. Batkivshchina has a good chance in 34, Svoboda in 8, Udar – in 5 constituencies, according to an early Monday morning report by RIA Novosti. The regional divide is made even more evident now: PR has absolute superiority in Donetsk and Kharkov, eastern regions with many Russian speakers, while it did not manage to field a single successful challenger in strongly nationalist Rovno, Ternopol and Ivano-Frankovsk regions. What does this election spell for Ukraine’s relations with Russia and the West? The Ukrainian parliament has a rather limited influence on the country’s foreign policy. Few experts believe it can quickly reverse Yanukovich’s policy of mending ties with Russia, ties which were badly damaged before Yanukovich’s election by his predecessor Viktor Yushchenko. However, if the new parliament turns out to be more nationalist, this can be a bad omen for Russo-Ukrainian relations. Nationalists in the Rada have already talked about symbolically canceling agreements on the Russian Black sea Fleet’s base in Sebastopol, Crimea. And even though their vote will be largely symbolic - only the president can start renegotiating previous inter-governmental agreements - psychological effect of such a move by the Ukrainian parliament will not be in Moscow’s favor.