NEW PARLIAMENT: EXPECTED RESULT WITH MANY SURPRISES


Oleksiy Sydorchuk

 

On October 28 the elections to the Verkhovna Rada were held in which voters were to elect 225 deputies based on party lists and another 225 in single-mandate constituencies. According to the preliminary results made public by the Central Election Commission, deputy mandates in the next parliament may be divided as follows: Party of Regions – 187, Batkivshchyna – 102, Vitaliy Klitschko’s UDAR – 40, Svoboda – 38, Communist Party of Ukraine – 32, United Center – 3, People’s Party – 2, the Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko and the Union party – 1 each and independent candidates – 44.   

Although the Party of Regions retains the majority in the new parliament, the question of cooperation between the newest members of the Verkhovna Rada remains open.

How will the main players in the new convocation of the VR conduct themselves?

What influence will the international reaction to the elections

have on the further course of events?

Who is on whose side?

Just as was anticipated the ruling Party of Regions came out the overall winner in the parliamentary election race. The final results will allow the PoR to create a single-party majority in the parliament thanks to the fact that independent candidates, the overwhelming majority of which were hidden under the mask of the ruling power and gained victory thanks to financing by government authorities, will be included.

Accordingly, from the first day of the new parliament’s work it can be expected that a majority of independent candidates will join the PoR faction. There is also a high probability that certain members of opposition factions such as Batkivshchyna and particularly UDAR, who may be vulnerable to well tested mechanisms of bribery, pressure and the fear factor on the part of the ruling power, may face the same destiny.

It is clear that formation of a single-faction majority will totally untie the hands: the PoR will not even allow it to pay attention to its allies in the previous convocation of the parliament, namely the CPU. In conditions of the probable aggravation of the socio-economic situation in the country in the foreseeable future such a majority will be extremely important for the ruling team, particularly thanks to the adoption of unpopular social decisions.

Whether the PoR realizes its plan of forming a single-faction majority will have a direct impact on the significance of the CPU in the new parliament. On the one hand, practice over the past several years shows that the CPU almost always votes in unison with the ruling party, albeit not on sensitive issues in the social sphere that may cost it the support of the electorate in the introduction of the land market, the approval of the labor code, etc.

On the other hand, having significantly improved its rating the CPU may try to play a more independent game and in order to maintain its current level of support try to fulfill its election promises. For this reason, if the PoR fails to gain the required number of points to form a single-party majority, the CPU will undoubtedly have a greater edge in talks with the ruling party. When the CPU formally or informally joins the ruling majority the need to fulfill its electoral promises will play second fiddle.

The emergence of the right-wing Svoboda party should give the new parliament some zest. The requirement of banning the CPU with which Svoboda will have to collaborate in the future parliament adds spice to the current political situation.

Clearly, although the probability that Svoboda will achieve its program objective is practically slim to none, in any case one can expect an aggravation of ideological confrontation in the VR.

In this context, it is worth paying particular attention to the threat of artificial aggravation of the conflict between these two parliamentary parties. Clearly, the PoR will initiate such a conflict in order to achieve its goals, be they for the sake of increasing the level of the people’s support or to distract the people’s attention from heated socio-economic issues.

Questions regarding the behavior of other members of the opposition camps Batkivshchyna and UDAR in the new parliament also remain up in the air. For Batkivshchyna the task of serious reformatting of methods of its activity from a total objection to the initiatives of the ruling party in terms of forming an alternative daily agenda is extremely important. This applies to UDAR as well, which so far has not shown its capacity to function as a full-fledged political party with a concisely defined plan of action.

Besides that, given the hotch-potch nature of the list of UDAR members, the ability to maintain internal unity of its faction and not allow it to disband will be a serious challenge for the party. Much depends on what strategy this political forces chooses to implement. If its main task becomes the overthrow of the current ruling regime, then it will work in unison with Batkivshchyna and Svoboda. On the other hand, if its goal is to increase its popularity ratings, then its parliamentary position will be more situational.

This is extremely important in the context of the future presidential elections. If the future candidate of the ruling party (namely, President Viktor Yanukovych) thus far does not evoke any doubts of the people, then the opposition forces will clearly face the problem of coordinating the ambitions of at least three leaders of the opposition forces – Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Vitaliy Klitschko and Oleh Tyahnybok.

The main intrigue here is what impact the future presidential elections will have on the collaboration of the opposition factions: will the impending “x” time foster the consolidation of Ukrainian opposition forces or, on the contrary, will it create additional discord in their forced cooperation.

Anointed finish

The initial reaction of the majority of international observers on the day of elections on October 28 was equally anticipated. Despite the extremely dirty pre-election campaign, which in advance put the candidates from the ruling power and the opposition on unequal playing ground, the day of the elections was fairly peaceful and without major violations. The process of tallying of votes according to their proportional composite did not justify the worst predictions. Clearly, the ruling power refrained from falsifications in order to boost the ratings of the PoR to the symbolic 30% benchmark. This allowed foreign observer missions to declare the elections in Ukraine as they were, though they did not meet the standards of democratic will of the people. Indeed, most observers agreed that the elections were a step backward compared to the 2007 parliamentary elections. As such, there were not sufficient grounds to deem the future Verkhovna Rada illegitimate.

Furthermore, the course of events in establishing the results in a number of first-past-the-post constituencies where the gap between candidates of the ruling power and the opposition were significant was rather odd. Gross violations of the law to the benefit of pro-government candidates by members of district voting commissions, judicial bodies and law enforcement bodies that were committed without the intrusion of bodies of the central powers and seriously tainted the overall picture of the elections.

The most likely reason of such carte blanche on the part of the government for the freewill of candidates loyal to it in its constituencies could be the uncertain situation with the failure to realize the plan of forming a single-party majority. When members of the ruling power realized that forming a majority on the basis of the PoR could be unstable, they gave the green light to use its arsenal in order to gain additional mandates. The probable negative reaction of the international community according to experience over the past few years was most likely left beyond its line of vision.

In any case, the tallying of votes in an number of problematic constituencies will clearly be negatively assessed in the conclusion of international observers. Moreover, it is now understood that the Ukrainian leadership failed to pass the test of holding democratic elections, which was one of the main requirements to eliminate the blockage of the process of its European integration on the whole and the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU.

Besides that, the lack of public reaction of President Viktor Yanukovych to the events that transpired last week will not likely prove to European officials that top brass in Ukraine was not complicit in the falsification of the parliamentary elections, but instead will corroborate their opinion that the elections were held upon its clandestine agreement. In short, such a post-election strategy will only heighten the disappointment of the international community with the nature of the entire parliamentary election campaign.

Conclusions

So, although the Party of Regions managed to gain the largest number of seats in the future parliament, the question of whether it will manage to form a single-party majority remains up in the air. And how this issue will be resolved depends largely on the line of behavior of the CPU and its ability to play an independent role. The opposition factions will also have a tall task. Batkivshchyna will need to revise its parliamentary strategy, UDAR will have to find its place in opposition to the “ruling power-opposition” field and Svoboda will be forced to balance its brilliantly expressed ideology with the threat of being pulling into artificial conflicts over many burning issues.