The absence of candidates agreed upon by the opposition greatly reduces its ability to counteract administrative pressure and large-scale bribing of voters and increases the risk of failure in first-past-the-post districts even in regions where the ruling party is utterly unpopular
According to calculations made by The Ukrainian Week, the Party of Regions, its satellites and potential turncoats are set to obtain up to 176 seats under the first-past-the-post system, while the opposition may realistically count on 49 such seats given existing conditions. However, it should be noted that the analysis looked at the prospects the parties have in the electioneering campaign, while the decisive moment in an election is the day of the vote and the counting of the ballot. In many first-past-the-post districts, opposition candidates who have a lead over their rivals will not be able to defend the results of the vote.
The opposition has made several systemic mistakes in its campaign: the united opposition and Freedom jointly nominated weak candidates in many districts; UDAR was not included in the consensus-finding procedure which led to internal struggle and diluted support; a large portion of candidates are aggressively campaigning not so much against the government as against the opposition itself. At the same time, the possible successes of the Party of Regions are not only the failures of its opponents. To a large extent, they can be attributed to administrative resources and bribing voters.
Candidates representing the Party of Regions and its satellites will win in the majority of first-past-the-post districts in eastern and southern Ukraine. The situation in the Donbas and Crimea has looked hopeless for the opposition since day one, but the absence of common candidates in such oblasts as Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv and northern districts of Odesa Oblast jeopardize the chances that the opposition did have. Of course, severe administrative pressure on opposition candidates, such as intimidation or threats to shut down their businesses, is another problem. But then the opposition often clearly appears to have given up on some districts. For example, in three districts in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast the united opposition nominated Freedom members despite the fact that the party is too unpopular in the region.
In oblasts where the popularity of the Party of Regions is much lower, the powers that be are counting on self-nominated candidates most of whom will quickly join a pro-government parliamentary coalition. In particular, the opposition forces risk losing in Vinnytsia and Zhytomyr oblasts, with just one district (Mykola Katerynchuk) in the former and two in the latter firmly secured. Meanwhile, the government and self-nominated candidates linked to it have a real chance of winning seven and four seats in these oblasts, respectively. The situation is also complicated in such oblasts as Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Kyiv, Poltava and others where the opposition forces have a large advantage over the ruling party in terms of electoral support.
It is hard to predict what the results will be in central Ukraine, but as of today opposition members have serious chances of winning in no more than 15-20 per cent of districts here. Potential defectors to the pro-government coalition may claim at least five districts in Kyiv.
Self-nominated candidates may help the Party of Regions win even in several districts in western Ukraine. For example, the Baloha family will secure the majority of mandates in Transcarpathian Oblast, while Serhiy Ratushniak is likely to claim the Uzhgorod district. The opposition can realistically count on just one seat (Oleksandr Kemeniash) in all of Transcarpathia. An opposition candidate can be safely expected to win in just one district (the city of Chernivtsi) in Chernivtsi Oblast. The other three are likely to be claimed by Party of Regions nominees. Incidentally, Chernivtsi Oblast is an exception in Western Ukraine: the Party of Regions is not hiding behind self-nominated candidates here and is openly promoting its own members. Mykola Fedoruk, the mayor of Chernivtsi for many years, is probably the only likely winner there. However, he actively supported Yanukovych back in 2004. The tragicomic situation can be observed in district No. 203 where Fatherland supports a Freedom nominee despite the fact that a large portion of the voters are Romanian or Moldovan. However, UDAR’s candidate, Romanian Hryhoriy Timish, has the highest chances of being elected there.
In Volyn Oblast, potential turncoats – Ihor Kolomoyskyi’s man Ihor Palytsia and the local oligarch Ihor Yeremeiev – are running in two of the five districts, and these are lost for the opposition. In district No. 21, the likeliest winner is Stepan Ivakhiv, chief of a district state administration and another potential defector whose campaign is sponsored by, again, Yeremeiev, according to sources that spoke to The Ukrainian Week. However, certain analysts conjecture that Ihor Huz, the candidate from the United opposition, will be able to capitalize on the competition between Ivakhiv and Ivan Smitiukh, the brother of an odious Party of Regions member. The situation in two more districts of the oblasts is more favourable to the opposition.
In Rivne Oblast, the opposition fares better, but at least two potential defectors are likely to win there as well. Moreover, there is a high risk of diluting opposition support in the districts least sympathetic to the ruling coalition which is something that can be used by candidates who prefer not to disclose their involvement with the Party of Regions. For example, several strong opposition candidates, including Viktor Matchuk and Mykola Porovsky, are running in district No. 152 (the city of Rivne), but they will be competing with a candidate from the Freedom party (approved by the united opposition) and a representative of UDAR.
The ruling coalition will also grab some seats in Galicia. Mykola Kruts, who defected to the parliamentary majority in 2011, stands a serious chance of being elected in district No. 84 in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast. Bohdan Hdychynsky, chief of the ministerial service of the Justice Minister, saw his stock rise when a candidate from the united opposition was joined by Oles Doniy, a self-nominated pro-opposition candidate. Orest Muts, a local Party of Regions member, has a good chance in northern Ternopil Oblast, in the so-called “red belt”. However, in these three districts, just like across Ukraine in general, the outcome will depend on whether Fatherland, Freedom and UDAR are able to agree on common candidates instead of having their separate representatives compete against each other as is the case now. A similar situation can be observed in Lviv Oblast: if competition between opposition members continues, the pro-government forces may win up to three seats there.
For Ukrainians incarcerated in the occupied territories and in the Russian Federation itself, things could get much worse in 2018. Only serious international pressure is likely to make Moscow release these political prisoners