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23 October, 2014  ▪  Oles Oleksiyenko

Back to Black?

The parliamentary election may bring only few “new faces” to parliament

On September 14-15, all political parties that stand a chance to pass the 5% threshold and get into parliament held their party meetings. The parties that promote themselves as the continuation of the Maidan cause have nominated popular activists and commanders of volunteer battalions in their top 10 or 20 lists. Alongside, they nominate controversial, even utterly discredited people. The restored fragments of the Party of Regions swarm with functionaries who helped Viktor Yanukovych usurp power and preserve dictatorship. The reasonable choice of Ukrainians in the October 26 general elections will undoubtedly help clean up the Verkhovna Rada, but not to the extent the Maidan strived for several months ago.

Distribution of seats

According to the poll conducted by KMIS, a sociological group, on August 23-September 2, 25.5% would vote for the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko, 8.9% for Oleh Liashko’s Radical Party, 6.8% for Anatoliy Hrytsenko’s Hromadianska Pozytsia (Civic Position) and the Democratic Alliance that run together, 5.3% for Serhiy Tihipko’s Sylna Ukrayina (Strong Ukraine), 4.4% for Narodnyi Front (People’s Front) led by Premier Yatseniuk and Speaker Turchynov, 4.2% for Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna (Fatherland), 3.2% for the Communist Party, 3% for Svoboda (Freedom), and 2.0% for Samopomich, the party of Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi. Since the Party of Regions will not run, its 2.7% will probably go to Strong Ukraine and the Opposition Bloc newly created on the basis of the Party of Development headed by ex-Chief of Staff for Yanukovych, Serhiy Liovochkin, and Natalia Korolevska’s Ukrayina – Vpered! (Ukraine – Forward!) backed by Rinat Akhmetov.  

Poroshenko’s Bloc is likely to lose a fair share of patriotic voters after notorious failures in the anti-terrorist operation in August and September and further concessions to Moscow.  Another discouraging factor is the voting of September 16 when the law on the special status for the Donbas was pushed through parliament with the help of the pro-Russian wing: the Party of Regions and its breakaways (gathered in new groups, such as For Peace and Stability! whose funding is often linked to the Yanukovych Family), and the Communist Party. This fact creates somewhat of a déjà vu (bringing back the memories of the fatal deal Viktor Yushchenko made with the Party of Regions in spring 2005) and will hardly be ignored by the opponents of the President’s party in the rivalry for voters. The lost votes will probably go to the less popular parties that spoke publicly against this vote and law (see poll results above).

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Another 225 MPs are elected through first-past-the-post voting. This is what Petro Poroshenko, former Party of Regions members, oligarchs and big business owners have the highest expectations of.Therefore, the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko can expect to get 65-70 seats out of 225 elected through party list voting. Oleh Liashko’s Radical Party may end up with 23-24, Civic Position and Strong Ukraine – 21-22 each. Yatseniuk’s Narodnyi Front (People’s Front) and Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna could end up with 17-18 each, followed by 12-13 for Svoboda and the Communist Party. Samopomich and the Opposition Bloc are unlikely to beat the 5% threshold. If they do, each can get 11-12 seats.

Seeking an independent majority

Poroshenko’s Bloc wants to be a dominating party in parliament, and ideally create a single-party majority without critical need of alliances with other parties. Therefore, it is extremely diverse in its choice of members. It was formed based on quotas distributed to different political forces and gruops. It includes many ex-Party of Regions’ members who served in Yanukovych’s government. Quite a few members of the President’s personal quota will primarily remain loyal to him, then to the bloc. Finally, the Bloc includes many civic leaders, journalists and activists, to make it more attractive.

Its top candidates are Vitaliy Klitschko (his participation is purely formal: he has said that he will not switch his Kyiv Mayor office for a parliament seat); Yuriy Lutsenko, ex-Interior Minister and political prisoner under Yanukovych who acts as the formal leader of the Bloc, and Vice Premier Volodymyr Hroysman. If the President fails to gain a self-sufficient majority, Hroysman will most likely become a technical premier. The Maidan leaders are represented in Poroshenko’s Bloc by doctor Olha Bohomolets and Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev, journalists Mustafa Nayem and Serhiy Leshchenko.

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After top 20, the list looks less encouraging. Candidate 24 is Artur Palatnyi, Vitaliy Klitschko’s obscure friend surrounded by rumours of murky past which, however, remain unproven. No46 is Serhiy Trehubenko. According to earlier media reports, he was known in Mykola Azarov’s Cabinet as a proactive supporter of Yanukovych’s Family. This nomination has already stirred a lot of negative feedback from voters. People of the richest oligarchs, Ihor Kolomoyskiy, Viktor Pinchuk and Dmytro Firtash, are on the list as well. No93 is Lev Partskhaladze, a notorious Kyiv developer who had switched to Leonid Chernovetsky’s team behind Vitaliy Klitschko’s back after getting into Kyiv Council with UDAR.

The notorious Baloha clan (including Viktor Baloha, ex-Chief of Staff for Viktor Yushchenko and Emergencies Minister in Mykola Azarov’s Cabinet, along with his two brothers and a cousin) runs in Transcarpathia as part of Poroshenko’s Bloc. Davyd Zhvania is running in Poroshenko’s Bloc in Odesa Oblast: thanks to his intermediation in 2010, Yushchenko’s Nasha Ukrayina (Our Ukraine) faction broke up, the crossovers switched to the Yanukovych-oriented majority in parliament, and added their votes to the appointment of the Cabinet of Mykola Azarov. Eventually, this all led to the bloodbath on the Maidan in winter 2013-2014. Another notorious crossover, Vitaliy Nemilostyviy, is running with Poroshenko’s Bloc in Kharkiv Oblast.

This is a typical pro-presidential conglomerate. Meanwhile, it is headless. Its nominated leader Petro Poroshenko, and Vitaliy Klitschko as probably formal No1 on the list, will not be in parliament. If the Bloc’s rating falls, its MPs will switch to more successful players.

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First-past-the-post candidates leave even more doubts, yet Poroshenko’s Bloc counts on them to add far more seats to their faction in parliament. They will have virtually no commitments to the President and his party, and will leave it whenever they see fit. Therefore, Poroshenko’s attempts to convert his current popularity into the number of seats in parliament before his rating drops will hardly have a long-lasting effect. As soon as his popularity begins to fall, they will quickly leave him. Unless Poroshenko conducts another constitutional coup (like Yanukovych did) and gains more powers compared to the scope he got when elected President in spring, or unless he has “solid arguments” to convince MPs to stay loyal (like his predecessor), his parliamentary majority will spin out of control shortly after the October elections. Plus, the appetites of separate groups that will compete against each other will keep growing.  

Minority groups

The other part of the current government is running separately in Narodniy Front (People’s Front) headed by Arseniy Yatseniuk and Oleksandr Turchynov. Its top 10 candidates include Yatseniuk and Turchynov, National Security and Defence Council Chief and Maidan commander Andriy Parubiy, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, journalists and activists Tetiana Chornovol and Viktoria Siumar, and commanders of volunteer battalions Andriy Teteruk and Yuriy Bereza, among others. No13 is Dmytro Tymchuk, coordinator of the Information Resistance NGO that has gained popularity in the months of war thanks to fairly reliable daily updates on the frontline.

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The rest of the list is full of hidden turncoats who were elected to the current parliament with Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna, then betrayed their voters and voted alongside pro-presidential majority in times of Yanukovych, even though they did not quit their party. Among other things, they supported Mykola Azarov’s Cabinet when the opposition tried a motion of no-confidence against it in spring 2013. These include No14 Mykola Martynenko, No24 Denys Dzendzerskyi, and No29 Serhiy Fayermark. What can make these people act differently, should they get through to the new parliament?

Yulia Tymoshenko has modified her party list, leaving in only the most loyal members of the old guard (Hryhoriy Nemyria, Ivan Kyrylenko, Andriy Kozhemiakin and Serhiy Vlasenko), and adding a few popular Maidan or anti-terrorist operation activists.

The ill-lustrated wing

The Opposition Bloc is openly running as the alliance of Chief of Staff under Yanukovych, Serhiy Liovochkin, and oligarch Rinat Akhmetov. The founding forum of the Opposition Bloc featured Serhiy Larin, ex-Deputy Chief of Staff for Liovochkin at the Yanukovych Administration; Yuriy Miroshnychenko, ex-representative of Yanukovych in parliament who kept protecting his master in the media until the very last moment, and more. The top 5 includes ex-Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko (accused of large-scale corruption), ex-Social Policy Minister Natalia Korolevska – both serving under Yanukovych; and several mayors of Eastern Ukrainian towns and cities.

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Another group of ex-Party of Regions MPs linked to Yanukovych is being led to parliament by Serhiy Tihipko, Vice Permier in Azarov’s Cabinet, in the Strong Ukraine party. Valeriy Khoroshkovskyi, ex-Vice Permier in Azarov’s Cabinet and the first SBU Chief under Yanukovych with close ties to Liovochkin, is running as No2. With Khoroshkovskyi as its chief, the SBU is remembered for terrorizing civil activists and scientists, and crushing the freedom of speech and press in Ukraine. The Strong Ukraine’s top 20 has many loyal men of the Yanukovych’s machine, such as Oleksandr Volkov, Tariel Vasadze, and Mykola Dzhyha. Vasyl Poliakov, business partner and close friend of Dmytro Sviatash, a notorious MP who called on the Yanukovych regime to crush the Maidan, is running as No17. No31 is Volodymyr Makeyenko who, as Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, was personally blocking all attempts of the then opposition to stop Yanukovych using parliament tools up until the mass murders of protesters on the Maidan in February.

It is clear today is that the structure of the ruling coalition in the future parliament will be primarily determined by the voting in first-past-the-post districts. If President Poroshenko convenes a majority of FPTP MPs who tend to lean towards the epicenter of power at a given time, he could well avoid cumbersome allies with other leading parties who will have ambitions to run the Government. Meanwhile, the lists of FTPT candidates from the top parties remain unknown to the public although they will probably hide most of those who must be lustrated. 

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