The Party of Regions’ hopes of crashing the opposition camp by raising the election threshold and banning political blocs have been dashed. The pre-election party congresses, where the candidate lists were compiled, revealed that the opposition was able to minimize the damage caused by the amendments to election legislation made in 2010. In particular, the splintering of opposition electorate votes due to dummy parties and hopeless outsiders is likely to be less considerable in the forthcoming election than some predicted.
The United Opposition will have two formats in the 2012 election: in the party election lists, a united Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) and Front Zmin (Front of Change) list including the NGO Hromadska Pozytsia (Civil Position), and in simple-majority constituencies, the United Opposition plus Svoboda (Freedom). The absence of Vitali Klitschko’s UDAR from the joint opposition list will not impair the opposition camp, since Klitschko’s party will easily clear the 5% threshold on its own. Moreover, assessments by The Ukrainian Week show that its independent performance in the election will bring the opposition at least a dozen or two seats (that is, of course, unless UDAR chooses to team up with the Party of Regions).
The United Opposition was able, albeit at the very last moment, to find an acceptable format for politicians who have political projects of their own. These include Anatoliy Hrytsenko, Oleksandra Kuzhel, and Mykola Katerynchuk (although he is not quite happy with the arrangement, since he will have to run for parliament in a first-past-the-post). Otherwise, running independently, they might spread opposition votes thin.
The successful wooing of the Crimean Tatars is another achievement of the United Opposition list under the brand of Batkivshchyna. The opposition’s new ranks include Mustafa Dzhemiliev, chairman of the Mejlis, the central executive body of the Crimean Tatars. However, another Mejlis leader, Refat Chubarov, was placed in the humble 111th place. Now that the ill-received Anatoliy Mohyliov has taken the reins in Crimea following the demise of Vasyl Dzharty, the Party of Regions is expected to lose a portion of its Crimean Tatar electorate. Thus, in political terms, the participation of Mejlis representatives may prove even more lucrative for the United Opposition than expected.
TRADING OLIGARCHS FOR TURNCOATS
The absence of unpleasant figures such as Kostiantyn Zhevaho, Davyd Zhvaniya, Oleksandr Tretiakov, and other moneybags is an obvious advantage of the United Opposition’s joint list. For the last two months, it has been rumored that they would be added to the list. However, Mykola Martynenko did end up in the safe part of the list – apparently as a sort of a tribute to him as the leader of the NU-NS (Our Ukraine – People's Self-Defense) bloc in the incumbent parliament. This is necessary because his signature is required to approve members of district and precinct election commissions from the faction. Thus, today he plays a paramount role as he allows the United Opposition to control the proportion of NU-NS presence on the lists. On the other hand, Martynenko’s 17th place (which is virtually 15th, considering that Yulia Tymoshenko at No.1 and Yuriy Lutsenko at No.5 hardly stand a chance of being registered as candidates) raises numerous questions. In 2005, then Prime Minister Tymoshenko notably denounced him as one of President Yushchenko’s notorious “dear friends,” who were only “good at stealing.”
The United Opposition list also includes bread tycoon Yuriy Tryndiuk, who controls up to 5% of Ukraine’s bakery market. He is known for his friendship with odious ex-prosecutor general Sviatoslav Piskun. Both men are believed to be related through their spouses, and Tryndiuk reportedly runs a business together with Piskun’s wife, Svitlana. Tryndiuk is presented at No.74, which scarcely leaves him a chance of being elected, yet his very presence in the ranks of Batkivshchyna and on the party list is abhorrent to many oppositionists.
Overall the list leaves the impression that United Opposition leaders tried to forestall defections from the future parliamentary faction. According to our estimates, potential turncoats represent no more than 10-12% of the passing part of the list (approximately the top 60 or 70 candidates). This is significantly fewer than in the BYuT and Our Ukraine factions in the previous parliaments. Besides, most of them are candidates from Front for Change, a party without prior experience in parliamentary campaigning.
It also seems that during the preparation of the united candidate list, partners in the opposition pseudo-bloc did not widely utilize their right to veto. Many observers and opposition MPs were surprised by the inclusion of a “group of comrades” with very little previous contact with the opposition. Why was, for example, Denys Dzendzerskiy honored with No.34? It is common knowledge that until recently, he was member of the United Centre’s political council, displaying no oppositional inclination whatsoever.
The “risk group” of potential defectors in the new convocation of the Verkhovna Rada includes the Tabalov political dynasty from Kirovohrad region. No.49 in the passing part of the list was taken by Oleksandr Tabalov, a Kirovohrad businessman, one of the 200 wealthiest in Ukraine. His son Andriy is running for parliament in Kirovohrad’s simple-majority 99th district. Tabalov Sr. is no stranger to politics. However, his business associations with members of Shcherban’s Liberal Party and the Party of Regions serve to discredit him as an oppositionist. Although today the Tabalov tandem is aligned with Front for Change, both father and son are very likely to defect the moment they set foot in parliament.
Front for Change candidate Serhiy Faiermak (No.39) could also be added to the same risk group. President of the Board of Directors at Industrial Hardware Association LLC, Faiermak was a member of the Socialist party of Ukraine during Vasyl Tsushko’s governorship of Odesa region, but later came to sponsor Front for Change. As a co-owner of Stalkanat, he was recently forced to move abroad due to raider attacks. In Odesa he is seen as an Orange oligarch. However, The Ukrainian Week is informed that he is on good terms with the Party of Regions. Thus, Faiermak’s parliamentary career is easy to forecast: one attack from the tax administration or the prosecutor’s office (just as it occurred last January) will be enough for him to align himself with the Party of Regions’ faction or become an independent MP.
What is clearly positive about the United Opposition list is the fact that it does not include individuals who only yesterday were labeled “Tymoshenko’s quota,” but were never strong champions of the opposition. First of all, this concerns the former Prime Minister’s relatives and colleagues from the United Energy Systems of Ukraine. Thus, her aunt Uliakhina was not included in the list, while Boliura and Shaho were placed low and have no chance of getting into parliament. It was this “politically indifferent” group within the BYuT that placed the bloc in the spotlight for incessant harsh criticism. Firstly, this was sheer nepotism and cronyism; secondly, the above-mentioned “indifferent” group consistently offered unpleasant surprises at parliamentary votes. For instance, these MPs backed a draft resolution supporting official observance of the anniversary of the Komsomol, the Communist Youth League.
However, it turns out that family interests come before pubic ones, even for imprisoned oppositionists. In the passing part of the list, next to Martynenko, we can see Iryna Lutsenko, wife of the imprisoned former Minister of the Interior. It is being argued backstage that this came at the personal request of her husband, a man who has been publicly mocking “Yushchenko’s cronies” for years. But nepotism is not the only problem. Several of Yuriy Lutsenko’s most devoted and consistent comrades in arms may end up below the line. In particular, Yuriy Hrymchak, one of the men who were not afraid to actively oppose the notorious Kharkiv Agreements, was dismissed with a mere No.91. The cynicism of the situation is aggravated by the fact that without MP immunity, he risks being indicted on criminal charges. The prosecutor’s office is ready to launch proceedings against him. The inclusion of Mrs. Lutsenko in the list is perhaps one of the opposition’s worst gaffes in this election.
The appearance of Tetiana Donets in the passing part of the United Opposition list can also hardly qualify as a sensible decision. Donets’s only merit is that her parents used to be Tymoshenko’s fellow Hromada party members. This young lady made history in gossip columns as a former girlfriend of Vasyl Horbal, a banker and Party of Regions MP. No further comment is necessary.
“Political qualifications” (or the absence thereof) should absolutely be taken into account when compiling election lists. Yet it appears that the United Oppositionists overlooked this criterion, and not infrequently. Thus, the passing part of the list includes Vasyl Derevliany, campaign manager of the defunct Party For Ukraine. His name is associated with the BYuT’s failure in the snap elections called for the Ternopil regional council in 2008. Local BYuT leadership led by Derevliany initiated a parliamentary ruling demanding an early termination of powers at the Ternopil regional council. But when it became clear that the BYuT was losing the early election, they tried to backpedal and cancel it. That step failed, BYuT boycotted the polls, and thus could not gain a single seat in the local legislature. This election marked the beginning of Tymoshenko’s defeat in the western region of Halychyna: while her Batkivshchyna party garnered 51.57% of the vote in the 2007 parliamentary election, support for the party shrank to 35.67% in the first round of the 2010 presidential election. Furthermore, in the 2010 Ternopil city council election, Batkivshchyna only managed to glean a negligible 3.3%. If it had not been for Derevliany and others like him who failed in the major BYuT constituencies, Tymoshenko might have been president today instead of a prisoner. Yet it is rumored that Derevliany is fanatically devoted to Oleksandr Turchynov, which explains a lot.
There are far fewer vacancies in the passing part of the United Opposition’s list than those who would claim them, convinced that they have earned a seat in parliament. It is only logical that right after the final name was approved, a whole cohort of injured claimants arose. Serhiy Mishchenko, a BYuT MP in the present convocation, refused to hide his emotions and threw tantrums over his hopeless rank of 142. Mishchenko has already announced his withdrawal from BYuT-Batkivshchyna “for moral reasons” and publicly chastised those responsible for the compiling of the list.
However, there are a few among those hurt who have every reason for resentment. Andriy Shkil’s productivity as a member of parliament may be questionable, but putting him in the hopeless 87th place only means that he may end up back where he came from: behind bars. Criminal charges are still pending against Shkil for his alleged participation in the “Ukraine without Kuchma” protest action of 2000-2001, while acting as a leader of the UNA-UNSO (Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian National Self Defense). His fellows in the case Mykola Karpiuk, Ihor Mazur, Oleh Buriachok and others have long done their time and been released, whereas for Shkil the threat of imprisonment looms increasingly large.
Oleh Bilorus, Serhiy Shevchuk, Vasyl Kuibida, Yuriy Kliuchkovsky and others were also humiliated with low positions on the list that are totally incongruent with their contribution to oppositional and legislative activities. Such active MPs as Serhiy Teriokhin and Ksenia Liapina, too, were undeservedly sent to compete for seats in simple-majority constituencies, which effectively deprived them of any prospects of getting into parliament. In any case, their contribution is much more valuable than that of, say, Liudmyla Denysova, former Minister of Social Policy (No.38), Mrs. Lutsenko, or Ms. Donets.
Still, the United Opposition still has a chance to rectify the mistakes it made while compiling the election list. Under Article 61 Part 4 of the Law “On Elections of People’s Deputies of Ukraine” the Central Election Committee may void a candidate’s registration if his or her party submits a relevant application no later than 12 days prior to the polling date. This means that the opposition still has a chance to get rid of the most odious figures by convening a congress and passing the appropriate decision.