2019 Ukrainian Parliamentary Elections (Part II)

Second part of this two-post series on the parliamentary elections in Ukraine focusing mainly on the results and the aftermath

Results

It’s been a few days since election day since July 21st and as expected from multiple opinion polls over the past month, Vladimir Zelensky and his party “Servant of the People” have won a landslide victory within the Verkhovna Rada. Four exit polls were released as polls closed within the country with the “Servant of the People” garnering more than 40% of the total vote within the country.

Yuriy Boyko’s “Opposition Platform – For Life” expectedly came into second place, followed by Tymoshenko’s “Fatherland”, Poroshenko’s “European Solidarity”, and Vakarchuk’s “Voice” respectively.

Official Results: (with approximately 98.95% of all votes counted)

  • Servant of the People: 43.1%
  • Opposition Platform – For Life: 13%
  • Fatherland: 8.2%
  • European Solidarity: 8.1%
  • Voice: 5.8%

Special Mentions to these smaller parties who didn’t breach the 5% threshold

  • Radical Party of Oleg Lyashko: 4%
  • Strength and Honour: 3.8%
  • Opposition Bloc: 3%
  • Ukrainian Strategy of Groysman: 2.4%
  • Party of Shariya: 2.1%

Turnout

The complete turnout for the election was approximately 49.8% , which is lower than the previous parliamentary elections in 2014 (which had a turnout of 51.9%).

However, the turnout by oblast and electoral district within the country was varied. The highest regions for voter turnout seemed to be oblasts in the West and the Centre of the country, with Lviv, Ternopil and Chernihiv oblasts leading the way with over 50% of voters showing up to cast their ballot.

Chernihiv overperformed while Zakarpattia underperformed in terms of voter turnout in comparison to the national average (Hromadske)

The opposite story is present in other oblasts of Ukraine, notably in Zakarpattia, Chernivtsi and Kherson oblasts where turnout seemed to be the lowest at below 40% in some cases.

Coalitions and Partnerships?

As soon as several exit polls were released, multiple leaders of the five parties expected to enter parliament have made rumblings on who they would cooperate with in the upcoming session of the Rada.

Zelensky had stated that the “Servant of the People” was ready to create a coalition with Svyatoslav Vakarchuk and his “Voice” party, with a priority on ending the war in the east along with the fight against corruption.

(Zelensky had previously stated that there would no possibilities of a coalition between him and any former members of the Party of Regions, which effectively rules out comprehensive cooperation with the Opposition Platform – For Life, which contains multiple members from the Party of Regions such as Boyko.)

Of course, a coalition would only be necessary if Zelensky and his party failed to garner enough for an outright majority in the Rada. Fortunately for Zelensky and his party, this did not seem to be the case, as they achieved an outright majority, with no need for talks involving the creation of a governing coalition from other parties as a result.

Any changes?

One of the most notable changes for the parliamentary elections in both 2014 and 2019 has been the substantial decrease of the pro-Russian electorate in Ukrainian politics. However, the pro-Russian electorate in Ukraine’s south and east have increased their participation in elections to a level on par with the country’s more politically active west.

Compared to 2014, the pro-Russian electorate has decreased. But then the east and partially south practically ignored the elections. Now they are actively participating in elections on a par with other regions.

Iryna Bekeshkina (Foundation for Democratic Initiatives) (Hromadske)
In comparison to 2014’s election (as shown above), the Russian speaking regions of Ukraine have had a jump in turnout, putting it on par with the rest of the country in some cases.

The old paradigm of one solid party solidifying the pro-Russian east and a more Ukrainian west in terms of voting blocs (which has existed ever since the late 1990’s barring the 2014 parliamentary election) did not completely exist at this election as well. Vladimir Zelensky had managed to create a voting bloc that stretched to every corner of the country. He along with the “Servant of the People” had managed to achieve first place in almost every oblast, with the exception of Donetsk and Lugansk (won by the Opposition Platform – For Life) and Lviv (won by Voice).

(Poroshenko however did win the popular vote from Ukrainians living outside of Ukraine, so that’s a win for him at least)

In essence, the model of “two Ukraines”, a patriotic west and a pro-Russian east have failed to materialize this year, with divisions on both sides of the spectrum. The pro-Russian parties have split into the Opposition Bloc and the Opposition Platform – For Life, while patriotic and more nationalist leaning parties have split into Voice, Fatherland and European Solidarity. As a result, Ukraine’s political landscape is much different than what it was pre-Maidan.

A few other notable changes include that parties associated with the post-Maidan reformers and pro-Europeanists associated with figures such as former PM Yatsenyuk and others suffered heavy losses or were disbanded before the events of April. Viktor Medvedchuk has made another comeback in Ukrainian politics with his party achieving second place, and Tymoshenko’s fortunes seemed to have not changed at all still relegated to the sidelines.

Epilogue:

Ukraine has had both a historic presidential and parliamentary election with an outright majority being achieved for the first time in the country’s recent history, giving him a wide range of power not seen before in Ukrainian politics. However, it remains to be seen how effective and how true to life Zelensky will be to President Holoborodko (his presidential persona in Servant of the People), whereupon there will be distinct effort in pursuing reforms within the country. Reforms which would put him into conflict with Ukraine’s establishment in both business and politics.

No other president in the history of Ukraine has had such resources under his control while facing such a weak and fragmented opposition and enjoying such enormous popularity among his compatriots.

Konstantin Shorkin (Carnegie Moscow Centre)

It is however a bit grating to see media outlets in Western Europe and the United States be a bit too rosy when it comes to him and his election victory and the “shockwaves” it would send to the oligarchs in the country (considering his campaign has heavy connections to Ihor Kolomoisky, another oligarch). His campaign still has conflicting and non-existing statements regarding key issues for the country and committing to a certain cause in these could very well reduce his popular image.

So far, he’s given little indication of what he might do with them, and there’s no unity even among his closest advisers on how soft or how tough a stance Ukraine must take with Russia and its own Russian-speaking population. The world has only really seen Zelenskiy the politician in campaign mode. He’s been impressive – but he’s still a wild card as Zelenskiy the leader.

Leonid Bershidsky (Moscow Times)

After all, Poroshenko was lauded with optimistic lenses back in 2014 as an oligarch who supported Maidan, only to be soured over time due to unpopular decisions and continued corruption. Time will tell if Zelensky’s popularity will continue for years on end, or will he be another Poroshenko and end up tangled in the web of Ukraine’s oligarchic politics.

Sources:

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