Four things to know about the new political season in Ukraine

Saakashvili supporters forcefully drag the politician across the border from Poland to Ukraine. Photo: rbc.ua

Saakashvili supporters forcefully drag the politician across the border from Poland to Ukraine. Photo: rbc.ua 

Featured, Politics

Article by: Olena Makarenko

Autumn is a hot time for politics. On September 5, the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) got back to work. Also, in Ukraine, autumn is a period of activated discussions about early parliamentary elections, no matter whether chances for them are high or meager. Still, in general, Ukrainian politicians act like the next elections are just around the corner: no need for strategical decisions, it’s all about ratings and self-promotion.

The beginning of the season was also spiced up by the scandal over ex-Georgian president and ex-Odesa Oblast governor Mikheil Saakashvili whom President Poroshenko deprived of citizenship a month ago, and who entered the territory of Ukraine by force on 10 September 2017.

Saakashvili is an ardent devotee of early elections. But does his political force really have power? Euromaidan Press collected some facts helpful to understanding the processes happening in Ukrainian politics.

What the ratings say

Over two post-Euromaidan years, the ruling coalition lost its positions. Image: Euromaidan Press. Note: the poll quoted in the further text is a more recent one, from April 2017.

First of all, let’s take a look at what Ukrainians think about politics and politicians. According to the poll of the Razumkov Think Tank conducted in April 2017, the Parliament has an extremely low level of trust among the population. Only 9% of respondents said that they trust this institution and 86.6% said that they do not. Only 1.9% fully support the actions of the Parliament and 67.5% do not. Talking about political parties in particular, 83.5% of respondents do not trust them.

The majority (60%) see the political situation in Ukraine as being tense, 30% as being critical, and only 6% as being calm.

The relative majority supports holding the early parliamentary elections, but a fairly large share (35%) does not think it is a good idea.

There are several factors which can precipitate early elections. If plenary sessions aren’t opened for 30 days, if the government cannot be formed for 60 days, or if the coalition in parliament breaks and the new one can’t be formed within a month, the President of Ukraine has the right to dissolve parliament and announce early elections.

So far, the official coalition is represented by Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc and Narodniy Front, the party of ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk.

The fight for ratings is tough and Yuliya Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna is so far the leader.

According to the mutual research of Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation and Razumkov Think Tank, the ratings the following:

  • Batkivshchyna – 11.2%
  • Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc – 9.3%
  • Hromadianska Pozytsia – 8.3%
  • Opposition Bloc – 8.4%
  • Za Zhyttia – 7.7%
  • Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko – 7.3%
  • Samopomich – 5.8%.
*The data represent the opinion of those who are ready to come and vote

The rest of the parties do not reach the 5% threshold needed to get into parliament. Coalition member Narodniy Front gets only 1.7%. And Rukh Novyh Syl, the political party of Saakashvili, currently unrepresented in Parliament, gets only 1.8%. However, his party already has strong allies.

New forces and coalitions

Ukrainian politician Yulia Tymoshenko, Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, Polish member of the European Parliament Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, after Saakashvili’s entrance to Ukraine. Photo: Denis Kazansky, facebook.com/den.kazansky

During his Skype press conference from the US on the situation with his citizenship, Saakashvili announced that the mobilization of Ukrainian pro-democracy forces is planned for autumn.

Among the strongest allies of Saakashvili’s Rukh Novyh Syl is actually Batkivshchyna. Its leader Yuliya Tymoshenko herself expressed her support to the ex-governor of Odesa Oblast, visited him in Poland, accompanied him on his forceful journey across the Ukrainian border, and said she is going to coordinate her actions with Rukh Novyh Syl.

It is unacceptable for a president who came to power through a democractic uprising to fight his opponents in such a way. We will support the return of citizenship to Mykheil Saakashvili,” said Tymoshenko.

This partnership helps both forces to advocate for early elections. With its relatively high ratings, Batkivshchyna has a real chance to increase the number of their MPs in case new elections take place.

After breaking into Ukraine, Saakashvili traveled to Lviv, where he met with Samopomich leader Andriy Sadovyi (here shown in a Lviv cafe). Photo: antikor.com.ua

Also, Saakashvili has been talking about a political alliance with Samopomich, led by Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi, another party represented in parliament.

“This [union] has to happen and I am certain that it will happen,” said Saakashvili just before Poroshenko announced his controversial decision on Saakashvili’s citizenship.

The leader of Samopomich Oleh Bereziuk confirmed that the talks on that indeed took place, however, he does not see sense in such union:

“On which base should it happen? You can rally around an idea – to fight for the anti-corruption courts or new electoral legislation. You can ally in a majority constituency when a number of parties is united and shares the influence in a constituency.”

Another reason why the unity of Rukh Novyh Syl and Samopomich might not happen is that in spring 2017 the party Volia joined Saakashvili’s force. Some time ago, Volia had a conflict with Samopomich.

Saakashvili and Hrytsenko in Chernivtsi, 9 March 2017. Photo: screenshot from video

Saakashvili and Hrytsenko at a Rukh Novykh Syl rally in Chernivtsi, 9 March 2017. Photo: screenshot from video

One more potential ally of Saakashvili is Anatoliy Hrytsenko and his Hromadianska Pozytsiya. Hrytsenko is an old-timer of Ukrainian politics. In 2000s, he held the position of Minister of Defense. In 2014, he ran for presidential elections and got only 5.48% of votes. Later that year, his Hromadianska Pozytsia didn’t reach the 5% threshold during the parliamentary elections. However, now his ratings are quite high. According to Hrytsenko himself, since March of this year, he is an organizer of the negotiation process on the union. He names Samopomich, Rukh Novyh Syl, European Party of Ukraine and others among the forces which it will include.

“I received a mandate from Hromadianska Pozytsiya on holding such negotiations and permission to lower the flag of our party before the flag of another, bigger political force, if needed. We are ready to take away any ambitions, related to personified, personnel etc., only to make this union happen,” said Hrytsenko.

Despite the high ratings, the experts do not expect that during elections Hrytsenko and his party alone will gain a lot.

“Hrytsenko has a formed image. He is ancient. He does not need any changes or adjustments. However, during the elections there are less people who vote for him than those who have a good attitude towards him,” says Oleksiy Antipov, the head of the Sociological Group Rating.

The expert explains this phenomenon by the existence of other forces which are brighter, more convincing, and with have more resources, in particular, with more of advertisement. However, the situation with Hrytsenko is different in the period between elections, when the players do not really advertise themselves and just are present in the information field. Ukrainians’ total disappointment in other politicians plays out negatively for Hrytsenko, as he during his period in power had not discredited himself.

Not only the so-called coalition of democratic forces has noticeable players. The ratings of the party of Vadym Rabynovych, Za Zhyttia, are also growing. Officially, Rabynovych is still a member of Opposition Bloc, a party represented in parliament which is the successor of the Party of Regions of runaway president Viktor Yanukovych. If Hrytsenko does not promote himself, Rabynovych uses every opportunity for that, by giving endless interviews to NewsOne, a TV channel created by him and now owned by another MP, and another loyal channel 112, and by spreading his populist messages on billboards.

Populism is the main strong point of Rabynovych. His electorate is people who are disappointed in the Opposition Bloc. Za Zhyttia promotes “peace at any price,” promising to end the four-year conflict between Russian-led separatists in eastern Ukraine and the Ukrainian army, even if it means Ukrainian capitulation, and is quite loyal to Russia. In the past, the party organized protests demanding the resignation of the head of the National Bank Valeriya Hontareva. The goal was not reached, but the party received a lot of media coverage. Some experts say that the Administration of the President acted in support of the protests to drown out more dangerous opponents, like Batkivshchyna.

Also, there are some movements within the so-called right forces. Two outsiders of the last elections, Svoboda and Right Sector, and the new party Natsionalnyi Korpus, created out of the members of the Public Organization Azov, united to pursue common goals, the first of which is the fight against Russian business.

How parties spend their money

A promotional billboard for Radical Party leader Oleh Liashko shows him promising to return Crimea to Ukraine. Photo: mskod.com

Recently, Ukraine made an important step towards transparency by adopting the Law on Preventing and Counteracting Political Corruption. According to it, parties started receiving state funding in order to stop being oligarch projects. So far, the funding is available to only those who got to parliament. After the next elections, the parties which are supported by at least 2% Ukrainians will be able to receive funds from the state, too. However, for that, parties should report on their expenditures. Results from the first six months of 2017, however, show that for some parties self-promotion is a number one priority.

Still, some parties are funded not only by the state.

The state funds are allocated proportionally according to the results of the party during the elections. The results for the second quarter, according to the parties reports, voiced over by the NGO Сommittee of Voters of Ukraine:

  • The Radical Party of Oleh Liashko spent nearly $500,000, some $492,000 of which came from the state. The party spent 45% of all funds on TV-advertisement.
  • Samopomich spent $760,000, 98% of which came from the state budget). The biggest share (29%) went for the party’s newspaper. Also they spent over $38,000 for TV and Radio ads.
  • Opposition Bloc received state money for the first time. According to their report, they spend the least amount: $115,000, of which $50,000 came from the state. They spent ⅓ on ads.
  • Batkivshchyna spent $165,000, of which nearly $154,000 was state money. The biggest share, ⅓, went to pay for rent.
  • Presidential Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc used only state funds – nearly $850,000. 62% was used to develop the regional network.
  • And Narodnyi Front over three months spent $818,000 ($718,000 came from the state) – 36% for salaries, 37% for rent, and 24% for taxes and fees.

Oleksiy Koshel, the head of the Commitee of Voters of Ukraine, called Oleh Lyashko’s and Samopomich’s practice of spending state fund for self-promotion a “shameful practice:” “Instead of developing local organizations and educating members of the party, these political forces continue to buy ads, in fact wasting the money of taxpayers.”

“Instead of developing local organizations and educating members of the party, these political forces continue to buy ads, in fact wasting the money of taxpayers.” The expert also noted that

The expert also noted that that his organization developed changes to legislation which forbid to spend state money for political advertisement.

“It is necessary to note that our parliament does not correspond to the requests of society and all main political forces are preparing to the next elections,says Andriy Vydyshchenko, the expert of the Kyiv Center of Political Studies and Conflictology. According to him, the situation is difficult for both coalition parties, Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc and Narodnyi Front, which try to strengthen their positions. Particularly, Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc attempts to consolidate its power in the regions.

Why elections can’t change the political situation significantly

Image: Euromaidan Press

Whether there will be early or regular elections in Ukraine, it is very unlikely that they will significantly change the situation in the country, first of all, because of the existing electoral rules and conditions.

Among the main obstacles for fair elections and electing good leaders there are:

The mixed voting system which in Ukraine includes all the drawbacks of the proportional and majority voting systems. In particular, it opens the doors for using administrative resources, can let winners have an absolute minority of votes. Also, the system does not encourage the renewal of political elites. Discussions on the electoral reform had started long ago. However, so far the reform is promoted mostly by activists.

The Old Central Election Commission continues to work, despite the expiration of its term. If the situation is not changed, it might undermine the legitimacy of the next elections.

Among other obstacles, there are the numerous violations during elections, the overall poverty of the population and resulting popularity of populism, as well as the lack of conditions for a new generation of politicians to enter the world of big politics.

Last but not least, the country is still ruled by oligarchs, and any major political decisions indulge their interests.

One of the main oligarchs in Ukraine is actually its president Petro Poroshenko. According to Opendatabot, he is second in the list of Ukrainians owning the largest amount of companies – 76. The richest oligarch in the country, Rinat Akhmetov, is number one, with 303 companies. Officially, these two represent completely different political forces. However, recently Ukrainian media point to the collaboration between Akhmetov and Poroshenko more and more often. Especially when talking about the energy sector, which is almost monopolized by Akhmetov, despite the de-oligarchization announced by the president.

The policy of the president which increasingly starts being referred to as an usurpation does not score him any positive points. According to the above-mentioned poll, 51.7% of respondents do not support his actions, 71.9% do not trust him, while only 22% do.

There are also positive aspects in the fact that Ukrainians are disappointed by those who are in power. It means that neither the president, nor parliamentarians can be totally safe. Apart from fulfilling their own interests, they also have act on behalf of the country to gain some approval.

The new season is a time for battles and compromises.

Edited by: Alya Shandra

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  • zorbatheturk

    Crimea belongs to Ukraine, NOT Putinland.

    • Screwdriver

      Sure, try to go there and say it loudly in the local bus, LOL :-)

      • Dirk Smith

        True, that’s usually the case when short-term mongol occupiers are terrorizing the populace. Justice will prevail. :-)

        • Screwdriver

          “mongol occupiers”
          From the new article : “The oldest group of Russia’s useful idiots are the Ukrainian far-right and neo-Nazis.”
          I did not suspect Oknemfrod is one of them , but since he “liked” this really Nazi comment..then he is one of the “Russia’s useful idiots” I guess…

          • Dirk Smith
          • Screwdriver

            Yes, we know that Patton was a Nazi and Judophobe, just like you.
            “Harry Peters, a Jewish soldier from Chicago, who was with Patton’s Third Army, told his nephew, Phil Cohen, that “Patton was more concerned with saving the Lipizanner Horses in Austria than the Jews left in the camp.” According to Cohen, “Patton had to be ordered to go to the concentration camps because he considered the horses more valuable.” https://www.scrapbookpages.com/Buchenwald/Liberation8.html

          • Dirk Smith

            LOL. A mongol named after a neo-Nazi white power band commenting on General George S. Patton. Got it. Imbecile……..LMFAO.

          • Rafael Hernandez

            Yes and that is why patton was regarded as insane and mentally uncapable of his job, according to Eisenhower himself. You can continue to tell your russophobia, but any educated person can see trough your simplemindness

          • Dirk Smith

            Sure thing ak47/Screwdriver/Rafael Hernandez. Liking your own posts shows your true intellect. Back to washing dishes again for you soon…..

          • 159357

            is in the internet, must be true 😀

        • Rafael Hernandez

          Yes Justice will prevail. Yatsenyuk, Poroshenko Yarosh and Lyashko hanged in maidan. That is the ulitimate justice for the Ukrainian people

      • zorbatheturk

        RuSSia is going down the crapper.

        • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_ontological_proof Styx

          in your dreams it does ..

          • zorbatheturk

            Krembots are dciks.

          • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_ontological_proof Styx

            yes, u r exactly that.

          • zorbatheturk

            Krembots lack credibility. They are slime.

          • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_ontological_proof Styx

            slime is the only “credibility” you have, sordid zorba.

          • zorbatheturk

            Savushkina Sewers have diving boards for your type.

          • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_ontological_proof Styx

            more salo, hero ..

          • zorbatheturk

            Sink or swim, tu rd.

          • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_ontological_proof Styx

            “tu rd” you are and will die being one, md maggot zorba ..1

          • zorbatheturk

            I take it you will sink.

      • veth

        Crimea Ukraina!

        • Screwdriver

          Yes, sure, go to Crimea, and say it in any public spot. Let us know the results. :-)

          • veth

            The Russian Constitution is not valid inside Ukraine. Crimea is Ukraine by international law.

          • Screwdriver

            OK, so go there and say it in public :-)

          • veth

            They will agree.

          • Screwdriver

            Ethnic Russians ?

          • veth

            Also, otherwise they can leave to Russia.

          • Screwdriver

            You aware that most of the people in Crimea are ethnic Russians , correct ?

          • veth

            Who cares, they are Ukrainians.

          • Screwdriver

            You love ethnic Russians when they are Ukrainian citizens ?

          • veth

            Mayority of ethnic Russians in Donbass is against the Russian nazzi occupation.

          • Screwdriver

            Really ? :-) And how about Crimea ?

          • veth

            As WELL!

          • kievjoy

            Incorrect, most of the people in Crimea, if you exclude the invaders are Tatars who consider themselves Ukrainian.

          • Screwdriver

            I was talking about ethnicity. You saying that Tatars consider them-self as ethnic Ukrainians ?

          • kievjoy

            All the Tatars I’ve met consider themselves Ukrainian, even if most of them are Muslim and not Christian. There is even at least one Tatar Batalion fighting for Ukraine.

          • Screwdriver

            They consider themselves as Ukrainian citizens, not Ukrainians as an ethnicity. :-)
            Can you tell me ethnicity of Saakashvili ? :-)

          • kievjoy

            People living there have said it plenty of times that Crimea is Ukrainian. A few have been arrested, but most haven’t. It’s only the Russian occupiers who say it is Russian.

          • Rafael Hernandez

            Life in crimea goes on. Give up and concentrate on the current situation

          • kievjoy

            Germany was ruled by the Nazis, the world didn’t give up on them and beat them in the end and they’ll beat the Russians now.

          • Screwdriver

            «Все, даже потери территорий, которые сейчас в Украине есть – это очень позитивный процесс. Пусть не обижаются на меня украинские патриоты, но потеря Крыма – это прекрасно. Мы наконец-то избавились от дебильной пятой колонны с недобитыми русскими бабками, которые голосовали за Путина. А когда они были в Украине, то голосовали только за Партию регионов и отбитых, отмороженных коммунистов. Наконец-то у нас нет двух миллионов полных неадекватов, которые всегда будут портить все и тянуть Украину на дно», – заявил Дроздов в эфире телеканала ZIK.
            https://tvzvezda.ru/news/vstrane_i_mire/content/201508141805-krua.htm

        • Rafael Hernandez

          It was Russian From 1783 to 1953, untill A ukrainian leader gave it away without a referendum. Now it has returned to the motherland. Next- western Ukraine to Poland. Lvov needs to return to is homeland

          • zorbatheturk

            RuSSian referendums are as legitimate as a piece of used toilet paper.

    • veth

      The Russian authorities are considering the option of replacing the leaders of the terrorist groups “DPR” and “LPR”, the “News of Donbas” reported.

      According to the information of the publication, the “DPR” can be headed by the ex-MP of the Party of Regions Aleksandr Bobkov, and “LPR” – by the leader of the Ukrainian party “Union of Left Forces” with criminal records Vasily Volga.

      Sources further inform that 20 days ago an assistant to the Russian President Vladislav Surkov came to Donetsk. Allegedly, Surkov recommended to “prepare for reintegration.”

      According to open data, Bobkov was one of the organizers of the “DPR”. In 2015-2016, he commanded a squadron of terrorists in the gang “Pyatnashki.” Now he is managing the separatist “Oplot TV”, which broadcasts in the occupied Donetsk.

      Earlier, on August 21, Surkov met with the new Special Representative of the United States for Ukraine Kurt Volker in Minsk.

      Following the meeting, the Russian side began to admit the deployment of peacekeepers in the zone of military operations in the Donbas.

      • zorbatheturk

        RuSSian peacekeepers is an oxymoron.

    • Rafael Hernandez

      It is Russian terrority. There is nothing you can do about it.

      • Murf

        Russia loosing 55 billion to sanctions says otherwise.

      • zorbatheturk

        Nothing is forever, old toad, certainly not the horrible geographic cancer known as RuSSia. It will break up like Yugoslavia did.

        • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_ontological_proof Styx

          in you self confessed md maggot dreams that is ..

          • zorbatheturk

            RuSSia is going down the crapper, boyo. A failed state.

          • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_ontological_proof Styx

            give up coloured vodka ..

          • zorbatheturk

            RuSSians drink yellow vodka.

  • Screwdriver

    Looks like Vadim Rabinovich together with Opp. Block will have almost 20%.
    Junta in danger! :-)

    • veth

      Russian nazzi junta in danger, correct

      • Screwdriver

        Vadim Rabinovich lives in Ukraine honey. :-)

  • veth

    UN: Russia lost $55 billion over Crimea and Donbas occupation
    деньги долларыSince 2014, when sanctions were implemented over Crimea annexation and occupation of certain areas in the east of Ukraine, Russian economy has lost $55 billion.
    This was announced by the U.N. in a report on the effect of sanctions against Moscow and coercive measures implemented by Russia, Censor.NET reports citing Interfax.

  • veth

    Emir-Usein did not see his family for almost a year and a half.

    SIMFEROPOL / AQMESCIT (QHA) –
    For the first time in a year and a half, Russian security forces allowed the political prisoner Emir-Usein Kuku to see his family. The wife of human rights activist Meriem Kuku informed on Facebook that the mother, brother and children of the prisoner, son Bekir and daughter Safiye, came to the prison of Simferopol.