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How many changemakers will Ukraine’s future parliament have?

Holos, the brand-new party of rock-musician Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, had on 8 June presented the first 30 candidates on its party list, many of whom are known as reformers. Photo: Holos fb page
How many changemakers will Ukraine’s future parliament have?

Five years after the Euromaidan Revolution, the hopes of Ukrainian society for the renewal of the generation in power started to gradually fulfill themselves. The parties predicted to enter the next parliament have included well-known volunteers and representatives of respected reform-minded NGOs in their ranks. Although MPs guided by oligarchs will probably still prevail in the composition of the next Verkhovna Rada (parliament), the number of changemakers might increase as never before.

The Ukrainian parliament experienced something similar, but on a smaller scale, in 2014. Then, it was chiefly the Samopomich party which was considered the fresh blood of Ukrainian politics. There was no single acting or ex-MP in the list. The most famous person in it was Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi. But he chose the 50th place in the list for himself, which initially meant he would not pass. Ex-journalists, reformers, volunteer battalion Donbas soldiers, IT specialists, businessmen, and people from Sadoviy’s inner circle were among the others. Then, the unexpected success of the party was explained by the demand of society to have new faces. In general, half of the parliament elected in 2014 consisted of new faces. Still, Samopomich had the highest concentration of changemakers.

On the eve of the 2019 parliamentary elections, Samopomich is an outsider of the polls with less than 1% support. Such a state of affairs is related to ambivalent decisions and compromises and inner quarrels, which led to the splintering off of the newly-formed Volia party.

However, this does not mean there no changemakers will get into the next parliament. Experts have found candidates who solidly deserve a mandate in almost all the parties who are predicted to pass the 5% threshold and enter the 2019 composition of the Verkhovna Rada. Only the pro-Russian Opposition Platform Za Zhyttia (For Life) is an exception. Renewal also is not expected in Yuliya Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna (Fatherland).

According to the majority of polls which have been released so far, there are five such parties – President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Sluha Narodu is the ultimate leader, the Opposition Platform, ex-presidents Petro Poroshenko European Solidarity, and Batkivshchyna are next, and Holos of the rock-star Sviatoslav Vakarchuk closes the list.

Graphic: Hanna Naronina / Euromaidan Press

According to the most recent poll conducted by the Center Sotsis and the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, European Solidarity comes the second and Holos almost overcomes the 5% threshold. Moreover, it is not even in fifth, but sixth place, after Syla I Chest of Ihor Smeshko.

So who is running as the new blood now? According to ex-journalist and current MP Mustafa Nayyem, two parties can compete for the best composition. The first is the leading party of the president Volodymyr Zelenskyy Sluha Narodu with a rating of around 48.5%. The second one is Holos of the rock-star Sviatoslav Vakarchuk which about 5.6%.

Ruslan Stefanchuk, the representative of President Zelenskyy in parliament, told journalists that in the future Verkhovna Rada, Sluha Narody could cooperate with Batkivshchyna and Holos. In his turn, Oleksandr Korniyenko, the head of the headquarters of the party, said that the party does not plan form a coalition with anybody. Days later, Tymoshenko also confirmed that her party is ready to cooperate with Zelenskyy’s one in the new parliament. Vakarchuk said that his party is ready for coalitions in the parliament, but only with the forces which share its values.

Valeriy Pekar, political expert and co-founder of the civic platform Nova Krayina considers Holos’s composition as the best. It consists of people coming from such respected organizations dealing with reforms as Transparency International Ukraine (Yulia Klymenko, Yaroslav Yurchyshyn), Anti-Corruption Action Centre (Ustinova Alexandra). Also, the chief editor deputy of the Dzerkalo Tyzhnia newspaper Serhiy Rakhmanin, experts who showed themselves well when reforming the government, IT, and legal specialists joined.

Closer to the end of the top-30 list there are activists working on the issues related to the de-facto war in Donbas and occupation of Crimea – Oleksandra Dvoretska (Vostok SOS) and Tamila Tasheva (Crimea SOS). Another famous changemaker in the area of education is Ivan Prymachenko – the founder of the Prometheus platform.

Serhiy Prytula, a popular Ukrainian showman goes 30th.

“For me to enter parliament, the party has to get a bit over 10%. This an agreement between you and me,” Prytula told his audience.

Analyzing the list of Sluha Narodu, Pekar is confused. The expert praises the participation of reformers, however points to people about whom society knows nothing and those who have a negative reputation.

“There are lots of people whom you don’t want to give a mandate of an MP. However, the amount of totally unknown people is more impressive. Who are they? What did they do during the last 5 years? What are their life views about? Who stands behind them? The list of the party consists of good people, bad people, and people with unknown values and interests. It would be such a reincarnation of the Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc under the auspices of the new president,” Pekar says.

The expert predicts inner conflicts within the party in the future, however, notes that there will be at least one group which can be trusted.

The top-10 of ex-president Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity consists of people whose activities were positively evaluated by society. In particular, famous volunteer Yana Zinkevych from the medical battalion Hospitaliers, Mykhailo Zabrodskyi, the commander of the 95 separate airmobile brigades, Sofiya Fedyna, the voice of Lviv Maidan, and famous representatives of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Mustafa Dzhemilev and Akhtem Chyygoz joined it.

Batkivshchyna’s top-10 consists totally of the old guard of the party.

Syla i Chest of the ex-head of Security Services Ihor Smeshko which could land in parliament with the fifth place of votes is not composed of new people. However, several of them are respected in society – an MP from Samopomich Olena Sotnyk and Rafat Chubarov, the head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis.

Pekar does not expect the parliament’s quality to raise dramatically, but the amount of decent people in it could rise from the current 10% to 20%, or 25% if being more optimistic.

Mykhailo Zhernakov, co-founder and Head of the Board of the DEJURE Foundation supported his companions from society going to politics.

“If these people do not enter politics, I do not know who should, then. Bad politics are made by good people who did not go there. If everyone believes that ‘it is dirty,’ ‘you can’t change anything,’ ‘everything is decided for you already,’ that’s how it will be. Now as never before social elevators have their doors open. They should be used by forces of the light, not the dark.”

Zhernakov approves the reformers going to different parties and draws only one red line – joining the forces directly working against the Ukrainian state.

Such a long-awaited dramatic reboot of political elites in Ukraine can hardly happen during just one election cycle. Only gradual changes are possible. The connection of politicians to oligarchs is still too strong. Oligarchs delegate people who would serve their interests to the parliament backing them up with all the needed resources. Apart from money, the most significant one are the media, in particular, TV channels. Without TV coverage, a political force can hardly expect positive results. Sluha Narodu, the Opposition Platform, and European Solidarity can count on their own or loyal channels. Oleksandr Tkachenko, the General Director of the oligarch Igor Kolomoyskyi’s 1+1 channel is running with Sluha Narodu under number 10 of the list. It was the 1+1 channel which broadcasts Zelenskyy’s studio shows. Batkivshyna does not have particular media sources. Its coverage would depend on different factors. The same as Holos for which the popularity of Vakarchuk’s Okean Elzy rock-band is a bonus.

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