While most of the nation got results from the Oct. 25 election, Mariupol got a criminal investigation. Ukrainians want to know who is to blame for the cancellation of the elections in the strategic Azov Sea port city of 500,000 people, whose voters were deprived of the right to choose their mayor and city council. The cancelled election has triggered a spate of conspiracy theories, claims and counter-claims and criticism. Parliament has not yet set a date for a new election. What’s clear is that Mariupol voters were the victims of a power struggle between the traditional powers in the region, represented by the Opposition Bloc party and billionaire oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, and the post-EuroMaidan Revolution forces, including Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Zhebrivsky. Anyone found guilty of obstructing the electoral process – in this case, leaving 215 city polling stations without ballots – could face up to seven years in prison if convicted, according to a statement released on Oct. 27 by the Donetsk Oblast Interior Ministry.
Parliament on July 14 approved new local election rules via a bill that introduces elements of proportional representation in elections to municipal and regional councils, and two-round elections for mayors of large cities. Although not explicitly required by the International Monetary Fund and other Western donors, the legislation is nonetheless a key component of Kyiv’s plan to decentralize government by delegating more power and functions to regional and local governments. However, the bill also specifies that the elections, which are scheduled for Oct. 25, won’t take place in the occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, or in the Russian-annexed Ukrainian territory of Crimea.
TO ALL appearances, Ukraine’s parliamentary election on October 26th was a triumph. Reformists mostly won and voters rebuked the far right and far left. Western allies heaped praise on the pro-European, pro-democratic results. Yet Ukraine remains troubled and deeply divided. In an upset, the People’s Front party of Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the prime minister, narrowly beat President Petro Poroshenko’s bloc by 22.2% to 21.8%. This means that Ukraine will keep two power centres, as Mr Yatsenyuk seems sure to stay in office. Mr Poroshenko had hoped to win a majority and install a loyalist instead. Now the People’s Front and the Poroshenko Bloc must form a coalition, probably with the third-placed Samopomich (self-help) party, led by the mayor of Lviv. The six parties that reached a 5% threshold will fill half of the 450-seat parliament (Rada) from their party lists. The rest will come from districts where deputies are elected directly and only later join party factions.
Exit polls in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections suggested that Sunday’s vote would cement the country’s new political course, seven months after the revolution that toppled former president Viktor Yanukovych. Forces loyal to President Petro Poroshenko and the government more broadly looked set to dominate the parliament, but there were also votes for more radical parties and those made up of former activists from the Maidan revolution. A new party mainly made up of Yanukovych’s defunct Party of the Regions polled in single figures, according to exit surveys. The vote came with parts of eastern Ukraine remaining under the de facto control of pro-Russia separatists, and with an increasingly radical mood taking hold in much of the rest of the country, impatient for reforms from a new government led by Poroshenko, a billionaire chocolate magnate.
It is risky to see hopeful trends in the Ukrainian crisis. But a degree of calm seems to have settled over the rebellious southeast, which may bode well for the presidential election scheduled for Sunday. There are many things Moscow and its minions in Ukraine can still do to derail the election, of course, but President Vladimir Putin of Russia has refrained from publicly endorsing the “people’s republics” proclaimed by secessionists. His spokesman said on Monday that he had ordered Russian troops to pull back from the Ukrainian border, though NATO has not seen any change yet. It is crucial for the vote to be accepted by all sides so Moscow can stop referring to the interim administration as the “illegitimate regime in Kiev,” and the elected president can begin to repair the enormous economic and social damage suffered by Ukraine in recent months. But the election itself will not solve Ukraine’s problems unless a new president can also address the deep corruption and cronyism that have been a hallmark of Ukrainian government since independence in 1991. The front-runner in the presidential race is Petro Poroshenko, a 48-year-old tycoon known as the Chocolate King for his candy empire.
Andriy, a young entrepreneur from Slovyansk, won’t be voting in this weekend’s presidential election for fear masked gunmen who’ve taken over the small Ukrainian city will slay anyone who dares try. Separatists intent on abandoning Ukraine for Russia want to torpedo the ballot and have overrun half of the electoral offices in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions, together known as Donbas. Tactics include abducting voting officials and issuing death threats, the Electoral Commission says. Thirteen servicemen died yesterday amid a push to repel the militants. “You can be killed for showing a position that’s different from them,” said Andriy, who asked that only his first name be used for fear of reprisals. “People have been killed here just because they brought some food to Ukrainian soldiers.”
Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said Thursday they would go ahead with a referendum on secession set for Sunday, defying Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call to postpone it and dashing hopes of dialogue with the government in Kiev. Western capitals had already been skeptical of Mr. Putin’s surprise appeal Wednesday, a change of tone that included a claim that Russian troops had pulled back from the border. With the decision by separatists in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions at the heart of the insurgency, the conflict again appeared to be escalating. (Follow the latest updates on the crisis in Ukraine.) In Kiev, the Foreign Ministry said the decisions confirmed fears that Moscow was just trying “to whitewash its aggression in the eyes of the international community” by appearing to endorse dialogue. Ukrainian officials rejected Moscow’s demands that they end their military operation in eastern Ukraine and negotiate with the rebels.
After a winter of lightning-fast changes – a president ousted and a peninsula apparently lost to Russia — Ukrainians are beginning to look ahead to elections on May 25 to replace Viktor Yanukovych. The opposition leader who seemed to have the inside track a few weeks ago, ex-world champion heavyweight Vitali Klitschko, has taken himself out of the running. Klitschko will stand for mayor of Kiev and throw his support behind billionaire Petro Poroshenko, who made his fortune in the candy business. Although not widely known in the West, Poroshenko has relatively broad appeal in this deeply divided country. He was a prominent backer of both the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the recent pro-European demonstrations in Kiev’s Independence Square.
After a leading contender dropped out of Ukraine’s presidential race Saturday, the hopes of many Ukrainians and their Western supporters are now on a man known as the Willy Wonka of Ukraine, the billionaire owner of a chocolate-candy company. Petro Olekseyevich Poroshenko, 48, was the highest-profile Ukrainian industrialist to support the protests that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych last month, and he has for several weeks led in polls for the May 25 presidential election. Known as a centrist who had previously worked for both pro-Western and pro-Russian governments, he became a strong advocate of integration with Europe after Russia banned imports of his chocolate. On Saturday, the candidate who had been running second in polls, the former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, withdrew from the race, throwing his support behind Poroshenko and solidifying his lead.
With cyberattacks already launched against Crimean separatists, the Kremlin and NATO, the ground war may not have started in Ukraine but computer warfare is already raging. In recent days — and with increasing intensity on Sunday — a virtual war has commenced in the countries at the centre of the worst East-West diplomatic crisis since the end of the Cold War. The “soldiers” of this war don’t wear uniforms and don’t necessarily swear allegiance to one particular country. Their chosen weapon is the “Denial of Service” attack designed to overwhelm web servers and make their websites unusable. The attacks accelerated as soon as voting booths opened on Sunday for the referendum in Crimea on whether the region will join Russia. The site created by separatist groups to monitor the vote was blocked for an hour on Sunday, with the pro-Russian government accusing hackers from an American university, Urbana-Champaign in Illinois, of being behind the attack.
The protesters who have overturned the politics of Ukraine have many aspirations for their country. Their placards called for closer relations with the European Union (EU), an end to Russian intervention in Ukraine’s politics and the establishment of a clean government to replace the kleptocracy of President Viktor Yanukovych. But their fundamental demand is one that has motivated people over many decades to take a stand against corrupt, abusive and autocratic governments. They want a rules-based democracy. It is easy to understand why. Democracies are on average richer than non-democracies, are less likely to go to war and have a better record of fighting corruption. More fundamentally, democracy lets people speak their minds and shape their own and their children’s futures. That so many people in so many different parts of the world are prepared to risk so much for this idea is testimony to its enduring appeal. Yet these days the exhilaration generated by events like those in Kiev is mixed with anxiety, for a troubling pattern has repeated itself in capital after capital. The people mass in the main square. Regime-sanctioned thugs try to fight back but lose their nerve in the face of popular intransigence and global news coverage. The world applauds the collapse of the regime and offers to help build a democracy. But turfing out an autocrat turns out to be much easier than setting up a viable democratic government.
Russia: Crimean Parliament Dismisses Cabinet and Sets Date for Autonomy Referendum | The Moscow Times
The Crimean parliament on Thursday voted in favor of holding a referendum on whether to expand its autonomy and passed a no-confidence motion dismissing the region’s government. The referendum — set for May 25, the same day as Ukraine’s presidential election — was supported by 61 out of the 64 deputies who attended Thursday’s emergency session, the parliament’s press office told RIA Novosti. Crimeans will vote “yes” or “no” on whether the “Crimea has state sovereignty and is a part of Ukraine, in accordance with treaties and agreements.”
Thick black smoke from burning tires engulfed parts of downtown Kyiv as an ultimatum issued by the opposition to the president to call early election or face street rage was set to expire with no sign of a compromise on Thursday. The three main opposition leaders urged protesters late Wednesday to refrain from violence for 24 hours until their ultimatum to President Viktor Yanukovych expires. They demanded that Yanukovych dismiss the government, call early elections and scrap harsh anti-protest legislation that triggered the violence. The largely peaceful protest against Yanukovych’s decision to shun the EU and turn toward Moscow in November descended into violence Sunday when demonstrators, angered by the passage of repressive laws intended to stifle the protest, marched on official buildings.
Ukraine’s parliamentary election took place on 28 October. In Western democracies election results are announced on the next day, but in Ukraine this process takes 2 weeks, so the results were only published officially published at the end of the first week in November. Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions (PoR) received 30% of the vote – the first time a ruling party has won in a parliamentary election in Ukraine. Contrary to expectations, however, this victory was not greeted with the loud popping of champagne corks, but with a deafening silence. Firstly because the PoR share of the vote was less than expected. Secondly because support for the party has fallen by 2 million votes over the last 5 years, which represents about 5% of the electorate. Losses like these are a real blow in the period before the main electoral battle, the presidential election in 2015, which will decide a great deal more than this parliamentary election.
Ukraine’s Central Elections Commission believes a partial re-vote may be needed in five key districts to determine who won parliamentary seats in Sunday’s elections. The decision came amid opposition accusations of vote-stealing by the ruling Party of Regions of President Viktor Yanukovych. An estimated 500 protesters are spending the night outside the CEC headquarters in Kiev as part of an open-ended protest action called by the opposition Batkyvshchyna, UDAR and Svoboda parties.
The ruling Party of Regions and its allies look set to win Ukraine’s parliamentary election on October 28th. They may even gain a constitutional majority with control of two-thirds of the parliament. This will likely happen despite the fact that most Ukrainians regularly tell pollsters their country is heading “in the wrong direction” and less than a quarter of them plan to vote for the Party of Regions. Perhaps the most important reason for this is that Ukraine has reverted to the mixed proportional and first-past-the-post system last used in 2002. Back then, it allowed Leonid Kuchma, an unpopular president, to secure a working majority in parliament thanks to a divided opposition and post-election defections to his camp. The same conditions are in place now for Viktor Yanukovych (pictured above), the current president. His candidates can come out on top in first-past-the-post constituencies where three or more opposition politicians are competing. On October 14th the two main anti-Yanukovych forces agreed to withdraw some of their candidates in some districts in order to limit this phenomenon, but they have stopped far short of a genuine alliance. It is testament to the current parliamentary opposition’s ineffectiveness that it allowed this electoral reform to pass last year, giving the ruling party a chance to retain power in an election that could be classed as free and fair (given that an elected parliament had agreed to its rules).
Ukraine: Vitali Klitschko, the boxer who would be president, faces his toughest fight yet | guardian.co.uk
In one of the world’s most combustible parliaments, MPs had better watch out. A putative new member is coming who can do more than look after himself. They call him Dr Ironfist and for good reason: Vitali Klitschko is a heavyweight boxing champion, the first ever to hold a PhD – and not a man to pick a fight with. After two decades in the ring, the 41-year-old is on his way to perhaps the most bruising challenge of his life – taking on President Viktor Yanukovych and the dominant elite of Ukraine’s corrupt political system. With elections next month and some expecting Klitschko to hang up his gloves after a fight against Manuel Charr this weekend, the boxer appears poised for that most enigmatic of transformations: sports star to politician. “We are trying to make politics more open,” Klitschko said in an interview with the Guardian. “It became a Ukrainian tradition to make decisions behind closed doors [but] … we are trying to apply European standards in politics.”
A Ukrainian court has upheld a decision to bar two jailed opposition leaders from registering as candidates for upcoming parliamentary elections. The decision Wednesday on former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko cannot be appealed. The United Opposition party had appealed a court decision to refuse to recognize a complaint against election officials who would not register Tymoshenko and Lutsenko for the October 28 elections because of their convictions.
This month, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych signed a $125 million bill into law that will install two web cameras in each of Ukraine’s 34,000 polling stations in time for the Oct. 28 parliamentary elections. The move comes after Russia installed web cameras and provided a live feed from polling stations during the March presidential election. The web cameras were installed in response to accusations of vote tampering during the previous parliamentary election, supported by voter videos from polling stations uploaded to YouTube. When announcing plans for the legislation, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov emphasized that web cameras would eliminate any accusations of election fraud. “We have decided to set up web cameras at each polling station. This will remove all speculation about the possibility of election fraud. Interestingly those who talked most about potential election fraud voted against the web cameras. We will get the job done, and everyone will have an opportunity to observe the elections online,” said the Ukrainian prime minister.
As the world looks to London, a more important contest has kicked off in Kyiv with star quality of its own. Four years ago, under cover of the Beijing Games, Russia and Georgia engaged in a bloody bout of tit-for-tat violence, which damaged both countries’ international reputations and did little to improve the prospects of people in the region. Now, with the Five-Ring Circus under way in the United Kingdom, all seems thankfully quiet on the Eastern front. However, the campaigning for Ukraine’s October parliamentary election, which officially began July 30, shouldn’t be allowed to slip under the radar as the results will have far-reaching impact. The protagonists in this important contest have no intention of being overshadowed by events elsewhere, and many of them are used to strutting their stuff on the international stage, albeit not exclusively in relation to party politics.
As Ukraine marks the official start of the campaign season this week for the October 28 parliamentary election, all eyes have turned to President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, which will fight to keep its control over parliament amid growing criticism at home and abroad. “They need to show that the Party of Regions is still the number one party,” said Ukrainian political researcher Serhiy Kudelia. The Yanukovych regime has earned scorn for what critics say has been a steady lurch toward authoritarian rule. Its drive to centralize power and crackdown on public and political opposition has helped galvanize popular discontent with the government, leading to a dramatic slide in support and the piecemeal consolidation of the opposition.
At its extraordinary meeting on Monday, the Ukrainian Parliament refused to cancel the law granting the Russian language official status in a number of the countrys regions. The opposition earlier submitted four draft resolutions to the Verkhovna Rada on cancelling the results of the vote for the draft law, claiming that the regulations and the Ukrainian Constitution were violated during the consideration of the law. None of the oppositions four draft resolutions received over 50 votes, while the minimum necessary is 226 votes. The Ukrainian opposition is against the law, claiming that it will only aggravate tension between Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking citizens. The oppositionists believe that the government is trying to expand the use of the Russian language as a pre-election tactic – the next parliamentary elections are set for the autumn of 2012.
Ukrainian PResident Viktor Yanukovich has threatened to call snap elections after his allies sparked a political crisis by rushing through a new law boosting the status of the Russian language. More than 1,000 protesters clashed with police in central Kiev yesterday, parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn and one of his deputies announced their resignations, and seven politicians went on hunger strike over the law, which was passed on Tuesday evening. The vote took place amid chaotic scenes in parliament after an unexpected proposal by a pro-Yanukovich deputy. The speed of events prevented opposition parties debating the legislation or gathering all their deputies in the chamber for the vote. “I was cheated, Ukraine was cheated, the people were cheated,” Mr Lytvyn said. He was not present for the vote, and accused a deputy who presided over Tuesday’s session of betrayal.
Riot police have deployed teargas and batons in Ukraine to repress a protest march against a new law that boosts the status of the Russian language inside the former Soviet country. Hundreds of Ukrainians took to the streets of Kiev to protest against the law, which opposition deputies warn could divide the country in two and thrust one half of it into the arms of neighbouring Russia. The law, adopted amid fistfights in parliament late on Tuesday, gives Russian the status of regional language, approving its use in courts, schools and other government institutions in the country’s Russian-speaking southern and eastern regions. Ukrainian remains the country’s only official federal language. It has heightened divisions between those hoping to strengthen Ukraine’s independent post-Soviet identity and those seeking to maintain close links with Russia, a fracture that has haunted the country since the Orange Revolution in 2004. “With this law, the Russian language will become a de facto government language for eastern Ukraine,” said Ksenya Lyapina, an opposition deputy. “It’s very dangerous for Ukraine. It can lead to the division of the country.”
President Viktor Yanukovych has invited observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to monitor Ukraine’s parliamentary elections on October 28, 2012, the president’s press office said in a statement. “Reaffirming my particular interest in holding fair and transparent elections to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in full compliance with the high international standards, I am addressing you with a request to send the official observation missions to Ukraine,” reads a letter of President Viktor Yanukovych’s to the Heads of State and Government of OSCE participating states.
Ukraine will forward the new draft law on elections to the Venice Commission, President Viktor Yanukovych said at a meeting with Director, Secretary of the European Commission for Democracy through Law Gianni Buquicchio, according to the Press office of President Viktor Yanukovych.
“Last year we adopted the Budget Code, Tax Code, and as I had promised, started working on the election law. To prepare it promptly, in advance, a large number of NGOs, political parties and international consultants are involved in this work,” Viktor Yanukovych said.
“A commission headed by Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych worked out a draft electoral law and we are ready to forward it to the Venice Commission,” he said.