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.
A third cause for gloom is the success of the opposition. The ‘Fatherland’ party, which was led by Arseny Yatsenyuk while Yuliya Tymoshenko remains in prison, secured 25.5% of the vote. This is hardly the crushing defeat of the opposition intended when Tymoshenko was originally put in prison. Indeed, the opposition actually won in the party list seats (of the 450 seats in the Ukrainian parliament, 225 are taken by deputies from party lists and the other 225 deputies are elected in single-member seats). Together with boxer Vitaliy Klitschko’s ‘UDAR’ [strike] party and the nationalist Svoboda [‘Freedom’] party, ‘Fatherland’ secured 50% of the vote.
A fourth discouragement for PoR is the defeat of its satellite project, Natalya Korolevska’s ‘Forward, Ukraine!’ party, which failed to get into parliament and lost tens of millions of dollars in the attempt. Andriy Shevchenko, former Chelsea forward, ended his football career to become the frontman for this project and is now an unemployed VIP (though the other day he did receive an offer to head up the Ukraine national football team).
A fifth reason to be downhearted is the scandal that accompanied the vote count. The day after the election the OSCE observer mission described the parliamentary campaign as ‘a step backwards’, flouting democratic standards. And the abuses during the next few days relating to determining who had won in the constituencies were another stain on the reputation of the Ukrainian authorities in the eyes of Western observers. US Vice President Joe Biden even telephoned Yanukovych to appeal for honest counting of the votes.