Ukraine Parliamentary Elections: No “Russian Revanche” and Added Idealism
22 July, 2019
Members of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's team watch the early exit poll results being presented at their headquarters in Kyiv, Ukraine on July 21, 2019. EPA-EFE/TATYANA ZENKOVICH
Following an easy victory for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's Servant of the People party, Hromadske asks renowned Ukrainian analysts and sociologists whether the elections were what they hoped for. Below is what they said.

Volodymyr Fesenko, Director of the Kyiv-based Penta Center for Political Studies: “No ‘Russian revanche’ on the cards”

"The biggest surprise was the very high result shown by the Servant of the People party in the single-member constituencies. It gives an opportunity for Zelenskyy’s party to form a single-party majority. At the moment, it’s a potential possibility and it still depends both on the final election results and the next strategies and tactics of Zelenskyy’s party. I would say that they have this democratic option – even with the fact that they have a formal majority – to form a coalition with the Golos party, which would be a positive signal for our international partners, for many Ukrainian citizens and political forces. Because that would mean that the party of the president is ready to cooperate with various political forces and is ready for constructive contacts who have different opinions. 

READ MORE: Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People Set to Get Single-Party Majority

But there is also a temptation. The temptation of an easy-to-manage option, where you can make a decision based only on your own party members. This is the first challenge to emerge from these elections.

A positive thing is in the fact that the result of the election shows that we will have quite a stable parliamentary majority, and as a result, a stable government. This would manifest within the next year or so. While at the moment the situation can still change in Zelenskyy’s faction or in the government.

The possibility of the Party of Sharij – as well as the Opposition Bloc and Viktor Medvedchuk’s Opposition Platform party, in much bigger quantities – receiving state funding will, in my opinion, serve the catalyst for the initiative of cancelling state funding for political factions. Such will be the controversial consequence of the voting process. This can either be a legislative/parliamentary decision or a decision put forward through a referendum. And the cause for this will be the fact that parties with, softly speaking, non-Ukrainian positions can receive state funding. 

READ MORE: The Return of Pro-Russian Politicians in Ukraine?

With regards to the increase of support for pro-Russian forces, it’s a myth. But a myth that is easily disproved. Before 2014, nearly half of the Ukrainian voters voted for the Party of Regions and the Communist Party. [Today] when you add up the votes that the Opposition Platform - For Life, the Party of Sharij and the Opposition Bloc received, it is still less than 20% of votes. Part of the former voters of the Party of Regions stayed in Crimea and the occupied parts of the Donbas. But what’s important is that a significant part of former supporters of the Party of Regions voted for Zelenskyy’s party this time round. Zelenskyy’s party practically adapts former Party of Regions supporters to a more thorough position. This is a positive tendency and no 'revanche' is on the cards. Also, since nobody will invite the Opposition Platform to the coalition, it will stay in isolation.  

READ MORE: How Pro-Russian Oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk Is Regaining Power in Ukraine

Moreover, any information about Medvedchuk receiving a high-profile position will receive a lot of opposition both within the parliament and outside it. And considering the fact that the new president also doesn’t like Medvedchuk, I don’t think he will be given a high-profile position in the parliament."

Volodymyr Paniotto, Head of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS): “Golos party will add some idealism to the parliament”

"The very least thing we understand now is that Servant of the People will be able to form a government without a coalition. For the first time in history, Ukraine will have a single-party government. Although yesterday I heard opinions that Servant of the People will still want to have a coalition [with another party]. The other interesting thing is that Golos, [rockstar Sviatoslav] Vakarchuk’s party, got into the parliament. In my opinion, that’s very good for the parliament because Golos – or at least its leader – looks like a party that is quite idealistic in its views. And it’s probably idealism that the parliament had been lacking.

Leader of the Golos party, singer Sviatoslav Vakarchuk and his fellow party members watch the first exit poll results being announced at their headquarters in Kyiv, Ukraine on July 21, 2019. Photo:  EPA-EFE/OLEG PETRASIUK

READ MORE: 7 "Firsts" of Ukraine’s Parliamentary Elections

But it’s difficult to say because the tactics that some parties use before the elections might no longer be used after their election. For example, according to our data, Servant of the People’s rating was dropping and at one time it was at 40%, according to the telephone polling we did. And then president Zelenskyy started traveling around and speaking with different officials in quite a rude way, to be frank. And, since there is a negative attitude toward officials [in Ukraine], this led to a surge in his rating. Therefore, this behavioral method in the fashion of Holoborodko (a fictional character played by Zelenskyy in TV series -ed.) and [Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko – this old, Soviet nomenclatural way of behavior – whether it was a pre-electoral technique that really worked its magic or his way of governing, we are yet to find out." 

Oleksiy Antypovych, Head of the Rating sociological group: “These really weren’t parliamentary elections, but a third round of the presidential elections”

"The results were absolutely easy to predict. Even the lower [than usual] voter turnout was predictable since our research showed that a lot of people planned their vacations for the election period. And the closer it got to elections, the fewer people responded, which meant that those people did go on their vacations.

The actual percentages that the parties received were also predictable. If any politicians say that the results came to them as a surprise, then they didn’t really trust the opinion polls that we carried out.

READ MORE: Five Parties to Make Up Ukraine's New Parliament - Exit Polls

When it comes to the coalition, it depends on how many single-member constituencies Servant of the People members will win, whether the party will have 226 seats, the majority – the Central Election Commission results will show this. 

Regarding people’s moods and reasons they went to their polling stations – these snap parliamentary elections can really be called the “third round” of the presidential elections. The moods that prevailed on March 31 (first round of the presidential elections -ed.) and then on April 21 (second round -ed.) signaled a demand for change and, also, a demand for justice. And all of this transformed into an enormous support for Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People’s party. Ukrainians like to place all the responsibility for fighting corruption and bettering the economic landscape on the president who was elected in April. Ukraine always wants one person to be responsible for all the steps – and in this case, it’s the president.

READ MORE: Businessmen, Volunteers and Kolomoisky’s People Within Servant of the People

We can also speak about the fact that just before the elections we had this positive mood and expectations about the snap elections and President Zelenskyy’s actions. All of this led to a positive evaluation of the direction in which the state is moving. For the first time, positive moods prevailed over the negative moods. The majority of people always used to say that Ukraine is moving in the wrong direction. For the first time, this changed just before the parliamentary elections.

Only during the Euromaidan revolution, in spring 2014, was Ukraine close to this indicator – but this shift didn’t happen then. So we really are experiencing a historic moment when Ukrainians are not just craving positive changes, but they also believe that these changes can happen. Whether these beliefs will come true and how soon this trust in the president or in the party will decrease will depend on their work.

Women receive their ballot papers in order to vote at one of the polling stations located inside a gymnasium sports hall in Kyiv, Ukraine on July 21. Photo: Anastasia Vlasova / HROMADSKE

READ MORE: 7 Big Names That Won’t Make It to Ukraine’s Next Parliament

If hairdressers and artists turned constituency candidates from Servant of the People become victorious – or have all the chances to become victorious (as we’re still waiting for the final CEC results) – this means that the brand of the party led them to this victory. And the brand of this party is Volodymyr Zelenskyy himself."

READ MORE: How Ukraine Voted in Early Parliamentary Elections

/By Maria Romanenko