What to Expect From Ukraine’s Parliamentary Elections
16 July, 2019

“A Ukrainian president is unable to operate without a government,” but we should hold back from criticizing the likely candidates for the incoming one at this stage, reasons a prominent Ukrainian diplomat.

In just five days, on July 21, Ukraine will elect a new parliament. Whilst the director of Ukrainian Diplomatic Academy Sergiy Korsunsky believes there is a chance that Servant of the People party might get over 50% of the vote and form a single-party government, Kyiv-based writer and founder of Lifeline Ukraine Paul Niland dismisses such scenario. But if it does happen, he foresees the problem of “a missing set of checks and balances” which Ukraine desperately needs to keep politicians in check.  

READ MORE: Ukraine President Zelenskyy Calls Snap Parliamentary Elections for July 21

The question of who Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s party would form the coalition with, however, remains open, although Batkivshchyna appears to be the likely ally, Niland argues. This could, in turn, lead to an interesting mix of fresh faces and experience in the new government. Albeit, future officials should only be “X-rayed” to find any conflicts of interest at the point of appointment, opines Korsunsky.

Latest polls conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology suggest a change in the composition of the new parliament. Whilst presidential party Servant of the People retains a healthy lead with a majority of 52.3% of those who intend to vote and have decided on their choice in the upcoming legislative election, rockstar Svyatoslav Vakarchuk’s Golos party’s support went below the threshold to 4%. Its place in the parliament could be taken by the former head of the Security Service (SBU) Ihor Smeshko’s Strength and Honor at 5.1% of the vote. Pro-Russian Opposition Platform - For Life led by Viktor Medvedchuk is expected to get 10.3% of the national vote, whilst ex-president Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity support is at 7.9% and former PM’s Yulia Tymoshenko’s at 5.8%. The survey was carried out on July 3-13 with 2,004 respondents. The error margin is no more than 3.3%.

READ MORE: Second Wave: What Does Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People Party Promise to Ukraine?

Korsunsky notes that Vakarchuk’s Golos works with the same electorate as Servant of the People and wonders how they can differentiate themselves. At the same time, Niland commends Golos’ campaign which is unprecedented in that no black PR was used to discredit the opponents.

Speaking of the high support for pro-Russian Opposition Platform - For Life, both guests remark that there will always be “a natural leaning towards Russia”, especially in eastern Ukraine, thus such parties are likely to get into the parliament – no matter what – with around 11% of the vote. Besides, Korsunsky draws attention to the fact of how hard Vladimir Putin’s pal Viktor Medvedchuk is working to change his image after being in Ukrainian politics for over two decades. He cites regular visits to Moscow, the release of four political prisoners, and promises of cheaper gas, with the last one being an important issue for Ukrainian households where utilities have grown in price substantially over the last few years.

Commenting on Zelenskyy’s reign so far, Korsunsky approves cleansing of the customs service which started with the dismissal of several heads in western Ukraine where the problem of smuggling remains on the agenda. What worries Niland is “Zelenskyy’s proximity to the [oligarch Ihor] Kolomoisky, who is famous for “engineering situations and taking advantage of them”.

READ MORE: Privat Empire: What Does Oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky Own in Ukraine?

At the same time, Korsunsky welcomes presence of people from business on party lists. He argues that because they are aware of the problems small and medium businesses regularly face, it might “deprive [bodies like] SBU of influence” on their operational activities – a problem that puts oligarchical business at an advantage and prevents smaller businesses from thriving.

Looking ahead to the July 21 election, the author praises the triumph of democracy in Ukraine.

The best thing Ukrainians can do is get out and vote.

READ MORE: The Old and the New: Who Will Form Ukraine's Next Parliament?