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Ukraine Political Parties

Party of Regions22.021.4
Fatherland 25.6 20.2
Communists7.6 6.1
Alliance for Reform (UDAR)9.2 8.3
“Freedom” 4.43.0
Pre-election projections from a May survey by the Ukrainian independent pollster Sociological Group “Rating,” as well as July figures from the Kiev-based Razumkov Center non-governmental think tank. 2,000 people participated in each survey. The margin of error for the first survey is 2.2 percent, while for the second poll it is not specified.
To enter parliament, a party needs to pass the 5-percent threshold.
Campaign season for the October 28 Ukrainian parliamentary elections opened 01 August 2012. The contest is the first major election of Viktor Yanukovych’s presidency, and will measure just how much popular discontent over his and the ruling Party of Regions’ rule has grown. Opposition forces in Ukraine have been notoriously weak and scattered. However, a sharp drop in support for the authorities may translate into more votes for the opposition – particularly, for the Fatherland party, headed by Ukraine’s two most visible opposition politicians: imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Economy and Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

The Verkhovna Rada is divided into factions, formed either by single parties or coalitions made up of several different parties. Factions in Ukraine have traditionally been fluid, with political allegiances shifting frequently. As of mid-2012 the parliament included the following factions: the Party of Regions (194 seats), the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc-Fatherland (99 seats), the Our Ukraine-People’s Self-Defense Bloc (62 seats), the Communist Party (25 seats), the People’s Party (20 seats), Reforms for the Future (19 seats), and independent lawmakers (30 seats). While the ruling Party of Regions held only a relative majority, it enjoyed a de facto majority in parliament by scraping together votes from other factions. Its goal was to muster a 300-vote constitutional majority.

Traditionally, Ukrainian parties competed in electoral “blocs” – or political alliances that pool together electoral support and compete during elections as single forces. However, a November 2011 law, sailed through parliament by the Party of Regions, changed the game considerably in a move critics said is meant to split the opposition. It stipulated that parties could no longer band together and compete as blocs in parliamentary elections – an especially damning rule in a country where the political opposition is already fragile and musters its political capital through coalitions. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe criticized the electoral change, charging in a June 2012 report that it “seriously undermine[s] confidence in the electoral process” and “determine[s] the context of the elections.” Similarly, a recent Freedom House report expressed serious concerns about a crooked political playing field, as well as the authorities’ inclination to use administrative resources to their advantage.

Once in parliament, it is possible that the main opposition faction, Fatherland, would form parliamentary alliances with other factions, such as the nationalist Freedom party (should it win seats), and even Klitschko’s UDAR, to counter the Party of Regions’ influence. Many experts remained skeptical, however, about whether the opposition could stick together, noting also that the ruling party would attempt to court individual votes from other parties in parliament to maintain its own faction. Given Tymoshenko’s imprisonment, it seemed likely that she will remain the ceremonial face of the opposition, while Yatsenyuk would emerge as the political leader of any united opposition forces.

The ruling party needs to hold onto its electoral majority and reverse a double-digit drop in popular support, which plummeted from about 40 percent in early 2010 to around 20 percent currently, according to a survey of about 2,000 respondents conducted by the Kiev-based Razumkov Center think tank. The Party of Regions has relied on its control over parliament to ram through controversial legislation, such as a recent bill elevating the status of the Russian language in Ukraine, and will be focused particularly on scraping together a constitutional majority to adopt key changes in the constitution favorable to Yanukovych and the regime.

Party of Regions

The Party of Regions held a parliamentary majority since the 2007 parliamentary election. It was created in 1997 to represent the interests of Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the south and east of the country. The party and its then-presidential candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, emerged as the losers of the 2004 Orange Revolution that swept the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko to power. Yet after five years of stalled reforms and broken promises, the Party of Regions crept back to national prominence, having capitalized on public discontent with the Yushchenko administration. Today, despite a precipitous drop in ratings since Yanukovych’s election, the party remains the country’s most powerful single political force, and has emerged as a vehicle for the oligarchic business interests invested in the Yanukovych regime. It employs a populist approach, while also attempting to appeal to its blue-collar, working-class support base. Russia has traditionally thrown its support behind Yanukovych and the Party of Regions, though to varying degrees over the years. During the Orange Revolution, the Kremlin openly backed the party and its leader, but was quickly embarrassed by the resounding defeat. In the 2010 presidential election, Moscow tempered its position and announced it would work with either of the presidential candidates – at that time, Yanukovych and Tymoshenko. By 2010, however, Russia had grown increasingly impatient with the Yanukovych administration.

Despite low ratings due to popular anger over low wages, high prices, poor social services and endemic corruption, by late 2013 Yanukovych looked well placed for re-election in 2015 - as long as Tymoshenko remained out of the running. Opposition figures such as world heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko and former economy minister Arseny Yatseniuk had failed to agree on a single candidate to challenge him. Though opinion polls now show Yanukovych well behind in any straight fight with Klitschko, most commentators believed he would be able to marshal the resources of wealthy entrepreneurs and a tamed press to ensure a second term.

Ukraine was hit by anti-government protests, which often turned violent, since November 2013. New riots started 18 February 2014 and eventually led to President Yanukovich reportedly fleeing his residence outside Kiev. Ukraine’s unicameral parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, took over and appointed an acting president, also setting early elections. Yanukovych, who reportedly fled Kyiv for the eastern city of Kharkiv 21 February 2014, likened the opposition to Nazis and insisted that he would not resign or leave Ukraine.

In a bid to dissociate themselves from the former president, the Party of Regions issued a statement 22 February 2014, condemning the president’s attempt to flee and blaming him for dozens of deaths of civilian protesters and police. “Ukraine was deceived and robbed, but it is nothing compared to the grief of dozens of Ukrainian families, who lost their loved ones fighting on both sides of barricades. Ukraine was betrayed and people were forced to confront each other. Yanukovych and his allies bear full responsibility for this,” the statement read.

Ukraine’s former ruling Party of Regions, which had until recently held an overwhelming majority of seats in parliament, announced 24 February 2014 that it will take up the role of the opposition. Faction leader Oleksandr Yefremov said at a meeting of party officials in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, that the erstwhile opposition had enough power to form a majority and government. “We have decided to become opposition,” he said. With 130 lawmakers, the Party of Regions faction remained the largest in the 450-seat Ukrainian parliament, despite the departure of 77 members from its ranks in the wake of bloody clashes between protesters and police in which dozens of people were killed.

VOB - United Opposition / Batkivschyna (Fatherland)

VOB - United Opposition / Batkivschyna (Fatherland) is a coalition of opposition groups led by Batkivschyna / Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko, the party of imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and Front of Change, led by Arseny Yatsenyuk. In the 2007 parliamentary elections, opposition parties of broadly similar background captured 228 seats, winning a slim majority in parliament. Fatherland brings together the two of the more visible opposition figures in Ukraine. The party, which currently anchors the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) faction in parliament, is Tymoshenko’s flagship party and has a long history in the opposition.

The Front for Change, a new and much smaller party led by Yatsenyuk, blended into Fatherland and bypass a new law preventing political alliances, or “blocs,” from competing as joint forces. Yatsenyuk announced the cooperation agreement as part of an effort to build a unified opposition to the Party of Regions and the Yanukovych administration. Fatherland advocated a pro-European platform, and has seen a small yet steady growth in public support alongside the Party of Regions’ drop. The combined forces of Tymoshenko and another key opposition figure, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, offered a formidable challenge in the form of the Fatherland party, which may work with a handful of other small opposition parties that make it past the 5 percent threshold into parliament. If the Party of Regions sees its plurality in the 450-seat parliament eclipsed, especially by an opposition willing to work in concert, it could well embolden the otherwise divided and disenchanted anti-Yanukovych forces.

The biography of Andryi Parubyi, the commander of the opposition camping on the Maidan square in early 2014, sheds some light on this issue. Parubyi, who was 42, was born in the west of Ukraine and formally represents the Front of Change. This is a political party whose faction in the Ukrainian parliament is described by Western media as a moderate one. In 1991, as soon as freedom came to the former Soviet Union, Mr. Parubyi, then just 20 years old, founds with a couple of friends the so called Social-Nationalist party. Andryi Parubyi’s hero and ideological predecessor, Stepan Bandera, led a Ukrainian nationalist force, which helped Hitler take control of then Soviet Ukraine in 1941. Bandera’s people are accused of participating in several massacres against the Jewish and Polish population in 1940s.

Arseny Yatsenyuk, the formal leader of the Front of Change, often had his orders ignored by the people who camped on Maidan under Parubyi’s guidance. So, in case of these people’s victory, it was not clear whether the moderate Yatsenyuk, or the radical Parubyi, would be among those at the wheel of the new Ukraine.

The Communist Party of Ukraine

As with many other post-Soviet countries, the Communist Party remains a relative mainstay on the Ukrainian political scene. While just passing the 5-percent threshold, the Communists have retained a visible presence in Ukrainian socio-political life, fielding outspoken and colorful individuals, such as firebrand Petro Symonenko, and publicly defending Kiev’s most famous Vladimir Lenin statue from nationalist attackers. As expected, the party enjoys the most support from retirees, but virtually none from younger voters and the first post-Soviet generation. It espouses a Marxist-Leninist ideology, though it has been known to work with the Party of Regions on key legislation and to collect votes otherwise intended for the ruling party.

UDAR [Punch] / Ukranian Democratic Alliance for Reform

Vitaliy Klitschko has made history as a boxer. The two-meter-tall heavyweight won 41 of his 45 career fights by knockout, and has himself never been knocked down. Led by Vitaliy KLITSCHKO, UDAR [Punch] did not participate in the 2007 elections. However, the party steadily increased in popularity. Among the newest Ukrainian political parties, UDAR (Russian for “punch”) was founded in April 2010 and is led by boxing champion-cum-politician Vitaliy Klitschko. Based on an earlier political coalition built around Klitschko’s 2006 political debut, in which he lost the Kiev mayoral election but gained 14 seats in the city council, UDAR has been slowly collecting political capital. In the 2010 local elections, it won about 400 seats on local and regional councils throughout Ukraine. Compared to its competitors, UDAR has enjoyed the most pre-election buzz: its support level has soared in recent months, and it seems set to collect seats in parliament. Experts have labeled it a political “dark horse,” noting it is unclear whether it would work with the ruling party or join the opposition. Its supports a platform of pro-Europeanism and anti-corruption.

A 2012 survey suggested that Ukrainians had low confidence in political leadership. Yet KLITSCHKO was the only political leader in whom more Ukrainians had confidence (42 percent) than lacked confidence. Klychko began boxing when he was 14. Throughout his sports career, Mr. Klychko earned a number of world-class achievements; he is a two-time world amateur kickboxing champion and four-time professional kickboxing champion, three-time Ukrainian boxing champion, champion of the First World Military Championship, and a silver medalist at the World Amateur Boxing Championship. In 1996, he entered professional boxing, and earned a variety of titles, e.g. the European Champion, the Inter-Continental WBO and WBA champion, WBO and WBC Heavyweight champion. The World Boxing Council has named Vitaliy Klychko the best puncher in the history of heavyweight boxing. In April 2010, Klychko became the Party Leader for “UDAR (Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms)”.

Since being elected mayor of Ukraine's capital city in May 2014, Klitschko inherited a Kyiv that has been rattled - and also galvanized - by political protests earlier in the year that unseated the corrupt former administration. Klitschko is recognized as a Ukrainian icon for his incredible boxing prowess. But the heavyweight hero said he dreamed of a different legacy, as the cleanest, most progressive mayor the city of Kyiv has ever had.

Svoboda [Freedom] / All Ukranian Union

Ukraine’s token nationalist party, Freedom (or “Svoboda”) has crept slowly onto the national stage in recent years. Led by Oleh TYAHNYBOK, it is a far-right wing Ukrainian ethnic nationalist party that enjoyed an upsurge in support, especially in western Ukraine.

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Page last modified: 26-06-2014 18:46:49 ZULU