Ukraine: For Now, Only Thing Certain Is Uncertainty
By Jan Maksymiuk
October 3, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Political opponents Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko barely waited for polling stations to close before each claimed a decisive victory in the September 30 vote. Exit polls appeared to hand the win to Prime Minister Yanukovych's Party of Regions, with 35 percent of the vote. The same polls indicated the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) would take 31 percent.
Taken individually, however, the results represented a dramatic 10-percent gain for Tymoshenko over the March 2006 vote, whereas Yanukovych's results saw little variation. Tymoshenko had in mind both this and the fact that a partnership with the bloc backed by her erstwhile ally, President Viktor Yushchenko -- the Our-Ukraine-People's Self-Defense bloc (NUNS), which exit polls handed 13 percent in expected votes -- would have given them a majority in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada and a chance to run the government on their own.
The early stage of the ballot count seemed to bolster Tymoshenko's hopes. The BYuT lead the Party of Regions by several percentage points for most of the tally's first day. Things began to change, however, when the Central Election Commission began to process voter protocols from Yanukovych's traditional strongholds in southern and eastern Ukraine. Slowly but surely, the Party of Regions relegated the Tymoshenko bloc to second place, with an ever-widening margin.
Today, with more than 99 percent of the ballots counted, the Party of Regions tops the election list with 34.27 percent of the vote. BYuT is second with 30.78, and NUNS third with 14.20.
Socialists May Demand Recount
These preliminary results translate into a slim majority of 229 seats for Tymoshenko and Yushchenko's blocs. But this majority is largely contingent on the fate of a fourth group, the Socialist Party -- which, with 2.87 percent of the vote, currently falls short of the 3-percent barrier required to enter parliament. The Socialists have indicated they will demand a recount. If their demands are met, and they ultimately cross the 3 percent hurdle, they will be rewarded with 15 seats and deprive the potential Orange Revolution BYuT-NUNS coalition of their competitive edge.
Were the Socialists to enter parliament, Tymoshenko and Yushchenko would be forced to take a third party into their coalition in order to form a cabinet. The Communists (who have already safely passed the 3 percent hurdle) and the Socialists are unpalatable options for both BYuT and NUNS. The only possible option left is the bloc led by former parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn. The Lytvyn Bloc, which has also cleared the 3 percent threshold, might well play the role of kingmaker with its 20 parliamentary mandates.
The mathematical possibilities don't stop there, however. The former Orange Revolution enemies Yanukovych and Yushchenko could form a coalition, with or without the Socialists in parliament. (Tymoshenko, eyes clearly on the premiership once more, has publicly touted a BYuT-NUNS alliance, but the pro-Yushchenko bloc has been far more circumspect about an Orange reunion.) And a partnership between the Party of Regions, the Communists, the Socialists, and the Lytvyn Bloc would also hand that group the slimmest of majorities.
Considering the mind-boggling odyssey of coalition-building that followed the March 2006 polls in Ukraine, it is entirely reasonable to say all of these postelection scenarios stand an equal chance of coming to fruition. Thus, the real winner of the September 30 elections will become clear only once a new parliamentary majority is formed.
Another Vote Unlikely
The Ukrainian Constitution stipulates that such a majority must be formed within one month of the new legislature's inaugural session. If the deadline passes with no resolution, Yushchenko has the right to dissolve the legislature and call for yet another round of elections. Since the September 30 polls were the third general elections in Ukraine in the past three years, however, another vote seems highly unlikely.
It is anybody's guess when the Central Election Commission will announce its absolutely final election results and give the go-ahead to the new Verkhovna Rada. If the Socialists make good on promises to challenge the election results in court, a counterchallenge by BYuT and NUNS will likely follow. Both Tymoshenko and Yushchenko have branded Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz a "traitor" to the Orange Revolution, so it's reasonable to assume they will do everything possible to bring about his political demise by stripping him of a decimal point or two in the official vote count.
Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org