BRAMA, Apr 20, 2006, 9:00 am ET
The Recent Parliamentary Elections in Ukraine: A Review
By Oleksandr Khapatnyukovsky, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation
On Monday, April 10, The Washington Group (TWG), in conjunction with the
Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS),
hosted a "The Recent Parliamentary Elections in Ukraine: A Review"
presentation. Speakers included Orest Deychakiwsky, Senior Staff Advisor at
the U.S. Helsinki Commission and a Ukrainian Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) election observer, Adrian Karatnycky, President
of Orange Circle, and Serhiy Kudelia, SAIS Ph.D. candidate. The event was
held at 7:00 p.m. at SAIS in Washington, D.C.
The panelists assessed the procedure of the first parliamentary elections in
Ukraine after the constitutional reform had come into power, analyzed how
the elections were conducted and gave their perspectives of the election's
As the evening's first panelist, Orest Deychakiwsky emphasised the
importance of the post-election assessment of the OSCE-led election mission,
which included observers from the parliamentary assemblies of the OSCE, EU,
Council of Europe and NATO. This was the first time the OSCE had called any
elections among the 12 former Soviet republics outside the Baltics "free and
fair". This, according to Deychakiwsky, underscores the consolidation of
democratic gains made in the Orange Revolution. Comparing the recent
elections to the first two rounds of the 2004 presidential elections in
Ukraine, Mr. Deychakiwsky noted that temniki, state interference, and the
use of administrative resources and intimidation, harassment, and outright
fraud were largely a thing of the past. This time there was a freer media
and decidedly more balanced media coverage and the elections were conducted
in an atmosphere of true competition. He also compared the Rada elections
with the presidential elections in Belarus held a week earlier, which he
described as a "farce."
However, there will still some shortcomings in the election process. The
holding of both national and local elections at the same time added to
difficulties in the efficiency of the election process, leading to long
lines and overcrowding in some polling stations. Outdated or incorrect
information in voter lists with the recent voter registration overhaul also
led to complications -- even disenfranchising some voters. Deychakiwsky
praised the hundreds of thousands of election workers and non-partisan
domestic and party observers for their hard work in ensuring the
transparency of the voting and vote count. He stressed that the
shortcomings were mostly organizational and logistical, and not the result
of a centralized, planned attempt to manipulate the election, and that the
election results reflected the will of the people. With these elections,
said Mr. Deychakiwsky, "Ukraine's leadership and people have shown their
commitment to democracy in a very tangible way."
Following Deychakiwsky`s presentation, Serhiy Kudelia focused on the results
of the elections. He strongly criticized the President of Ukraine Viktor
Yushchenko for his failure to unite the Ukrainian people after the Orange
Revolution of 2004. "Cultural and regional identities in Ukraine transformed
into political ones", said Kudelia. He characterized the election campaign
of the pro-President's political party Our Ukraine as a "brilliant failure".
To make his point, Kudelia compared Our Ukraine's 24% support rate in the
2002 parliamentary elections with less than 14% backing in 2006.
At the same time, the speaker underlined the success of the Yulia Tymoshenko
Bloc. It came second with 22% of the votes, outpolling Yushchenko's "Our
Ukraine" 2:1 or higher throughout most of Central and Eastern Ukraine. There
are some reasons of this success, remarked Kudelia. Firstly, unlike
President Yushchenko, Yulia Tymoshenko "has passed the test of power".
"During her term as Prime Minister, she did not steal anything. On the
contrary, she tried to return the stolen property to the people," explained
Kudelia the popularity of Tymoshenko among common citizens.
Secondly, according to Kudelia, Tymoshenko won the corruption debate
dominating the election. Having dismissed Tymoshenko from the government in
September 2005, Yushchenko accused her of plotting a coup against him and
favoring certain businesses. Tymoshenko, in turn, accused Yushchenko of
surrounding himself with corrupt politicians who manipulated him. "The
untransparent gas deal with Russia in January 2006 served as the critical
evidence of corruption among Ukraine's top officials", stated Kudelia.
Thirdly, Tymoshenko in her election campaign appealed to socially
unprotected people, like students, pensioners and doctors. "It was not new
for Ukrainian politicians," said Kudelia, "but this time she promised that
rich people would help the poor."
Closing his presentation, Serhiy Kudelia expressed hope that politicians
would stop using the symbols of the Orange Revolution that divided
Ukrainians, but would try to find common ground and achieve reconciliation.
The final speaker was Adrian Karatnycky. He gave his overview of the
elections and the business component in the Ukrainian politics. The speaker
assured that the "orange" parties (Our Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc and
the Socialist Party) still remain the majority with 54% of votes, if you
combine their results in the parliamentary elections. He also indicated
there was "no question" that Yulia Tymoshenko will be Ukraine's next prime
minister, in an "Orange" government.
Karatnycky`s remarks raised serious concerns about the Party of Regions
which received the largest share of votes in the elections with 32%. He
noted there were two distinct groups inside this party. The first group is
comprised of marginal, pro-Moscow politicians and those who were responsible
for the 2004 presidential elections fraud. The second group represents
Ukrainian businessmen who have interests in the West, led by Rinat Akhemetov
of System Capital Management. In Karatnycky's view he is the true power in
the Regions group and a "pragmatist" but he must distance himself through
"concrete action" from discredited politicians in the Regions bloc.
According to Karatnycky, now the Industrial Union Group, the powerful group
of enterprises which originated in Eastern Ukraine, already has 40% of all
its investment in the countries of the European Union. The interest of
Ukrainian businesses in getting access to European and American markets will
facilitate governmental policy towards Euro-Atlantic integration.
Karatnycky noted that this free and fair parliamentary election has marked
the end of the post-Soviet era in Ukraine, and finally Ukraine was moving in
the right direction.
Among the attendees in the SAIS Rome Auditorium were the representatives of
think tanks and NGOs, mass media, Ukrainian diaspora, and the Embassy of
Ukraine to the United States. A reception followed the event.
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