Ukraine: The other 2012.
Posted by democratist on May 24, 2011
24th May 2011,
Last week, Democratist presented our readers with a vision of Ukraine’s future as seen from the upper reaches of the Party of the Regions (PoR). This week we’ve been talking to some friends from the other side of the political divide about the current situation, and ongoing preparations for the October 2012 parliamentary elections.
They made the following points;
Opinion polls are of varying quality, but it seems likely that the PoR has lost up to half the support it had at the time of the presidential elections last February, and is unlikely to be able to recapture it. This may be one reason why the government has decided to hold the next parliamentary elections as late as possible.
The popular mood has become angry and frustrated due to continuing problems with the economy, and more specifically in relation to rapidly increasing corruption. This is more pronounced in the east, where politically connected criminals have started to demand larger sums from local businesses.
The oligarchs that fund the PoR are interested in access to European markets, and support the signing of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) as part of an Association Agreement with the EU. However, it is necessary for the leadership to maintain the rhetoric of continued good relations with Russia to placate their supporters. There are doubts about whether the EU will be ready to sign the DCFTA by the end of the year, despite the fact that it has become a central element of government policy. The EU may seek to postpone the deal on the basis that greater progress needs to be made on human rights issues, or reforms proposed by the IMF. The normal process of ratification is, even without additional complications, is usually rather drawn out. A continuing unwillingness to upset Russia may also be a factor.
The language issue is critical for the PoR. Currently, only Ukrainian has the status of a state language, even though many Ukrainians prefer to speak russian. The PoR has repeatedly promised to make Russian an official language, but has not yet delivered. The reason for this may be at least partly that, given how unpopular they have become, they fear that if they were to do so before the parliamentary elections next October, many of their voters would see no further reason to support them. However, this presumably depends on how the other parties react. Nationalist grandstanding from the opposition could in fact help the PoR considerably.
With its ratings falling, the PoR would almost certainly fare very badly in next year’s parliamentary elections, given a free vote. They are therefore in the process of introducing a number of measures to tilt the situation to their advantage. These include;
- The politically-motivated legal harassment, and possible future imprisonment of Tymoshenko (and other opposition figures).
- Increasing the threshold for party representation in Parliament from 3% to 5, 7, or even 10%.
- The creation of an electoral system which allows for half of MP’s to be drawn from party lists, and the others to be elected as independents (thereby allowing these to be bribed or blackmailed into joining the PoR’s ranks after the election, as happened in he wake of last year’s presidential elections).
- Plus all of the usual post-soviet electoral fun and games.
Additionally, given the popularity of acting Mayor of Kiev Oleksander Popov (who took over the running of the city from the erratic Leonid Chernovetskyi last December) it seems likely that the PoR will push for a mayoral vote in Kiev at the same time as the parliamentary elections.