27/03/2006 - Results
President of the Republic Viktor Yushenko suffered a setback during the general elections that took place on 26th March in the Ukraine. According to an exit poll by the International Institute for Sociology, Democratic Initiatives and the Razoumkov Centre, the Head of State's coalition Our Ukraine, only came third and is said to have won just 14% of the vote. The winner of this election is former Prime Minister and unfortunate candidate in the Presidential election in November-December 2004, Viktor Yanukovich. His party, the Regions Party is said to have won 33% of the vote and is followed by the Electoral Bloc Batkyvchina (Homeland) led by former Prime Minister (January 2005-September 2005), Yulia Timoshenko, is said to have won 23% of the vote. A second exit poll undertaken by the Ukrainian Sociological Service declares the Regions Party the leading political force in the country with 27.5% of the vote, the Electoral Bloc Batkyvchina is credited with 21.6% and Our Ukraine 15.6%. Finally a third poll undertaken by R&B and the Centre for Opinion Polls also declared victory for the Regions Party with 31% of the vote, the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc with 23% of the vote and the President of the Republic's party, 14%. The final results will only be revealed in a few days time.
It is still difficult to see which parties succeeded in rising above the 3% voting mark, vital to be represented in the Verkhovna Rada, the mono-cameral chamber in Parliament. According to a poll undertaken by the International Institute for Sociology, Democratic Initiatives and the Razoumkov Centre the Communist Party (KPU), the Socialist Party (SPU) and the Natalia Vitrenko Bloc are the only parties to have risen beyond this threshold. According to two other polls the Popular Bloc led by the President of Parliament Volodymyr Litvine, is also in this category. The Ukrainians were also due to elect their mayors and regional and local representatives; the multifarious nature of the vote and the plethora of political parties (fifty-three and 7605 candidates) made the vote counting a slow process.
The participation rate rose to 70% according to a manager of the Central Electoral Commission, Yaroslav Davidovitch.
"Our Ukraine's poor result is a heavy blow for the President of the Republic," believes Volodymyr Fesenko, director of the Centre for Political Studies Penta. The hero of the Orange Revolution in November and December 2004 who was triumphantly elected as Head of State fifteen months ago is indeed the great loser in these general elections. However nothing has yet been settled since no political party won a real majority; the parties will now have to come together to form a majority coalition enabling them to govern. In view of the results several government coalitions are possible: an Orange coalition bringing together Our Ukraine and the Electoral Block Batkyvchina or an Orange/Blue coalition bringing Viktor Yushenko and Viktor Yanukovich, the two former enemies together. The latter scenario does however seem unlikely for the supporters of the President of the Republic even though political analysts have not cast this solution aside.
"Two scenarios are possible: either the failure to create a government and dissolution of Parliament or a government led by Yulia Timoshenko," maintains Hleb Vichlinski from the consultancy Cfk-USM. Just before the election Oleg Ribatchouk, Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic ensured that "the envisaged coalition will only possible on the basis of democratic forces which are resolutely pro-European and pro-Atlantist." "Tomorrow we shall start negotiations with the political forces that comprised the victorious coalition during the Orange Revolution. We are talking here of bringing together a maximum of democratic forces within a coalition. I believe that the best solution would be to have a new Orange team," said Viktor Yushenko as he went to vote in Kiev. "Our Ukraine accepted the principle whereby the party with the most votes amongst the participants in the coalition would put forward its candidature for the position of Prime Minister," maintained the head of Our Ukraine's electoral campaign, Roman Bessmertny. "Our Ukraine is ready to sign a memorandum on the creation of a coalition with the Electoral Bloc Batkyvchina," maintained his deputy Roman Zvarytch.
Viktor Yushenko's reconciliation with Yulia Timoshenko will however bear a price. The latter, who presents herself as the natural heir of the ideals of the regime born of the Orange Revolution does not hide her ambition of becoming Prime Minister again, a position which she was removed from by Viktor Yushenko on 8th September 2005 and which she has now transformed into the condition for any alliance. "For the good of the people, I shall not simply give this task to anyone," she recently declared. "All I know is who won't be Prime Minister," Viktor Yushenko then said.
When interviewed recently about Viktor Yushenko and her chance of allying herself to the President of the Republic Yulia Timoshenko answered: "I hold him in great esteem for his human and political qualities. I do not consider him an enemy. My relations with him are good and I trust him. But I believe as President of the Republic he must take up a clear stance and it must be admitted that he allows himself to be influenced. All of his advisors are simply aiming for a Parliamentary seat without worrying about the vital interests of the Ukraine. I am ready to join up with the President that we brought to power. But I am not prepared to support his "entourage". If the President of the Republic refuses this appointment then he will have to accept Viktor Yanukovich as Prime Minister," she warned.
Together Our Ukraine and the Electoral Bloc Batkyvchina would have 257 seats in Parliament – i.e. the absolute majority of the 450 seats in the Verkhovna Rada – versus 195 for an alliance between the Regions Party and the Communist Party.
Socio-economic difficulties and internal divisions within the parties that supported the Orange Revolution have finally taken their toll on the President of the Republic and enabled the opposition led by Viktor Yanukovich to win through fifteen months after the Orange Revolution. The former, pro-Russian Prime Minister was able to use the poor economic results produced by the Orange team during his entire electoral campaign. "They haven't stopped creating crises that the Ukrainian people are trying to overcome. Can a country be governed this way, by deceiving a part of the population and bringing the other half to its knees?" he asked repeatedly pointing to the Ukraine's high growth rate when he was Prime Minister.
"Our victory will open a new page in the Ukraine's history. We are ready to work with all political parties elected in Parliament for the good of our country because there is no compromise we are not ready to accept for peace, stability and the rebirth of the Ukraine's economic power," declared Viktor Yanukovich on the announcement of the first results. In spite of his victory he does however find himself in almost the same position as Viktor Yushenko, having to make an alliance with other parties in order to regain power.
The change in the Constitution that took effect on 1st January last considerably increased Parliament's powers to the detriment of those of the President of the Republic. The Prime Minister as well as the members of Parliament, except however for the Foreign and Defence Ministers who remain within the sphere of the President, are appointed by Parliament.
Finally these general elections monitored by over 2,100 international observers are the first free elections ever to have taken place in the Ukraine since its independence on 24th August 1991. The President of the Republic said that he was pleased with the "first honest, democratic elections" to take place in the country. "It is a very important day in the Ukraine's history. The government is doing everything in its power for the vote to be fair and for the first time an absolute majority of voters know that the results really reflect how they voted," declared Viktor Yushenko. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) was also pleased with how the election had taken place. "The elections on 26th march can only be described to have been free and fair. They have consolidated the breakthrough in the organisation of a democratic electoral process, started by the Orange Revolution in 2004," said Alcee Hastings, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the European organisation.
Discussions which started on Monday 27th March at the seat of the Presidency of the Republic should lead to a coalition able to govern a country which after having won its freedom now needs stability more than ever before. The President of the Republic can dissolve the Supreme Council within 30 days of the general elections if no agreement is found by the various parties.