Parliamentary elections in Ukraine: forecast and political perspectives of key political players

The latest sociological polls show that five political parties will enter the Parliament, namely, “Sluha Narodu”, “Opposition Platform-For life”, “European Solidarity”, “Batkivshchyna” and “Holos”. This dynamic is unlikely to change by the end of elections. If Ihor Smeshko’s party passes to the Parliament by surprise, it still will not have a strong impact on the coalition’s formation. Majoritarian MPs will again play the key role in the formation of the coalition as it happened in 2014. As of political trends, there is a gradual fall in the ratings of “Sluha Narodu” due to poor personnel policy of Volodymyr Zelenskyi, lack of effective decisions, as well as the aggressive actions of political rivals (mainly, the party “Opposition Platform-For Life”, which absorbs Russian-speaking electorate). If the trends are maintained, “Sluha Narodu” may receive less than 40% of support at the finish.

 

Turnout. The turnout of voters on July 21, 2019 is a major challenge for all campaigners. In majoritarian constituencies, candidates can control the process and mobilize their supporters, although it is much more difficult at the national level. Sociologists predict the turnout at the level of 51-55%. According to the pessimistic scenario, the turnout will be 40-43%. Interestingly, the turnout in rural areas is expected to be higher than in large cities. Unlike urban residents, peasants in the overwhelming majority spend their time in agricultural work, and do not have vacations. This circumstance creates hidden electoral potential for “Batkivshchyna” and “Radical Party”.

Coalition. Most likely, “Sluha Narodu”, “Batkivshchyna” and “Holos” will form the ruling coalition. The format of the future coalition depends on the electoral results of “Sluha Narodu” party, ratings of which are gradually falling. The more MPs “Sluha Narodu” has in the Parliament, the less is the need in involving political partners to form government. The second factor in the stability of the coalition is the framework for a future coalition agreement. Indeed, different parties have their own programmatic interests, such as lowering gas prices, adopting new electoral legislation, lifting parliamentary immunity, anti-corruption package, etc. The new Parliament will also contain separate groups of majoritarian MPs of Rinat Akhmetov and Ihor Kolomoiskyi. Therefore, there is a scenario, according to which these deputy groups may enter “Sluha Narodu” and form a mega-faction of 160-180 MPs. On the other hand, as in the days of Petro Poroshenko, they will situationally vote for various bills based on the interests of the oligarchs. One of the risks to the future Parliament is the low level of professionalism of MPs, most of whom will act as statisticians during sessions and voting. Secondly, one of the risks in the “Sluha Narodu” faction is a low controllability, since MPs are not monolithic and represent interests of different oligarchs and groups of influences. Any of the groups of influence or a separate oligarch (e.g. Ihor Kolomoiskyi or Hryhoriy Surkis) can disrupt the vote and block the decision within the “Sluha Narodu” faction.

New government. The rigorous informal competition between Andriy Bohdan and Oleksandr Danyliuk unfolds for the position of the head of the government. Both candidates have high political ambitions, and have already proved themselves as experienced political intriguers. A group of support consisting of so-called liberals and anticorruptionists began to form around Danyliuk. In turn, Bohdan’s candidacy is supported by Ihor Kolomoiskyi and Shefir brothers. According to information available, Ivan Bakanov (Security Service of Ukraine) is against Bohdan, and there are apparatus disputes between them. If Bohdan is appointed Prime Minister, then Serhiy Shefir will become the new head of the office of the President.  There is also a scenario where the government is headed by an absolutely unknown technocrat (banker, financier, economist). According to available information, the President’s Office is working on the formation of a new structure for the future Cabinet of Ministers with the reduced number of ministries and positions of Vice Prime Ministers. Perhaps this is done due to the staffing crisis of “Sluha Narodu” and lack of desire to let other players into the structures of power. In addition, after the parliamentary elections, we expect the exacerbation of the political struggle between the groups of influence in the project “Sluha Narodu” for the control over the new anti-corruption bodies that have become an instrument of political struggle. According to media, Andriy Kobolev (chairman of the board of directors of NAK-Naftogaz) is also among the potential candidates for the post of head of the government, but he hardly wants to change his profitable work place.

Yulia Tymoshenko demonstrates ambitions for the post of Prime Minister, but low ratings of “Batkivshchyna” minimize her chances. Although it does not block the right of “Batkivshchyna” to control the so-called “golden share” in the Parliament. Thus, Yulia Tymoshenko is called the most likely candidate for the position of head of the Verkhovna Rada. Under the parliamentary-presidential form of government and given a weak President Zelenskyi, the speaker’s office opens great political horizons and opportunities for serious political influence for Tymoshenko.

Parliamentary opposition. Two political parties will compete for the status of the parliamentary opposition. They also demonstrate completely different ideological views – the pro-Russian party “Opposition Platform-For Life” and the pro-European and pro-Euro-Atlantic “European Solidarity”. Despite various ideological views and public hatred, Petro Poroshenko and Viktor Medvedchuk are close business partners. Petro Poroshenko was the one who helped Medvedchuk become one of the most influential oligarchs in Ukraine. Therefore, Medvedchuk and Poroshenko are interested in joint attacks against Zelenskyi and his patron Kolomoiskyi. “Opposition Platfrom-For Life” will criticize President Zelenskyi for anti-Russian rhetoric and disability to resolve the conflict in Donbas, and Petro Poroshenko will criticize Zelenskyi as a Russian agent and traitor to Ukraine’s national interests.  The Parties “Opposition Platfrom-For Life” and “European Solidarity”, as representatives of the opposition, will compete for the position of the Vice-Speaker of the Parliament, as well as a number of key parliamentary committees. These are the quotas to be fixed by the parliamentary opposition. The candidate for the position of Vice-Speaker from the “Opposition Platfrom-For Life” party is Nestor Shufrych; from “European Solidarity” – Iryna Herashchenko. However, according to information widely spread in political circles, neither “Opposition Platfrom-For Life” nor “European Solidarity” will receive positions in the presidium of the Parliament. All the leading positions in the Presidium of the Verkhovna Rada will belong to “Batkivshchyna”, “Holos” and “Sluha Narodu”.

Non-parliamentary parties. A number of political parties that fail to enter the Parliament, but gain from 2% to 5% votes, will receive state funding for their activities. This will enable the development of regional structures of the parties, organization of protests and events. Judging by ratings, the applicants for state funding include “Strength and Honor” of Ihor Smeshko, “Civic Position” of Anatoliy Hrytsenko, “Opposition Bloc”, “Radical Party” of Oleh Liashko, “Ukrainian Strategy” of Volodymyr Hroysman and “Svoboda”. All these political parties will also be actively involved in local elections, which may be scheduled for October 2019. In the future, non-parliamentary parties will be able to take part in political competition against state decisions taken by President Zelenskyi and the new majority, especially if they concern the settlement of the conflict in Donbas, language issues or the drafting of a new Constitution.