The election campaign officially began in Ukraine on September 5, although all parties began campaigning in July. According to the civic network “OPORA”, about 70 political parties conducted their agitation activities in July-August 2020.
According to preliminary data of the CEC, about 130 political parties plan participating in the 2020 local elections.
“Servant of the People”
For the first time, Zelenskyi’s party enters the election campaign as a full-fledged ruling party, which has accumulated many reputational and political problems in a year. It is likely that the local elections will be an icy shower for the “Servant of the People”, and the President’s Office will have to negotiate with different players in each region to form the necessary coalitions. Admittedly, the “Servant of the People” did not develop its party during the year; Kornienko and Arakhamia did not build normal and effective party networks; public money was withdrawn from the party funding for party development and laundered; and the “Servant of the People” itself is a virtual project tied to Zelenskyi’s rating.
In our opinion, after the local elections, Zelenskyi will have a similar situation as President Yanukovych in 2010. The “regionals” said they controlled regional government, and in fact, they had a pragmatic coalition with local elites who immediately betrayed Yanukovych in 2014, especially in western and central Ukraine.
It is already clear that after the local elections, the President’s Office will need to reset regional authority and share positions with local criminal clans and elites (governors, heads of rayon state administrations, and quotas of their deputies will be changed and delegated to local clans). In addition, the government will be renewed or completely resigned in accordance with the new political realities and the balance of power in the regions depending on the results of the local elections.
In all regions, without exception, the “Servant of the People” either sold its party organizations to oligarchs and regional clans, or deliberately nominated technical and weak candidates against the mayors of large cities – Odesa, Kharkiv, Dnipro, Kyiv. For example, Zaporizhzhia and Donbas were given to oligarch Akhmetov in the elections; Dnipropetrovsk and Odesa regions – to the people of Kolomoiskyi; smuggler Illia Pavliuk took Chernivtsi region and Zakarpatiia; in Vinnytsia region, the people of oligarch Kaletnyk deal with the elections.
The election slogan of presidential power “Ukraine is you” is designed to mobilize a voter and strengthen his/her personal responsibility for communities and regions. In fact, the “Servant of the People” party has nothing to say to voters about its achievements after a year of authority, so it will again rely on the president’s personal rating. According to available information, in the middle of the campaign (in the autumn), Zelenskyi will make a regional tour, where he will hold meetings and campaign for his candidates.
According to sources from the President’s Office and their opinion polls, candidates from the “Servant of the People” will win the election in only two regional centres; in six more regions, its candidates will enter to the second round, where the chances of winning are very small. At the same time, even in the conditions of falling party ratings, the “Servant of the People” will be able to form factions from 15% to 35%, depending on the region, which will allow the ruling party to take part in forming coalitions. This will result in a situation where it is difficult to pass decisions that will require taking into account the interests of local elites who made President Poroshenko nervous, not to mention the weak Zelenskyi and his unbalanced power vertical.
Opposition platform “For Life”
Viktor Medvedchuk used his own financial and media resources, as well as the Kremlin’s support, and managed to regain control and resolve the internal conflict with the “Boiko-Liovochkin-Firtash” group which wanted more influence in the party and faction.
In fact, Viktor Medvedchuk is the sole leader of the “For Life” project now, who determines the party’s priorities, strategic goals, and forms lists of candidates for deputies. In addition, through his ties with Putin, Viktor Medvedchuk has been able to impose additional sanctions on his rivals from the Opposition Bloc and Akhmetov’s group, thus completely clearing the pro-Russian field of competitors. The only potential player in this electoral field remains the Sharii party, but it also works for the Kremlin and receives funding from pro-Russian forces.
The “For Life” party is running in the local elections with a whole bunch of populist slogans, such as tariff cuts, stopping the war, increasing pensions, free medicine, job creation, Ukraine’s neutral status and increasing humanitarian rights for regions and communities. Viktor Medvedchuk publicly states that the main task of the “For Life” party is to win 1st place in Ukraine in terms of the number of local deputies. Taking into account that this party has high ratings in the South and East, then by and large, this pro-Russian force will be able to achieve this goal, as it has huge financial and media resources.
In addition, on September 21 a powerful forum “PEOPLE OF PEACE” will be held at the expense of Viktor Medvedchuk in the Sviatohorska Lavra in Donbas. Well-known pro-Russian politicians from Ukraine, the leadership of the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, as well as pro-Russian public figures will speak at the forum about national dialogue, friendship with Russia and ending the war in Donbas. The issue of peace in Donbas on Russian terms will also be one of the key ones in Medvedchuk’s party rhetoric.
According to available information, Yuliia Tymoshenko has sold her regional party organizations for local elections to various businessmen and oligarchs who will have the right to fully form election lists and bring their own people there.
The cost of one regional party organization is estimated at USD 1 to 2 million (depending on the region and ratings of the “Batkivshchyna”). By and large, this is not such a large amount for businessmen who in return can bring their people to rayon councils, communities and regional councils.
For example, it is known that Dnipropetrovsk, Volyn and Rivne party organizations were bought by Ihor Palytsia; Brothers Bohdan and Yaroslav Dubnevych bought the Lviv regional organization; Kyiv regional party organizations – Anatolii Prysiazhniuk; Rinat Akhmetov took the Zaporizhzhia regional organization; Chernihiv – Serhii Averianov (one of the sponsors of Oleh Liashko) and so on. According to insiders from the Batkivshchyna party, Tymoshenko has thus decided to accumulate funds for the presidential election; other sources say that Tymoshenko is preparing to leave big politics, so she decided to earn a pension.
Therefore, it seems that the “Batkivshchyna’s” election strategies in these local elections will be significantly different in each region. At the same time, the “Batkivshchyna’s” central office has developed guidelines for central headquarters to make the most of theses on tariff reductions, support for farmers, combating external international influence on the government, and criticism of land reform. The “Batkivshchyna” party will also use the thesis that Tymoshenko’s party is 25 years old and it has a reliable and professional team that has been tested by time and challenges. The “Batkivshchyna” party has a stable electorate at the level of 10%, in some basic regions at the level of 15-18%, which will allow this party to have factions in each region.
Poroshenko’s party has taken as a basis a strategy in which it will form strong lists of candidates for deputies to local councils, and at the same time will nominate weak candidates for mayors (except for Lviv, Lutsk, and Rivne). One of the advisers to Poroshenko’s headquarters, Viktoriia Siumar, said in an interview that the “European Solidarity” Party did not see any point in taking local authority into its own hands, as this would provoke conflicts with the President’s Office and law enforcement agencies. Therefore, Poroshenko’s party will try to form strong factions to be in opposition and criticize the new authority.
Ratings of the “European Solidarity” are also growing slowly, averaging 16-18%, and in some regions, such as Lviv region, about 35%.
For Petro Poroshenko, the local elections are one of the first steps on the way to political revenge on Zelenskyi, a kind of springboard to return to power. Petro Poroshenko has a lot of financial resources, as well as strong personnel reserves in the regions (thousands of fired officials from rayon and regional administrations, retired employees of the SSU, MIA, etc.), who would work in local councils.
Most likely, the “European Solidarity” will show good results in Western and Central Ukraine, but due to Poroshenko’s large anti-rating, this party is unlikely to be able to claim authority in the near future.
The party of Mayor Vitalii Klychko will run in the elections in Kyiv and Kyiv region, where the party’s largest human and financial resources are concentrated. According to available information, “UDAR” is currently actively reviving its party infrastructure in other regions, but the process is very slow, there are no staff and they all mostly went to Poroshenko’s party. However, if normal teams are created, they will run for mayor and local councils in other regions. Vitalii Klychko personally welcomes any initiatives from the regions and urges regional leaders to join his party and run for office.
According to closed sociology, the ratings of the “UDAR” party in Kyiv are 20%, and in the Kyiv region – 6%. The ratings of Klychko and his party are growing, and by and large this is happening by devouring the ratings of Poroshenko’s and Hroisman’s parties.
Vitalii Klychko and his inner circle plan to win the elections in Kyiv in the first round. Vitalii Klychko sees Andrii Palchevskyi as his main competitor in the capital, rather than a technical candidate from Yermak – Iryna Vereshchuk.
A number of sources close to Mayor Klychko say that in case of victory, Vitalii Klychko will begin to seriously prepare for the presidential election, and his main task will be to restore the party structure of the “UDAR”. Many serious players and oligarchs (for example, Akhmetov, Firtash, Liovochkin and even Medvedchuk) believe that Vitalii Klychko has a good chance of winning the presidential election in 2024. If Poroshenko supports Klychko’s presidency in exchange for the Prime Minister’s office, the chances of the mayor of Kyiv will be very high. Thus, it will be interesting to see how the key oligarchs start the presidential race and whom they bet on.
After the demarche of Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, the “Holos” party continues to fall in the ratings catastrophically (now, their ratings fluctuate within 2-3%). This party has only more or less chances to pass in Lviv and Kyiv. The “Holos” party faces staffing problems and a lack of financial resources. In Kyiv, the “Holos” is financed by oligarch Tomas Fiala, but in other regions, there is a continuous crisis and none of the sponsors wants to invest in the loser party.
In Kyiv, Serhii Prytula is running for mayor. He has not yet been able to come up with something qualitatively new in his campaign (and in general, Prytula is clearly a weak candidate, unprepared professionally even for interviews with journalists, and does not understand the capital’s problems). Prytula has high ambitions, and according to available information, showman Prytula already has difficulties in communication with Kira Rudyk over leadership in the party. Therefore, after the local elections, there may be a new conflict for leadership in the party, which will finally destroy it.
The “Za Majbutne” party of Ihor Palytsia, as we have earlier written, is actively buying up local elites, incumbent mayors and heads of UTCs. Due to this strategy, “Za Majbutne” will have a strong representation and factions in many regions, and in some regions (such as Volyn, Rivne and Dnipropetrovsk) – even its own majority and its heads of regional councils.
Ihor Palytsia is seriously preparing for the early parliamentary elections, and therefore wants to have the appropriate assets in the regions, with which it would be possible to start and compete with the rest of the parties.
In addition, there are active rumours in political circles that if the “Za Majbutne” party shows serious results in the local elections, Ihor Palytsia may enter the reformatted government and get the post of Vice Prime Minister there.
The conditional party of mayors, as the party of the mayor of Dnipro – Borys Filatov – positions itself, will have narrow success in some regions, where the mayors of regional centres (Chernivtsi, Zhytomyr, Kropyvnytskyi, Dnipro, etc.) are nominated from this project. However, “Propozytsiia” has no chances to compete with “Za Majbutne” in terms of resources.
The “Propozytsiia” will be a regional project of individual mayors who will later bargain with various political parties to get their quotas in the parliamentary elections or in the team of the future President. It is most likely that the “Propozytsiia” party will gravitate to Mayor Vitalii Klychko who will most likely declare his presidential ambitions.
As for the other parties, the “European Strategy” of Hroisman is expected to show a good result in Vinnytsia region.
Another regional project is the party “Za Konkretni Spravy” of oligarch Hereha, which is concentrated in Khmelnytskyi region.
The “Ukrainian Galician Party”, which, according to the available information, is funded by Russian oligarch Mikhail Friedman, can show good results in the Lviv region.