Ukraine’s parliamentary elections and EU-Ukraine relations – Where to next?

19 December 2012

Kostyantyn Bondarenko, Head of the Governing Board of the Ukrainian Politics Foundation, said there had been a lot of international attention – and indeed some criticism – regarding the Ukrainian parliamentary elections on 28 October. But he said that they were now over and could be considered legitimate, and that the result had been recognised.

Some people considered the shortcomings recorded to have been systematic, while others saw them as isolated cases. Nevertheless, these shortcomings mean that the electoral law must be improved, argued Bondarenko, calling for the adoption of a unified electoral code.

He said the problem was that new legislation came out with every election, which was not good practice and led to shortcomings. He identified drawing up an electoral code as the first main step towards passing a new electoral law that could prevent controversy in the future.

Polish MEP Marek Siwiec, a member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, said the elections had seen the Party of Regions demonstrate its power, but added that this power was not the same as it once was.

The Party of Regions used to be united, centralised and clearly led, and its members were loyal. Nowadays it is still strong, but not as strong as it would like to be – riven by open conflict, it has never been as divided as it is now, Siwiec argued.

He said the Council had hinted that the EU could sign an Association Agreement with Ukraine at the autumn summit of the Eastern Partnership in Vilnius, provided that Kyiv had met the criteria by then.

He said he expected the new Ukrainian parliament to be united in backing the country’s European direction, and warned that opposition to EU integration from within Ukraine would only provide ammunition for opponents of its accession in Brussels.

Yevgen Kopatko, Chairman of the Research & Branding Group, Ukraine, said these elections had put five strong political forces into parliament for the first time in Ukrainian history, wiping out all small political projects.

He said that all people remembered from the previous parliament was fighting and conflict, and warned that the new parliament was likely to continue in the same vein. Should parliament continue in such a state of gridlock, a political crisis may follow, which would be particularly unwelcome given the economic situation in Ukraine, Kopatko warned.

Regarding Ukraine’s future orientation, he said most people wanted to see European standards in all aspects of Ukrainian life. Most people also wanted good relations with the customs union. But when asked to choose between the two vectors of integration, a slim majority would choose EU integration, he said.

Political Journalist and Analyst Yevgen Mahda said there was a lot more to the Ukrainian parliament than fighting on the benches. Indeed, there are 445 members in the new parliament, and there will hopefully be more once single constituency elections have been held in early 2013, he said.

Describing the election campaign as very difficult, Mahda said that electoral law seemed to be in a state of constant change. He said that this time around, the parliament had been elected according to two models: closed party lists (on which participants were not very visible to the electorate); and single constituencies, where there was tough competition and much campaigning by candidates.

In single constituencies, party membership and ideology were not the most important factors, he said.

Ukraine’s future path is undecided between moving closer to the EU or moving closer towards Russia’s ‘Eurasian Union’ idea, and indeed the potential joining of a customs union with Russia was no secret during the elections, the political analyst said.