Europe in the World

Ukraine’s parliamentary elections – The final countdown

25 September 2012


“Ukraine’s elections will be better than Belarus’s. We want fair and transparent elections. Accusations have been levelled at Ukraine, so these elections are a test for the country,” said Kostyantyn Bondarenko, Head of the Governing Board of the Ukrainian Politics Foundation.

“The Ukrainian authorities aren’t interested in conducting bad elections. Still, Brussels has been critical. Many observers are describing these elections as a litmus test for Ukrainian democracy. We hope they’ll be free and fair,” Bondarenko said.

“There’ll be a new landscape after the election. Some of the current political forces won’t be represented in the next parliament, but new ones will. However, relations with the EU will remain the same,” he predicted.

“It’s very important for us to be heard and supported by Europe, and to be part of the European family,” said Yuriy Myroshnychenko, representative of the President of Ukraine in the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada).

“Ukraine has made its choice. We want to continue our democratic development and implement European values in order to develop our economy and join the European family,” he said.

Myroshnychenko said closer integration with the EU was “part of our official doctrine and laws on our external outlook and direction”. “A consensus has been reached. All hesitations have been left behind. It’s very clear where we’re heading,” he added.

“There are a number of challenges. It’s been a while since the Soviet Union broke up. The totalitarian period is in the past. But the authorities still need to adapt in order to provide the conditions in which EU citizens are used to living,” Myroshnychenko admitted.

“We have the necessary tools of law to make sure that the elections are fair and transparent,” he insisted.

“This election is already a battle, and blood has been shed. Ukrainian politics can sometimes resemble a Hollywood-style fight,” said Andriy Shevchenko, a member of the faction of ‘The Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc-Batkivshchyna’ in the Verkhovna Rada.

“If you lose these elections, you might end up in jail for being on the wrong side. Tymoshenko and members of her government have already experienced this,” Shevchenko warned.

“I represent a pro-European, pro-Ukrainian democracy party. Council of Europe documents and European Parliament documents talk about free speech and the rule of law, but the upcoming elections are not taking us closer to that,” he claimed.

“We want to be an integral part of Europe – in terms of standards and values, not just a visa-free regime. The biggest obstacle to this is Ukraine’s ruling class,” Shevchenko argued.

“We encourage our European friends to continue cooperating with Ukraine whoever is prime minister or president. In the end, we remember not the worst of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” he said.

“It’s not just one election campaign – it’s 226 campaigns. There are issues related to news coverage and the mass media. We don’t have censorship as such, but there are problems regarding access. Voters don’t always get an accurate picture of what’s going on,” said Oleksandr Chernenko, chairman of the Committee of Ukrainian Voters.

“However, it’s not constructive to declare in advance the elections as bad. Let’s see how Ukraine fares in its test. I don’t think it’ll get an excellent mark. There will be some problems, but we’ll definitely pass the test,” Chernenko said.

“I have the difficult impression that Ukraine and the EU aren’t always talking about the same things when we talk about politics, transparency, and free and fair elections. The understandings are different,” said Polish MEP Paweł Zalewski (European People’s Party).

“In Europe, the driving force of politics is to represent and to realise the interests of voters. But what’s the driving force of Ukrainian politics?” Zalewski asked.

“Ukrainian politics is only about money, nothing more. This system has been developing since independence. Our Orange friends had the chance to change the system, but it’s still there,” he claimed.

“Ordinary Ukrainians don’t have faith in any political party. They have hope, because it’s in their blood, but they know the score,” the MEP said.

“We must give civil society the tools it needs to monitor the situation. We must support Ukraine and wait,” Zalewski concluded.

Yevhen Kopatko of the Research and Branding Group, a Ukrainian pollster, said “there is competition for sure. Every constituency is different. Some have candidates who are strong favourites, others have high unpredictability”.

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