On October 26, 2014, some 36 million eligible voters will go to the polls for early elections for Ukraine’s parliament. The current parliament, in office since 2012, should have lasted through 2017 but is tainted by its collaboration with the previous government in stifling and repressing the constitutional freedoms of the Ukrainian people.
Voting across the country will be conducted under a mixed system of party list and single mandate district seats. There are 29 political parties contesting the elections (see list below).
Context: Why These Elections Matter
The October 26 parliamentary elections present an opportunity for Ukraine to solidify reforms demanded by its citizens in the protests which shook the country earlier this year. In doing so, the country will continue its accession into Euro-Atlantic structures. At the same time, the country faces an existential threat from internal and external actors. Internationally recognized free and fair elections would further stabilize the country and empower the government in Kyiv to focus on implementing long-term reforms and respond to Russian aggression.
Former President Viktor Yanukovych’s sudden reversal on European integration in November 2013 precipitated spontaneous protests by citizens throughout the country, with the biggest protest in Kyiv. The Ukrainian government attempted to suppress the movement, popularly known as the EuroMaidan
(European Square), by brutally assaulting peaceful protestors, most of whom were students. As a result of the government’s crackdown on November 30, up to a million Ukrainians from across the country flooded into the capital to exercise their right to protest. Violence erupted in January and again in mid-February when government forces utilized rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons as well as firearms against the peaceful protestors, killing more than 100 people.
On February 21, Yanukovych fled the capital, effectively abdicating the presidency. In his absence, the Verkhovna Rada
, the parliament, appointed an interim government and set presidential elections for May 25, 2014. Petro Poroshenko emerged from the Maidan
as a national leader, winning the May election with more than 50 percent of the vote in a first-round victory. Calling for early parliamentary elections during his campaign, President Poroshenko stressed the need for a complete change of the discredited political structures of Ukraine. Several key members of the ruling coalition in the parliament withdrew from the coalition in late July, thus deliberately triggering a time deadline of 30 days for the parliament to form a new ruling coalition. Since no new coalition had been formed, in late August President Poroshenko called for early parliamentary elections to occur on October 26.
Shaken with the loss of the pliant Yanukovych government, Russia invaded the Crimean peninsula in March. On March 16, Moscow’s puppets on the peninsula called for a referendum with two options on the ballot: to join Russia or to increase autonomy. There was no option to maintain the status quo. Condemned as illegal by the international community, the vote was also boycotted by the Crimean Tatars, indigenous people of the peninsula who were exiled to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin following the Second World War, and who only returned to Crimea after Ukrainian independence in 1991.
As the conflict erupted in Crimea, pro-Russian groups appeared in eastern Ukraine attempting to take over government buildings and demonstrate support and unity with Russia. In response to the rebels’ actions, the Ukrainian government launched anti-terrorist operations in the Donbas region of Donetsk and Luhansk. Evidence clearly demonstrates that the Kremlin is directly involved in the conflict in the Donbas by providing troops and military materiel. Russia is doing so publicly and covertly under the guise of protecting Russian speakers who are “under threat.”
These claims are challenged by a recent national public opinion poll
conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) from September 12-25, 2014. When asked if it is necessary for the Russian military to come into eastern and/or southern Ukraine to protect the Russian speakers and ethnic Russians, 89 percent of Ukrainians said no. This view is consistent across all regions of Ukraine, including the east with 78 percent and 89 percent in the south, with 99 percent in western Ukraine.
To date, the United Nations has stated
that the registered death toll from the conflict exceeds 3,500, including the victims of the downed Malaysian Airlines plane with 248 victims. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have been displaced
. Since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, Tatar-owned offices and homes have routinely been searched
. The leader of the Tatar community, Mustafa Dzhamilev, has been banned from entering Crimea
. Several Tatar activists have been murdered or have disappeared
With gains by Kyiv in retaking control of the Donbas region, regular armed forces of the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine in southern Donetsk region, occupying several towns along the Azov Sea and threatening the city of Mariupol, provisional home to Ukraine’s official Donetsk government. Ceasefires have been signed and broken. On September 5, the most recent ceasefire was negotiated in Minsk, Belarus; despite the implementation of the ceasefire, regular Russian armed forces are still in the territory of Ukraine and shelling continues along the frontlines.
Political Parties on the October 26 Ballot
IRI in Ukraine
- Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko
- Party Solidarity of Women of Ukraine
- Political Party Internet Party of Ukraine
- Political Party Oppositional Block
- Political Party Narodnyi Front
- Political Party 5.10
- Political Party All-Ukrainian Agrarian Union (ZASTUP)
- Party Vidrodzhennia
- Political Party Nova Polityka
- Political Party Yedyna Krayina
- Political Party Syla Lyudey
- Political Party All-Ukrainian Union (Svoboda)
- Political Party National Democratic Party of Ukraine
- Communist Party of Ukraine
- Political Party Association (SAMOPOMICH)
- Political Party All-Ukrainian Political Union (Ukrayina - Yedyna Krayina)
- Political Party Pravyi Sector
- Political Party Ukrayina Maybutnyoho
- Liberal Party of Ukraine
- Party of Greens of Ukraine
- Ukrainian Party Zelena Planeta
- Party Bloc of Petro Poroshenko
- Political Party Syla i Chest
- Political Party Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists
- Party of Serhiy Tihipko (Sylna Ukrayina)
- Political Party All-Ukrainian Union (Batkivshchyna)
- Political Party Civic Position (of Anatoliy Hrytsenko)
- Political Party Bloc of Left Powers of Ukraine
- Political Party Civic Movement of Ukraine
Beginning programming in Ukraine in 1994, IRI has been supporting the development of national, broad-based, and well-organized democratic political parties. IRI provides political parties with regular national public opinion data to inform their decision-making and enable them to better engage voter priorities. In preparation for the May Presidential Election, IRI conducted an extensive campaign training program and more than 5,000 party poll watcher workshops. In addition, IRI promotes and instructs on democratic governance in Ukraine with the objective of making government more responsive to its citizens. Since the beginning of its programming in the mid-1990s, IRI has consulted local elected officials throughout the country. Additionally, IRI monitors and strengthens civil society organizations by providing them with access to information on public hearings, a useful mechanism for citizens to bring attention to local issues such as waste management and general service delivery.
To ensure transparent and free elections, IRI has fielded election observation delegations in every presidential and parliamentary election in Ukraine since the country declared independence in 1991.