Ben Aris in Berlin -
Ukraine's parliamentary elections will be held on September 30
Ukrainian parties officially started campaigning for the September elections on Thursday, August 2. With just under two months to go before the polls, parties are already jockeying for position.
Last week's last-ditch attempt to block the elections by the Socialist party, led by Oleksandr Moroz, was blocked after his coalition partner, the Party of Regions, decided not to support Moroz's call for an emergency session of the Rada, Ukrainian's lower house of parliament.
Moroz's failure spells the political death of the Socialist party. Moroz originally joined an Orange coalition following the last parliamentary elections, but changed sides at the last minute and handed Viktor Yanukovych, now prime minister and leader of Regions, power in the process.
Moroz has since been labeled a "Judas" by many of his supporters and his party will certainly fail to clear the 3% threshold to enter the next parliament.
President Viktor Yushchenko reconfirmed the election date of September 30 with a new decree. The July 31 decree amends a similar decree dated July 5 that justifies calling for early elections, the presidential website reports, citing "the Verkhovna Rada's ineligibility and the early termination of its mandate."
Yanukovych started his campaign by holding a cabinet meeting and summing up his government's successes over the last year. "August 4 marks the first anniversary of a new constitutional order, which finally put an end to the authoritarian government and started real people's self-government and the formation of a parliamentary government coalition, and introduced a new governance model - a parliamentary-presidential one," Yanukovych told his government colleagues.
The pro-presidential party Our Ukraine immediately fired back, criticising the cabinet for failing to guarantee stable gas prices, a sensitive issue following Gazprom's decision to cut Ukraine's gas supplies in the winter of 2004. "Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defense bloc notes that the government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has not fulfilled its promise to the Ukrainian people to supply the country with cheap gas, which the Party of Regions made during the 2006 parliamentary election campaign," a statement from the bloc said.
The bloc said that on Tuesday, July 31, Fuel and Energy Minister Yury Boiko made his own forecast that the price of imported gas will grow by 10% in 2008. "Once again we see not only the inability to guarantee for Ukraine a stable price for imported natural gas, but further concealment of the pricing of gas," the statement read.
The statement also stated that the policies of Yanukovych's cabinet have resulted in the deterioration of most economic and social indicators. "The pace of GDP growth has been falling throughout 2007. June saw the highest inflation in seven years. The pace of growth in real incomes and wages has dropped by half," it said.
Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of the other main fraction in the Rada, also met with journalists and confirmed all her current deputies would run for re-election. She predicted that the election campaign this year would be very aggressive, but said her bloc won't resort to aggressive methods.
Asked whether she would sign any cooperation agreement with its political partners, Tymoshenko said her bloc and Our Ukraine had already signed a coalition agreement, adding that no other document is needed.
Tymoshenko said her eponymous block can count on collecting at least 226 seats of the 450 seats up for grabs in the election, which would give her power and lead to her becoming prime minister. However, recent polls show that Regions will probably win the most seats, with Tymoshenko coming second. But as Regions is likely to take about 32% of the vote and so will not have enough seats to form a government on its own, the key to the elections will be who allies with whom to form a coalition.
Pollsters said on August 1 that PM Yanukovych would win 28.8% of votes - the highest score - in a presidential election if it were held now. The incumbent Yushchenko would garner 18.9% of votes and Tymoshenko would muster 10.8%.
According to FOM-Ukrayina, 34.9% of Ukrainians have confidence in Yushchenko, 56.4% have no confidence in him, and 8.7% are undecided. Yanukovych enjoys the confidence of 45.1% of the population, 45.4% do not trust him, and 9.6% are undecided, the poll found.
Ironically, although the share of the vote that each party expects to win in the election is nearly a forgone conclusion - with the exception of the death of the Socialist party no one is expecting the composition of seats in the Rada to change dramatically - because the Ukrainian parliamentary system is very similar to the German system, it's impossible to predict who will assume power.
The vote on September 30 is only the first step in forming a government, as power will go to a coalition of parties, which may take months to form. As the two main opposing blocs enjoy roughly the same level of support - assuming Tymoshenko allies with her Orange revolutionary colleagues from Our Ukraine - then the small parties with only a few percent could find themselves kingmakers in the way that the Socialists held the keys to power in the last elections.
Because of this balance of power, the result of the elections could easily result in a reversal of the current situation, with Regions going into opposition and Tymoshenko becoming prime minister.
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