COMMENT: Ukraine polls indicate tie between rival camps

By bne IntelliNews September 27, 2007

Sergiy Nevmerzhytskyi of Sokrat -

The political crisis in Ukraine will reach a critical juncture September 30 with the holding of the early parliamentary elections. The elections should give ground for new political combinations, but will not solve the deep conflicts within Ukrainian society. The polls indicate a tie between the White-Blue (Party of Regions and Communists) and the Orange camps (Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defence and Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko), but there exists a crucial undecided segment of the electorate that could drastically influence the results. All of the parties, after the relative calm of the last two months, are ready to recommence their battle for power.

After parliament's dissolution, there are still discussions on its legality. Technically, the elections were appointed because 162 Orange MPs (more than one-third of the total number of MPs) resigned, and the parliament lost its authority (as the constitution dictates). However, given that this was done by the parliamentary minority, it seems the ruling White-Blue coalition has political reasons to object. On the other hand, the practice whereby Orange MP's were lured into the White-Blue coalition, which led to the current political crisis, was also a kind of fraud.

The mutual agreement to hold the pre-term parliamentary elections, which we believe was the best democratic decision in such a situation, could have been broken several times this summer. So far, certain political camps (if not all) have indicated that they might contest the results of the forthcoming elections in the event the results don't go in their favour. The tone of the pre-election campaigns, in which parties focused more on trashing their rivals than on advertising themselves, suggest that it will not be easy to find a solution to the political tensions.

Camping out

Already, Ukraine's political camps have started their respective manoeuvring. On Sunday, September 23, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions put a few tents on Kyiv's central square (Maydan Nezalezhnosti). In turn, the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko (BYT) settled on Sofia Square, which is only 300-400 meters away from the Maydan. Recently, Yanukovych has claimed he expects lots of electoral violations by the rival Orange camp, comprising the parties of Tymoshenko and President Viktor Yanukovych's Our Ukraine, during the elections. Yanukovych stressed that Region's supporters would take action if any violations occurred.

It looks, therefore, like the politicians are preparing for another round of political turmoil. The election alone probably won't be enough to solve the political tensions. The latest indicators are that after the elections people will begin protesting on the streets and there'll be numerous negotiations between the various parties - no matter what the elections' outcome. This means that the creation of a parliamentary coalition and the appointment of the new government will be delayed. Still, we are convinced that all the protests will be peaceful (as in 2004 and 2007) and doubt that this will prove a barrier to the current economic improvement.

To look at people's voting intentions, we have considered the polls conducted by a number of agencies. It is important to note, however, there are doubts about the independence of those polls. In particular, Research & Branding Group (formerly the Donetsk Information and Analytical Centre) and Fund Public Opinion Ukraine (a subsidiary of the Russian agency) are biased towards Yanukovych's party Regions. On the other hand, there is an opinion that KIIS and Razumkov Centre are more favourable to orange parties: BYT and Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defence (OU-PSD).

The polls so far suggest a slight advantage for the White-Blue coalition of Regions and Communists. However, an major proportion of those polled (14.7% on average) have not yet decided who they will support. Therefore, the outcome of the elections is currently hard to predict.

There appears to be two groups of undecided voters. The first one is the Orange electorate choosing between BYT and OU-PSD. The other is the group of those who would probably support the neutral political camp, this being the Bloc of Lytvyn (the former chairman of the lower house, the Rada). Importantly, parliament's possible new party, Lytvyn Bloc, a direct rival of the Socialist Party during the 2006 parliamentary elections, could become the joker in the next Rada. In the event that Lytvyn gets enough votes, he could negotiate with either of the "coloured" camps, because he has tried to play the independent card so far.

However, one thing that's clear is that no matter which political force will succeed - Orange or White-Blue - they will have to cooperate in the new parliament in order to make vital decisions. However, the post-election negotiations will likely be long, delaying the creation of a new parliamentary coalition and, hence, the government. The absence of minor parties will only ease negotiations between the major ones.

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