Accessibility links

Analysis: Typology Of The Ukrainian Elections

  • Roman Kupchinsky

Following Ukraine's March 26 parliamentary elections, what has emerged is a country firmly split along regional and ideological lines?

The website of the Ukrainian Central Election Commission has posted a breakdown of votes cast in Ukraine's 25 regions and the cities of Kyiv and Sevastopol. This data, along with the findings of the Fund for Democratic Initiatives and the Kyiv Institute of Sociology, shows some emerging trends in Ukrainian politics.

Regional Preferences

The Party of Regions, led by former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, won the majority of seats with 32.12 percent of the vote and will have 186 seats in the new parliament. The results show that it has remained a regional party appealing almost exclusively to voters in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. As expected, the Party of Regions swept Donetsk with 73 percent, Luhansk with 74 percent, Crimea with almost 58 percent, Mykolayiv with 50 percent, and Kharkiv with 51 percent. Altogether, the party won nine regions and the city of Sevastopol with an average of 55 percent. Thus the line dividing Ukraine into east and west remained intact.

The most unexpected results were registered by the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, which came in second behind the Party of the Regions with a total of 22.27 percent of the vote. Around 5.6 million voters cast their ballots for the Tymoshenko Bloc, which will now have 129 seats in parliament. The bloc's popularity has grown phenomenally: in 2002, it only managed to garner 1.9 million votes in parliamentary elections.

This time around, the bloc won the parliamentary race in 13 regions and in the city of Kyiv. Its support base includes four western Ukrainian regions (Volyn, 44 percent; Chernivtsi, 30 percent; Ternopil, 34.5 percent; and Khmelnytsk, 35.5) along with most of central Ukraine. The bloc's largest margin of support was in the Kyiv region (44.5 percent) and lowest in the eastern Donetsk region where only 2.5 percent voted for the bloc.

In the regions where the Tymoshenko Bloc won, it did so by an average of 34 percent. Many of these votes could be seen as a protest against President Viktor Yushchenko's removal of Tymoshenko as prime minister in the summer of 2005.

Our Ukraine, the pro-presidential bloc, suffered its greatest setback, coming in a distant third with 13.9 percent of the vote. The party is entitled to 82 seats in parliament. It won a plurality in only three western Ukrainian regions: Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Zakarpathia. In each of these regions it faced a tough fight from the Tymoshenko camp.

Since 2002, it has seen a sharp decline in its support. The U.S.-based "Ukrainian Weekly" wrote on April 2 that "after winning 6.1 million votes in the 2002 election, Our Ukraine won 3.5 million votes this time around -- a decline of 43 percent."

Other parties to enter the parliament are the Socialist Party with 5.6 percent (33 deputies) and the Communist Party with 3.6 percent (and 21 seats.)

The Communists, who have traditionally had their support base in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and in the Crimea, saw many of their supporters defect to the Party of Regions. They managed to pass the 3 percent parliamentary barrier with 4.4 percent of the vote in Luhansk, 3.1 in Donetsk, 4.5 in Crimea, and 6 percent in Kirovohrad. It was the poorest ever showing for Ukraine's Communist Party and many analysts believe it is the last time they will be represented in the parliament.

Oleksander Moroz's Socialist Party has remained relatively stable over the past five years with its traditional base of voters in the central, mainly agricultural, regions of Ukraine.

Demographics

According to data from exit polls released by the Fund for Democratic Initiatives and the Kyiv Institute of Sociology, more women voted for the Party of Regions than men. Overall, its supporters were older (60 and above) although the party held considerable appeal among younger voters (18-39). Their supporters also tended to have less formal education.

The Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc's base of support was equally distributed between men and women, most of whom were middle-aged (aged 40-59). They tended to have the most formal education.

Our Ukraine's supporters were also equally divided between men and women, mostly between the ages of 30 and 49 and had less formal education than the supporters of Tymoshenko's bloc. Their educational level roughly equaled the education level registered by voters for Party of Regions.

What Does It All Mean?

A preliminary conclusion is that Ukraine is headed towards becoming a two- or three-party democracy with a conservative, possibly pro-Russian electorate, in the eastern and southern regions of the country, with more pro-Western liberal attitudes held by voters in the western and central regions.

In all likelihood in the next major elections, the Party of Regions will face the combined forces of the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, Our Ukraine, and the Socialist Party (if these three manage to make peace).

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko noted during his radio address on April 2 that "the latest elections represent the first step towards the political structuring of society, when citizens will have to choose among three-four parties with clear ideologies, rather than among 100 parties," Interfax reported.

The smaller parties in Ukraine are on the verge of extinction -- the Communist Party, Natalya Vitrenko's bloc, the Greens, and even the Socialist Party might have seen their final days and their supporters will be forced to make a choice between the emerging larger political parties in the country.

Regionalism will continue to play a significant role in future elections and few voters are likely to cross geographical boundaries. Ideologically, the issues are expected to remain unchanged: the eastern electorate will remain distrustful of Ukrainian speakers who would like to see the country in the EU and NATO; while western and central Ukrainians will continue to be suspicious of their eastern and southern countrymen who, at least in the popular mind, are predominantly Russian speakers and who orient themselves their bigger brother in the east.
RFE/RL's Election Coverage

Click on the image for background and archived articles about Ukraine's March 26 elections.


Click on the image to see RFE/RL's coverage of the Ukrainian elections in Ukrainian.

Click on the image to view a photo gallery of some of the key players in the Ukrainian elections.

XS
SM
MD
LG