• Yatsenyuk to return as Prime Minister but a new Speaker is likely: National Front’s surprise victory on the proportional ballot ended speculation on a change in the Prime Minister’s post. However, Poroshenko bloc’s victories in the single mandate districts makes his faction the largest in Parliament. Thus, since Turchynov is from National Front, expect a Speaker from Poroshenko’s team. Turchynov is likely to lead National Front’s faction in Parliament. A compromise of giving the Speakership to Samopomich isn’t likely since no one from their team has ever served in Parliament before, and running the entire parliamentary apparatus is not an “on the job training” kind of position.
• The next three weeks is likely to be full of intrigue as the coalition divvies up Cabinet posts, Governorships, and Parliamentary Committees. Ministers from the security portfolio like Avakov and Poltarok are likely to keep their jobs – and possibly even Nalyvychenko as his performance has been impeccable. The security situation is improving but the memories of the war are still too fresh to “change horses in midstream”. Poroshenko raised the idea of instituting “State Secretaries” for each Cabinet post and reducing the deputy ministers to just one. The State Secretaries would de facto be the President’s representatives to the ministries and manage much of the administrative side of the job while the actual minister would manage the political end. If this proposal is accepted by Yatsenyuk then it is likely to mean that National Front will occupy a larger number of Cabinet posts. If the proposal is rejected, then look for Poroshenko to push his candidates for a large number of Cabinet posts in addition to the Prosecutor General, Defense Minister, National Security and Defense Council Chief, and SBU Chairman which are already part of his portfolio under the Constitution. Most Byut appointees who were put in place in February after Euromaidan, will be replaced and expect Poroshenko appoint his allies to the Governorships in several oblasts.
• Political Winners, Survivors and Losers in the Election. The election produced many new faces in Parliament and a number of long time incumbents were defeated. While the results of the proportional ballot list are well known, here are some snapshots from the single mandate districts of the key races:
• Oleksiy Poroshenko – yes his dad is the President and since he was running from his native Vinnitsya, there was never much doubt he would win. Nonetheless, his 64-13% victory over his rival from Samopomich puts him on a political trajectory to play a key role in the Poroshenko faction in this Parliament. Following in the path of Ukrainian Presidential son Victor Victorovych Yanukovych, the bar has been set sufficient low so that if Oleksiy stays out of business and focuses on politics, he has the potential to be a influential insider known for his political achievements and not his wealth.
• Dmitro Yarosh – the Right Sector leader failed badly in his presidential bid in May but easily won a district in Dnipropetrovsk on the eastern border with Donetsk. Regardless of what the general public and international media thinks of him, the controversial Yarosh will be a figure to be dealt with in Ukraine’s near term political scene.
• The Baloha’s: Victor, Ivan, Pavlo and cousin Petovka – the Baloha family will have lots to celebrate when the holidays start next month as the three brothers and their cousin won four of six districts in Zakarpattya region. Victor, who served as both Yushchenko’s Chief of Staff as well as Yanukovych’s Emergency Situations Minister remains a shrewd politician who’s final act has not yet been written.
• Yuri Levchenko – it took three attempts but finally Levchenko prevailed over Viktor Pilipyshyn in Kyiv by a 37-18% margin. Levchenko was winning in October 2012 but the courts invalidated some results and the CEC canceled the election. A by-election last December gave Pilipyshyn a comfortable victory despite the simultaneous events of Euromaidan nearby. Svoboda did not have much to celebrate on Election Night, but this race was one of the silver linings.
• Current Kharkiv Members of Parliament – a largely unnoticed phenomenon in this election was that 12 of 14 Kharkiv incumbents were re-elected as independents in a cycle in which many incumbents were defeated. In addition, five of those MP’s remain current members of the Party of Regions faction in Parliament. One vacancy was filled by Donetsk MP Vitaliy Khomutynnik with Kolomoyskyi’s faction and the other was won by Oleksandr Kirsh from the People’s Front which marks the first victory by pro-European parties in Kharkiv oblast since 1998. Nonetheless, no other region of Ukraine can claim so many re-elected deputies as Kharkiv. It will be interested to see if those deputies will remain independent, join the Poroshenko faction or stay with the opposition.
The Political Survivors Club:
• Serhiy Kivalov – the Chairman of the Central Election Commission during the fraud filled, Orange Revolution Presidential runoff election of 2004, managed to survive his closest race yet. Kivalov prevailed by 29-23% over Volodymyr Rondin, with the Poroshenko candidate Viktor Naumchak finishing third with 17%. Allegations of vote buying, changed protocols and other fraud have been voiced by observers but they are not likely to change the outcome. Kivalov may be controversial but he has proven to be a political survivor.
• Volodymyr Lytvyn – since April 2002, Volodymyr Lytvyn has served in Parliament all but a brief stint between the 2006 and 2007 elections when he lost his job as the sitting Speaker, only to return a year and a half later again as Speaker. Lytvyn’s career has probably peaked and his son’s bid in a neighboring Zhytomyr district failed, however for now he remains an influential deal maker in Ukraine’s Parliament.
• Serhiy Taruta – his time as Donetsk Governor saw half of the oblast’s territory occupied by Russian backed forces, personal financial losses, and his ultimate firing by Poroshenko. Nonetheless, they still love him in his hometown of Mariupol where he crushed his nearest rival from the Poroshenko Bloc by a 60-8% margin.
• Yukhym Zvyagilskiy – the oldest Member of Parliament at age 81, the former Prime Minister (1993-1994) demonstrated why he has been a fixture in Ukraine’s politics since being first elected under the Soviet system in 1990. Zvyagilskiy organized a “get out the vote” car convoy from Donetsk city to the handful of polling stations for District 45 that were operating in an unoccupied, neighboring district. Though just 1999 votes were cast in the race, Zvyagilskiy won 73-12% over his Poroshenko backed rival.
• Oles Dovhiy – the controversial “right hand” of former Kyiv Mayor Leonid Chernovetskiy triumphed in Kirovohrad over his main opponent Viktor Boyko in one of the nastier contests around the country. Despite allegations of vote buying, multiple voting on Election Day, three Boyko clone candidates and one other Dovhiy, the 30-12% margin of victory is likely to stick.
• Yevhen Bakulin – the disgraced former Head of Naftogaz Ukraine easily won as the Opposition Bloc candidate in Luhansk and edged his nearest opponent 43-13%. Bakulin and Yuri Solod in district 47 (Slovyansk, Donetsk) were the only two Opposition Bloc candidates that won single mandate seats in this election. While Solod is the husband of Nataliya Korolevska who returned to Parliament on the Opposition Bloc party list, Bakulin’s election was more important as it ensures him immunity from prosecution for financial crimes that were currently being investigated.
Gone With the Wind…
• Anatolyi Kinakh – Kinakh’s year as Prime Minister from April 2001 until April 2002 is generally considered effective during a turbulent time in Ukrainian politics. Nonetheless, history and the voters seem to have forgotten him. His bid for Parliament in Mykolayiv oblast where he once served as Governor fell flat as he was routed 33-13% by Borys Kozyr from the Poroshenko Bloc. In an election cycle where the voters wanted new faces, Anatoliy Kinakh was not the candidate they believed would bring them the change they were looking for.
• Valeriy Konvalyuk – the man who quit as an adviser to Yanukovych due to his disapproval over Yanukovych’s policies not being sufficiently pro-Russian, was wiped off the political map in this election in a bid for Parliament in western Donetsk oblast. Konovalyuk, who is largely believed to be a Russian military intelligence officer, finished third with just 7.5% of the vote.
• Oksana & Grigory Kaletnik – Vinnitsya’s second most powerful family became a lot less influential after the election as both Grigoriy and Oksana were badly defeated in their re-election bids. To add insult to injury, since they both now lack immunity from prosecution, the SBU opened a criminal case against Oksana (formerly a Communist faction member) for supporting separatism.
• Mykola Katerynchuk – once known as the courageous lawyer who won the Supreme Court case during the Orange Revolution which forced a new election, Katerynchuk’s more recent career finally caught up with him. Though Katerynchuk won the same district in 2002 as an independent and in 2012 with Byut, joining the Poroshenko bloc in their stronghold of Vinnitsya wasn’t enough to save him. Katerynchuk had drawn criticism for allowing his seats on the election commissions to be filled by Party of Regions members during the fraudulent October 2010 Odesa Mayoral election as well as Don Quixotic quest for the Kyiv Mayor’s post a year ago which was largely believed to have been financed by Serhiy Livochkin.
• The Women of Svoboda: Iryna Farion & Iryna Sekh – both suffered embarrassing defeats in Lviv with third and fourth finishes in respectively on Election Night. The disclosure of Farion’s past membership in the Communist Party led to the victory of Samopomich’s only single mandate deputy Iryna Podolyak. Iryna Sekh’s troubles stemmed from his disingenuous opposition to fracking on environmental grounds and her lackluster performance as Lviv Governor this year. Even Sekh’s last minute stunt to take off her belt and whip a Radical Party candidate during a televised debate was not enough to save her election – although it did make for memorable theater.
• Oleksandr Kuzmuk – Kuchma’s former Defense Minister who is associated with the accidently shooting down a commercial airliner over Crimea finished third in a bid to win a seat in Dnipropetrovsk oblast. Even the backing of Dnipropetrovsk Governor Ihor Kolomoyskyi was not enough to save Kuzmuk from defeat at the hands of an independent, Vadym Nesterenko.
These politicians are gone for now, but always remember that in Ukrainian politics, no politician is ever dead. Yanukovych was a political pariah in 2005 and won the parliamentary elections a year later. Tymoshenko went from prison to Parliament to Prime Minister, and then back to prison and in Parliament once again. Volodymyr Lytvyn lost re-election as the sitting Speaker in 2006 and won the post back within a year and a half later. They may be gone this cycle, but with speculation already underway about how long this new Parliament will last, any one of these individuals could make a comeback in the future.