• Poll of Polls: There is interesting movement since last week in the “poll of polls” average. Poroshenko bloc, the Radical Party and Civil Position are in verifiable decline and may have peaked too early in the campaign. In four of the last five polls, the Poroshenko bloc has seen their numbers closer to 30% rather than 40%. They now average 36.6% which is down 10% from 39.7% last week. The Radical Party continues to slip too and now averages 10.9% which is down two points from last week. While the Poroshenko Bloc and Radical Party can afford to lose a few points, Hritsenko’s Civil Position cannot. They have slid to 6.4% which is down 1.3% from last week. One recent poll by the respected Rating Group company even puts them below 5% for the first time in this campaign. Byut has stabilized at 7.6% (up 0.3%) while National Front has pulled within the margin of error to their former colleagues at 7.2%. This rise of 0.9% is the second increase in two weeks and indicates that National Front is clearly gaining momentum. Meanwhile Svoboda remains barely above the barrier at 5.1%. The other big mover in the pro-European camp is Samopomich which is now averaging 3.5% (up 1.1% from last week) and the same poll from Rating Group even puts them crossing the barrier at 5.4%. If Samopomich’s momentum continues like it is now, then expect them also to win seats on the proportional ballot. That would mean that nine parties would cross the barrier to win seats in parliament – a new record for Ukraine (previous record was six parties in 2002).
Ukraine’s “eastern electorate” also began consolidating behind Strong Ukraine, the Opposition Bloc and Communists. Strong Ukraine gained almost a point to average 5.3% now. The big mover though was the Opposition Bloc which doubled their average to 4.3% and has strong momentum to get past the 5% barrier at this point. Clearly the former Regions Party electorate is identifying with the Opposition Bloc and their support is likely to continue to rise in the final nine days. Interestingly, even the Communists are on the uptick moving to 3.8% from 3.1% last week. Word on the street is that the court case to ban them as a political party for supporting separatism is now dead. Apparently that was one of Putin’s demands in the Minsk talks. As a result, the party is working harder to mobilize their electorate to pass the 5% barrier. The Communists received 13% in 2012 so achieving 5% this time is in the realm of possibility. All in all, the “eastern electorate” gained 3.8% since last week while the pro-European electorate lost 4.2%. We will see soon if those trends continue on Election Day but for now, it is safe to reiterate our projection that the new parliament will be the most pro-European in Ukraine’s history.
• Who will be Poroshenko’s Coalition Partner in Parliament? – if there was any doubt about what the parliamentary majority and governing coalition will look like after the election, the announcement last Tuesday that Poroshenko Bloc and National Front had agreed to support a single candidate in 20 districts should eliminate it. The two blocs negotiated and withdrew the weaker candidates between the two in 20 single mandate districts. This gives the remaining candidate in those districts a better chance of victory because votes will not be split between the two bloc’s candidates. This move also points to an increased possibility of Yatsenyuk keeping his job as Prime Minister when the new Parliament votes next month. Rumors have abounded for weeks of a rift between Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk. While eventually Poroshenko would likely prefer his former hometown mayor Hroisman as the Premier, the reality for now is that the Ukrainian people and international donor community still largely support Yatsenyuk. Yatsenyuk maintains a 45/48% satisfied/dissatisfied rating as Premier while Poroshenko stands at 48/44%. All other ministers in the government have substantially higher negatives than positives according to the latest IRI poll.
• Restructured Ukrainian Security Portfolio – following the (mostly one sided) cease fire in the Donbass, Poroshenko has moved to put his team of security officials in charge. These moves include replacing Governors in Donetsk and Luhansk with individuals who have a law enforcement/intelligence background (i.e. Oleksandr Kihtenko in Donetsk and Gennadiy Moskal in Luhansk). Former SBU Chief under Kuchma, Ihor Smeshko was appointed to head a special Committee on Intelligence Issues. Defense Minister Valeriy Heletei was reshuffled back to Head of the State Guard (Secret Service) and National Guard Commander Stefan Poltarak was made the new Defense Minister. Since the beginning of the year, Ukraine’s Defense Minister job has been a revolving door as the names of Lebedyev, Zamana, Tenyukh, Koval and Heletei have all occupied the post. In fact, Defense Ministers in the new government (post-Yanukovych) have averaged just 60 days on the job before being replaced. Heletei holds the current record of 105 days. There is also strong speculation that Poroshenko will make changes after the election to replace Nalyvychenko as the Head of the SBU with his own person (perhaps Smeshko?) and reshuffle Nalyvychenko to Head the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC). Nalyvychenko has been a rock of stability in the frequently changing security structures for the new Ukrainian government. His record of performance in fighting separatism, terrorism and assisting the war effort will be difficult to duplicate.
• Races to Watch – With up 197 districts likely to hold elections, we are providing highlights each week on interesting races to watch. This week’s highlights include:
Vinnitsya 14 (Zhmerynka): Independent MP Viktor Zherebnyuk is facing a tough rematch from Ivan Melnychuk. Zherebnyuk defeated Melnychuk (then with Byut) in 2012 by just 73 votes out of 104,000 cast (33.32% – 33.24%) This time Melnychuk is running with the Poroshenko bloc and given the value of the “Poroshenko” brand in Vinnitsya, Melynchuk is likely to prevail this time. Supreme Court Justice Vasyl Onopenko, who ran for the seat in 2012 and finished third with 17%, is also in the race again as an independent.
Volyn 22 (Lutsk city): Kolomoyskyi ally Ihor Palytsya vacated this seat in summer to serve as Governor of Odesa Oblast. Seventeen candidates are vying to replace him but according to the latest polling from Rating Group, National Front’s Ihor Lapin who served in the Aydar Battalion is the front runner. Lapin leads his nearest challenger Roman Ivanyuk with the Poroshenko Bloc by a 28-13% margin. Ivanyuk is an investment banker with Concord Capital in Kyiv but originally from Lutsk.
Dnipropetrovsk 25 (city, Krasnogvardiskye rayon): MP Ihor Tsyrkin (then with Regions) defeated his Byut challenger Maksym Kurachiy 41-25% in 2012. Both candidates have since changed parties and this time Tsyrkin is running as an independent and Kurachiy is running with the Poroshenko bloc. Tsyrkin is a member of the Economic Development faction now in Parliament (which is closely linked to Dnipropetrovsk Governor Ihor Kolomoyskyi) and is favored to win again.
Dnipropetrovsk 27 (city, October rayon): Regions MP Momot declined to run for re-election this time. He is almost certainly to be replaced by Dnipropetrovsk Deputy Governor (and Kolomoyskyi right hand) Borys Filatov who is running as an independent.
Dnipropetrovsk 35 (Nikopol): Former Regions MP Andriy Shypko faces a challenge from Communist MP Serhiy Balandin for this seat. In 2012, Skypko defeated Byut challenger Volodymyr Yevtushenko by a comfortable 44-20% margin. Yevtushenko is again in this race but this time as an independent while Shipko faces a clone candidate as well. The Poroshenko Bloc, Byut, National Front, Radical Party, Opposition Bloc and Strong Ukraine also have candidates in the race.
Dnipropetrovsk 38 (Novomoskovsk): Incumbent Regions MP Mykola Soloshenko is not taking part in this election and the seat has attracted nine candidates. Poroshenko bloc withdrew their candidate here in favor of National Front’s Oleg Chornodobravskiy. However with votes being siphoned by candidates from Byut and the Radical Party, Chornodobravskiy will struggle to defeat MP and former Kuchma Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk. Kuzmuk is a political survivor and currently is a member of Kolomoyskyi’s Economic Development faction in Parliament. That gives Kuzmuk an edge in this race.
Dnipropetrovsk 40 (rural south central): This seat is currently held by the odious MP Oleg Tsariov who is not running for re-election. He prevailed in 2012 over Byut candidate Ivan Ryazantsev by a 45-23% margin. Ryazantsev is running again with Byut this time. However Poroshenko bloc, National Front, the Radical Party, the Opposition Bloc and 9 others are competing for the seat as well including Deputy Mayor of Marganets town with Strong Ukraine, Mykola Shkuro.
Donetsk 47 (Slovyansk): The decision by incumbent Regions MP Oleksiy Azarov (son of the former Prime Minister) not to take part in these elections has opened the seat for 31 candidates vying to take his place. This district, the scene of some of the fiercest fighting during the summer war, currently favors Opposition Bloc candidate Yuri Solod by a 30-14% margin over independent businessman Valentin Rybachuk according to a poll by the Insitute of Research Regional Development of Ukraine. Rybachuk’s challenge is to consolidate his support quickly but faces a clone candidate as well as Oleg Zontov with the Poroshenko bloc who ran with Byut last time and received 5% of the vote. Iryna Dovhan, the woman who was tied to a post in Donetsk to be mocked and abused by Russian backed terrorists is also in the race but polling in the low single digits. Yuri Solod is the husband of Opposition Bloc’s Nataliya Korolevska who is #8 on the party list.
Donetsk 49 (Konstantynivka): Incumbent Regions faction MP Denys Omelyanonvych is running for re-election as an independent in this race. In 2012, Omelyanovych easily defeated his Communist Party rival by a 64-23% margin. Times have changed in this liberated region of Donetsk according to a shock poll released this week by the Institute of Research Regional Development of Ukraine. Omelyanovych is running third with just 5% of the vote. Businessman Valeriy Panasovskiy leads the field of 16 candidates with 11% followed by lawyer and Strong Ukraine Party’s nominee Iryna Kyriyevska who has 9%.
Zhytomyr 63 (Berdychiv): Independent MP Anzhelika Labunska defeated an opponent from Regions and former Governor (and leader of Sobor/Cathedral Party) Pavlo Zhebrivskiy by a 25-16-16% margin in 2012. Zhebrivksiy is back for a rematch this time and has backing from the major pro-European parties as Byut just withdrew its’ candidate from the race and Poroshenko bloc and National Front didn’t file candidates in the district. .
Zhytomyr 64 (Korosten): Incumbent MP Volodymyr Pekhov left the Party of Regions and is running as an independent this time. However he faces a strong challenge from Deputy Oblast Council Head Volodymyr Areshonkov with the Poroshenko bloc. National Front candidate, Andriy Ozerchuk, who finished third as the Byut candidate in 2012 with 26% (Pekhov won with 33% and the Communist candidate received 29%), withdrew from the race in favor of Areshonkov.
Zhytomyr 66 (Malyn): MP Vitaliy Zhuravskiy won a narrow 25-22-21% victory as the Regions candidate over rivals from Byut and Lytvyn’s People’s Party here in 2012. However, the latest poll by Rating Group shows him trailing as an independent to National Front candidate Pavlo Dzyublyk by 15-13%. Dzyublyk is the Chernyahivska Rayon Head and received welcome news last week by the withdraw of the Poroshenko bloc candidate in the race who was polling at 9%. This should be enough to put National Front over the top in the district since polling also indicates that Zhuravskiy has an 88% voter identification and just 13% support. Ivan Lytvyn, son of former Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, is polling just 3% and has a 38% negative rating as an independent.
Zaporizhya 79 (Vasylivka): As the Regions candidate in 2012, Incumbent Volodymyr Bandurov defeated his Communist challenger Volodymyr Velychko by a strong 56-20% margin. Bandurov is running as an independent this time and Velychko is back for a rematch as the Communist nominee. Trade union leader and independent Oleksandr Grigorchuk and former Zaporizhya Governor and Minister of Transportation under Yushchenko, Yevhen Chervonenko, are his main opponents, although internal polling shows Bandurov set to win re-election.
Lviv 119 (Brody): A Rating Group poll released last week sent “shock and awe” through Lviv as Svoboda MP and former Governor Iryna Sekh was trailing Radical Party challenger Andriy Andrushenko 13-12%. Sekh trounced an independent opponent in 2012 by a 65-11% margin but her support appears to be in “free fall” now. Sekh’s troubles stem from her perceived “disingenuous” opposition to fracking in the Lviv region as the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Ecology Committee, as well as her brief and lackluster performance as Governor from earlier this year. Complicating matters further, Sekh has 84% name ID compared which leaves few new voters to persuade. Andrushenko is the Mayor of Staroyarychivsk village in the region and is one of the few Radical Party candidates with a chance to win a single mandate district in this election. National Front’s Mykhaylo Bondar, who served with distinction in Ukraine’s National Guard during this summer’s war – is running a close third with 10%. To complicate the math even more, Byut’s Mykhaylo Chumak is polling 9% which means that 4% separates first from fourth place in the race. Chumak is the Mayor of Pidkaminskiy village.
Lviv 121 (Drohobych): Incumbent Byut MP Roman Ilyk is running for re-election after defeating Motherland Defender’s Party candidate Pavlo Barnatskiy by a comfortable 49-10% margin in 2012. Barnatskiy is back for a rematch and is polling 5% to Ilyk’s 23% according to the latest Rating Group survey. Poroshenko Bloc’s Mykhaylo Koval is running second with 10% followed by independent Mykhaylo Zadorozhniy, Radical Party’s Ihor Kurusa and National Front’s Ivan Matkovskiy all around 9%.
Odesa 135 (city, Prymorskiy Rayon) UDPATE from October 1: Local poll results show Incumbent Serhiy Kivalov holding a 28-21% lead over Poroshenko Bloc candidate and local businessman Viktor Naumchak. Naumchak has emerged as the front runner to defeat Kivalov and was aided last week by the withdraw of the nominee from National Front as well as in an uncoordinated way by the withdraw from the races by candidates from the Radical Party and Volya. Conversely Kivalov benefited from the withdraw of the Communist Party candidate. Internet Party candidate Darth Vader also withdrew from the race citing other intergalactic commitments. That leaves 40 candidates still in the race though which is the largest number in the country. Controversial local politician Georgiy Selyanin is running third with 15% followed by Volodymyr Rondin at 12%. Rondin was initially considered the front runner to challenge Kivalov but has failed to gain major traction. Despite not being trusted by 61% of voters, if the election was held today, Kivalov is still a slight favorite to win re-election.
Poltava 147 (Myrhorod): Incumbent, Independent MP Ivan Kulinich defeated his Byut challenger Yuri Kovalenko in 2012 by a close 43-36% margin. Kovalenko has returned for a rematch in the changed political environment and this time is the nominee from National Front. Both Kulinich and Kovalenko have two clone candidates each in the race which will siphon votes in this close race. Kulinich’s late departure from the Party of Regions faction in Parliament (February 21) has proven a liability in this race though as the latest poll by the Research Institute of Regional Development of Ukraine which shows Kovalenko holding a commanding 32-18% lead.
Kharkiv 169 (city, Kharkiv rayon): Incumbent Regions faction MP Iryna Berezhna decided not to participate in this election. Berezhyna faced a tough challenge from Oleksandr Kirsh with Byut in 2012 and won a narrow 42-34% victory. Kirsh is running again and this time with National Front. With no Byut nominee and the withdraw of the Poroshenko Bloc candidate last week, Kirsh is in strong contention to win this seat. The Radical Party and Strong Ukraine also have candidates in the race.
Kharkiv 171 (city, Frunze Rayon): Incumbent MP Iryna Horina vacated her Kharkiv district to take #34 on the Opposition Bloc list in this election. She defeated a rival from UDAR in 2012 by a 46-24% margin. The front runner to replace her is Donetsk MP Vitaliy Khomutynnik who Chairs the Taxation Committee in Parliament. Khomutynnik left the Party of Regions faction on February 21 and now is a leader in the Economic Development faction in Parliament. Strong Ukraine and National Front also have candidates in the race but Khomutynnik appears likely to win in his newly transplanted oblast.
Kyiv 217 (city, Obolon): Byut backed Oleksandr Bryhynets defeated independent challenger Vadym Stolar here in 2012 by a 32-25% margin. Bryhynets is #75 on the Poroshenko Bloc list this time and has vacated the seat. Stolar is back as an independent despite having two clones candidate to compete with in addition to the 25 others. His two main challengers are Civil Position candidate Ruslan Rudenko and independent Andriy Biletskiy. Rudenko runs the charity fund “Develop Obolon” and is one of the few Civil Position Party candidates who is competitive in a single mandate race. National Front originally fielded Interior Ministry Advisor Zoryan Shkiryak. However Shkiryak withdrew from the race which paved the way for Andriy Biletskiy. Biletskiy is a commander in the regiment patrol special police “Azov” of the Ministry of Interior. Biletskiy has come under fire from abroad for his xenophobic views in recent days. All of this points to independent Vadym Stolar winning the race and polling by the Research Institute of Regional Development of Ukraine shows him leading Rudenko 23-11 with Biletskiy mired at a mere 6%.
Kyiv 220 (city, Podil): In 2012, Byut backed MP Oleskandr Chornovolenko defeated UDAR’s Ivan Fishchenko 32-14%. Chornovolenko vacated the seat in this election to take #111 on the Poroshenko Bloc list which opened an opportunity for Fishchenko to run as the nominee from the Poroshenko Bloc in 2014. However he faces a strong challenge from businessman Vyacheslav Konstantinovskiy (Concord restaurant and Puzata Hata) who made a media splash this summer when he sold his Rolls-Royce to donate the funds to the army and then joined the battle in the Donbass. There are 21 other candidates in the race including Darth Vader but the real contest is between Fishchenko and Konstantinovskiy.
Kyiv 221 (city, Pechersk): Byut backed Leonid Yemets, son of the former MP and one of the father’s of Ukraine’s Constitution, defeated UDAR’s Yaroslav Didenko 31-20% in 2012. Yemets is running for re-election with National Front this time and Didenko is seeking a rematch as an independent. Former Serhiy Tyhypko lawyer Oleksandra Pavlenko is the nominee from the Poroshenko Bloc. Yemets appears to have a more aggressive campaign and is favored to win. Darth Vader is also a candidate in this race.
Dates to Watch:.
• October 21 – Next Gas Talks in Berlin. A gas deal to meet Ukraine’s winter needs is moving closer each week now. EU Energy Commissioner Oettinger will visit Kyiv the day before to coordinate strategy and message. It now appears likely that a temporary deal will be struck to get through this winter. Negotiations on a long term deal will resume later. In the meantime, the terrorists in the LPR and DPR are believed to planning to sell coal from their occupied territories to raise money for their “governments” and attempt to buy some legitimacy in the process. Ukraine’s shortage of coal for this winter is another factor in Ukraine agreeing to pay $2 billion to Gazprom by the end of this month.
• October 23 – Possible Special Parliamentary Session??? Speaker Turchynov wants to hold a brief session to pass changes to the election law this week. Last minute changes to the law are nothing new in Ukraine as Yushchenko did so to fix loopholes right before the 2007 parliamentary elections. The proposed changes relate mostly to voting in areas affected by the ATO.
• November 2 – Unrecognized “Parliamentary Elections’ in the so called DPR & LPR (occupied Donbass). Despite announcements to hold the elections on November 9, the self proclaimed banana republics have changed the dates back to November 2 as originally planned. The elections will not be recognized outside of the occupied territories.
• December 7 – Local Elections in the Donbass.