• Poll of Polls: There is little movement in the poll averages since last week at the top as Poroshenko continues to push 40% of the vote (39.7%) and the Radical Party slips slightly below 13% to 12.9%. However Byut is showing some label resilience by inching upward to 8.5 from 7.9% last week. When a substantial group of Byut leaders left to run under the People’s Front banner, it was unclear whether or not Byut’s rating would be able to sustain the loss. While it clearly has cut into their historical support base, Byut shows no signs of failing to pass the five percent barrier and may once again surprise pundits by over performing the polls on Election Day – which is just 18 days away.
Byut’s gain of 0.6% over the last week seems to be Hritsenko’s Civil Platform’s loss, as they dropped to 7.7% from 8.3%. However Hritsenko is still comfortably positioned to win seats in the next parliament. Not content to wither on the vine, Svoboda jumps 0.6% to 5.2% overall, which is the first time since the beginning of the campaign that they have averaged more than the necessary five percent to wins seats. Strong Ukraine is struggling somewhat now and has slid 0.5% from last week to an average of 4.4%. Meanwhile the Opposition Bloc seems to the recipient of those voters as they continue to grow their support which now stands at 2.1% (up half a point from last week).
• Donbass Deputy Shuffle – up until the final day of candidate registration last week, it appeared as though the Party of Regions would not contest their former stronghold of the Donbass. The party itself had officially announced a boycott and the upstart Opposition Bloc had fielded a largely underwhelming list of candidates in single mandate districts. Furthermore the CEC, NGO’s and others had announced that elections would be likely only in 9-15 districts out of 34 in the Donbass. However when the dust at the CEC settled, suddenly a swathe of Party of Regions Members of Parliament had filed for office in the districts of the Donbass. Out of the 34 districts in Donetsk and Luhansk, incumbent MP’s filed in half of them. Local Luhansk elites filed in another two districts (incumbent Luhansk Mayor Serhiy Kravchenko in Luhansk City #105 and Luhansk Oblast Council Chairman Valeriy Holenko in Svatove district #113) as well. There are no coincidences in Ukrainian politics and if incumbent MP’s close to the Party of Regions filed for office in a particular Donbass district, it is not a hypothetical exercise. The MP’s filed because they believe elections will be held in those districts – even ones currently occupied by Russian forces. In addition, if an occupied district holds elections to the Ukrainian parliament, pro-Kyiv candidates and international election observers will almost certainly not be allowed in the area which guarantees the election of the pro-Russian candidate. Since Kyiv is in need of having the elections recognized as legitimate, they are unlikely to cry foul over “jiggery pokery” in a few occupied districts. For all practical purposes, it is easier just to accept the results and continue to work towards reclaiming the territory. Out of these 34 districts in 2012, Party of Regions candidates won in all but two. Of the two independents that won, Struk in district 106 quickly joined the Regions faction in Parliament while the other, Moshenskiy in district 108 remained independent (although he joined Sovereign Ukraine faction in spring). Of course, none of this precludes additional Russian aggression between now and Election Day in the Donbass, but it does give the Kremlin more options to explore. Table 1 below gives the breakdown by districts including which incumbents are competing and the current likelihood of elections being held in those districts.
Table 1: Donbass Districts, Incumbent Members of Parliament, their plans in this election, the favored candidate of Donbass elites (current/former Party of Regions officials) and the likelihood of elections taking place on October 26.
To clarify the table, in districts 41 and 45 for example, both are located in Donetsk city which is currently under Russian occupation. However, serious candidates have filed to run in these districts such as former Communist MP Ihor Kaletnik (who headed the State Customs Service under Yanukovych) has filed in district 41. Former Prime Minister Yukhym Zvyagilskiy (who served September 1993 to July 1994) filed for re-election in his current district 45. Thus, as of today, the likelihood of these two districts holding elections due to the occupation is therefore listed as “somewhat unlikely”. However if the district election commissions suddenly begins working, that will be confirmation that elections are underway and the local elites are likely to win.
In cases such as Slovyansk district 47 and Syevyerdonetsk district 106, they are controlled by the Ukrainians but the local elites lack a clear candidate (or at least an openly pro-Regions one with strong support). It would serve both Russian and Party of Regions’ interests to disrupt the elections in the district rather than cede it to a politician who favors the current government in Kyiv. Hence the district’s likelihood of holding elections is listed as “somewhat likely”. Also, in the case of Luhansk district 114, the incumbent from district 108 (Krasniy Luch) Mr. Moshenskiy is running as an independent. He was elected in 2012 as an independent and was the only Donbass deputy elected from a district that didn’t join the Party of Regions faction in Parliament. Currently he is a member of the pro-government majority in Parliament as a member of the Sovereign Ukraine faction. Given the long border with Russia and Moshenskiy’s apparent pro-Ukrainian leanings, this district is classified also as “somewhat likely” to hold elections because the potential for disruption is higher than average.
The likelihood of elections taking place in a district is defined as:
Very Likely – Ukraine controls the district and local elites are participating in the election
Somewhat Likely – Ukraine controls the district but local elites are not participating in the election.
Somewhat Unlikely – Ukraine doesn’t control the all of district but local elites are participating in the election.
Very Unlikely – Ukraine doesn’t control the district and local elites are not participating in the election.
• Races to Watch – With up to 213 districts being contested, we are providing highlights each week on interesting races to watch. This week’s highlights include:
Volyn 19 (Volydymyr-Volynskiy): Svoboda MP Yevhen Melnyk won a relatively easy 36-17% victory over businessman Serhiy Kovalchuk (independent) in 2012. Kovalchuk is seeking a rematch this time but the field is more crowded with two time Justice Minister Serhiy Holovatiy (independent) entering the race. Holovaty was considering a rising star in the 90’s as one of Kuchma’s first Justice Ministers. He returned to the post after Tymoshenko was sacked in 2005 as Yushchenko’s Justice Minister but fell out with the former president during the snap 2007 elections (objecting to the dismissal of parliament). As a result, Holovatiy made enemies in the national-democratic camp by running and being elected on the Party of Regions list during that election that ensued. Local rising star, Ihor Huz, Deputy Head of the Volyn Oblast Council, is also in the race and backed by the People’s Front. Expect the race to be competitive this time with additional candidates from Lyashko and Byut rounding out the field.
Dnipropetrovsk 26 (city & Babushkinskiy rayon): Regions MP Ivan Stupak declined to run for re-election this cycle. As a result, 11 parties and one independent are on the ballot to replace him. The Poroshenko bloc, Byut, National Front, and Radical Party have all fielded candidates. Strong Ukraine’s candidate is former Our Ukraine MP Serhiy Vasylenko. Vasylenko is one of Strong Ukraine’s more competitive single mandate district candidates. The Opposition Bloc candidate is Nataliya Vlasova who works for the “Oleksandr Vilkul Ukrainian Perspective” NGO. Vilkul was Yanukovych’s Governor of Dnipropetrovsk and later Vice Premier. He has been keeping a low profile after Yanukovych’s impeachment but appears to be financing his people into several parliamentary districts in the region.
Dnipropetrovsk 39 (Vasylkivka): This rural area of eastern Dnipropetrovsk is on the border with Donetsk. Incumbent Regions MP Yuri Samoylenko did not run for re-election and now 16 candidates are competing in the race. The Poroshenko bloc, National Front, Radical Party, Strong Ukraine, Communists and Byut have all fielded candidates in district 39. However the candidacy of Right Sector leader Dmitro Yarosh is the best known name in the race. Mariya Pustova, an independent who is the Deputy Director of the NGO “Oleksandr Vilkul Ukrainian Perspective”, is also in the race. This race and district 26 will be good measurements of how much money Vilkul is willing to invest to win elections.
Donetsk 41 (city & Voroshylovskiy rayon): Yanukovych’s Head of the Ukrainian Customs Service, Ihor Kaletnik, is running as an independent in district 41. Kaletnik was a member of the Communist Party until the faction was disbanded earlier this year. If elections are held in this district which is currently occupied by Russian forces, Kaletnik is a heavy favorite as he faces only token opposition.
Donetsk 45 (city and Kyivskiy rayon): Former Prime Minister Yukhym Zvyagilskiy has filed for re-election in district 45. Zvyagilskiy, now 81 years old, was the Mayor of Donetsk in 1993 when he was tapped by then Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma to serve as First Vice Premier. Zvyagilskiy then succeeded Kuchma as Acting Premier and served nine months in the post until June 1994. Zvyagilskiy has been a constant fixture in the Ukrainian Parliament since being elected in 1990 before the end of the Soviet Union. If elections are held in the currently Russian occupied district, Zvyagilskiy (Party of Regions member but running as an independent) is a strong favorite to defeat Poroshenko backed entrepreneur Vitaliy Yurko.
Donetsk 48 (Kramatorsk) – UPDATE from October 1: On the last day of candidate registration, incumbent MP Yuri Boyarskiy filed for re-election. Now he faces Serhiy Blyznyuk, the son of the former Governor and 23 other candidates. Poroshenko bloc, Byut and the Radical party also have candidates in the race.
Donetsk 50 (Krasnoarmysk): Incumbent MP Leonid Baysarov is seeking re-election in his this district but faces a tough challenge from fellow Donetsk native, MP Yevheniy Hyeller. Hyeller is the Chairman of the Budget Committee in Parliament and is influential in the region. Both men are running as independents this time although Baysarov remains a member of the Party of Regions. Hyeller’s independence seems to be a plus this cycle as pundits view him as the slight front runner in the race. The Deputy Head of the Krasnoarmyiska City Council, Oleksandr Yastrubenko is running as the candidate from Strong Ukraine, but is not likely to get any traction with this clash of Donetsk deputies as the feature attraction. Deputy Donbass Battalion Commander Dmitro Esaulov is also in the race as an independent.
Donetsk 58 (Mariupol city, October rayon): If there was any doubt whether or not Donetsk Governor Serhiy Taruta would keep his job after the election, there is no more. Taruta is the leading candidate for parliament in one of two districts in Mariupol city, where the acting seat of Donetsk government is currently located. The relationship between Poroshenko and Taruta has been strained from the beginning and now there are credible reports that Poroshenko even refuses to meet with the Donetsk Governor. As a result, Taruta has positioned himself strongly to win election in his native Mariupol. The current incumbent, MP Oleksiy Biliy vacated the seat to be #5 on the Opposition Bloc list.
Donetsk 59 (Maryinka): The western part of Donetsk oblast that borders Dnipropetrovsk has been vacated by MP and Donetsk elite, Oleksandr Vasylyev, who chose not to run in this election. Out of 26 candidates to replace him, former MP Valeriy Konovalyuk appears to be the front runner. Konovalyuk resigned in protest last year as a “Presidential Advisor” to Yanukovych over the President’s flirtation with signing the European Union Association Agreement. Konovalyuk is strongly believed to be a Russian military intelligence officer and never is far from controversy. His main obstacle to winning is National Front candidate, Stefan Holovko who served with distinction in the Azov Battalion this year. Few races offer such a sharp contrast in world views as this one. A Konovalyuk victory here means that little has changed in public opinion in the Donbass over the last year. A Holovko victory marks the beginning of real change in the Donbass and hope that Poroshenko’s peace plan will prove successful.
Kirovohrad 99 (city & Lenin rayon) & 100 (Bobrynets): Sunflower oil businessman and MP Stanislav Berezhkin was elected with Byut in 2007 but when he switched to the Party of Regions to run for re-election in district 100 in 2012, he faced a tough challenge from his spurned former party. In a tough contest, Berezhkin prevailed over Byut 37-33%. This time Berezhkin faces an easier re-election as an independent despite another Byut challenger as he has the quiet backing of Poroshenko and no opposition from National Front. However, his son Maksim’s independent bid for parliament in district 99 faces an uphill climb. Byut candidate Andriy Tabalov edged the Regions candidate 33-30% in the district in 2012, but burned bridges when he and his father (also a Byut MP) left the faction amidst allegations of bribery by the Party of Regions. Neither is running for re-election this time and the vacant seat has drawn 14 candidates. The field includes local doctor Konstantyn Yarynich from the Poroshenko bloc as well as candidates from Byut, National Front and the Radical Party.
Luhansk 105 (city, October rayon): The incumbent MP Serhiy Horokhov chose not to run for Parliament this time but incumbent Luhansk Mayor Serhiy Kravchenko did. Kravchenko is a controversial figure who has been critical of Kyiv and generally pro-Putin. Election to Parliament would give Kravchenko immunity from prosecution if a future case was opened against him for treason and/or separatism. It does not appear at the moment that elections will be held in Luhansk and the city remains occupied by Russian forces. In addition, the lack of water, electricity and other utilities are higher priorities for now. Nonetheless, if elections are held here, Kravchenko is a heavy favorite to defeat Byut candidate Konstantyn Myeshkov and seven others.
Luhansk 113 (Svatove): Former Governor, Ambassador to Belarus and MP Viktor Tykhonov elected not to run this time. This has opened a vacancy for Valeriy Holenko, Chairman of the Luhansk Oblast Council to run as the candidate backed by local elites. Holenko is running with the Opposition Bloc and is one of the few candidates from the bloc that has a chance to win an election in a district. He faces a total of 13 opponents including the Mayor of Svatove, Yevhen Rybalko who is running as the candidate from the Radical Party, and Deputy National Guard Battalion Commander Viktor Moroshan. Dnipropetrovsk MP Leonid Serhiyenko, who was elected on the Byut list in 2012 but left the faction last October, is running as an independent.
Luhansk 114 (Luhansk Station): A total of 41 candidates are competing to fill the vacancy left when MP Volodymyr Demishkan decided not to run this cycle. This candidates give credence to the term “carpetbagger” though because only seven actually are from Luhansk. A total of 26 candidates are from Kyiv, three from Lviv, and a candidate each from Poltava, Donetsk, Sumy, Kherson and Rivne. Interestingly, only two parties are competing here (Strong Ukraine and Opposition Bloc) while the other 39 candidates are all independents. A slight front runner in this crowded field is MP Valeriy Moshenskiy. Moshenskiy was the elected as an independent in district 108 (Krasniy Luch) in 2012 by defeating a Party of Regions candidate by a narrow 35-33% margin. Moshenskiy was the only Member of Parliament from the Donbass (34 deputies) that did not join the Party of Regions faction. Currently is in the pro-government majority faction Sovereign Ukraine. Since elections are unlikely to take place in Krasniy Luch (district 108), Moshenskiy moved to the bordering district 114 to be a candidate. Among his opponents include two Ukrainian battalion commanders: Taras Kostanchuk from the Dnipro-Ukraine Battalion and Aydar Deputy Battalion Commander Yaroslav Kerychynskiy. This district covers the northeast part of Luhansk oblast and shares a long border with Russia. Since there is no candidate from the local elites, this district would be a prime target for disruption on Election Day by outside forces.
Odesa 137 (Kotovsk): Longtime MP and businessman Leonid Klimov faces 14 opponents including a Klimov clone in his re-election bid. The most serious challengers are former oblast council deputy Mykola Saltanovskiy (Socialist) and Mykhaylo Pozhyvanov. Pozhyvanov began his career as the Mayor of Mariupol (Donetsk oblast) in 90’s before being forced out of office by local criminals. Pozhyvanov’s municipal management skills quickly landed him work as the Deputy Mayor of Kyiv under Oleksandr Omelchenko and led to his election to parliament with Byut in 2007. This time Pozhyvanov is running as an independent but remains a member of the party (as are other Byut backed candidates in Odesa). Nonetheless, given Klimov’s ownership of the popular Odesa soccer club “Chornomorets” and his 48-16% victory in 2012 over his nearest rival, Klimov remains a favorite for re-election.
Kherson 183 (city) & 185 (Khahovka): a total of 23 candidates are competing to replace UDAR MP Andriy Putilov who resigned to serve as Governor. The 39-33% victory by an opposition candidate in 2012 (over the Party of Regions nominee) was an important electoral breakthrough as it marked the continued shift of the electorate in Kherson towards pro-European candidates. Fifteen years earlier, Kherson voted for Symonenko (Communist) over Kuchma in the 1999 presidential election by a 53-42% margin. Serhiy Trishchanovych, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor, is the Byut nominee to replace Putilov while the Poroshenko bloc has their own candidate in Andriy Hordeyev. However, MP Mykhaylo Opanashchenko from Kherson district 185 has switched districts to enter the race. Opanashchenko (Party of Regions) defeated Serhiy Khlan in 2012 by a 25-21% margin with former MP and Education Minister Stansilav Nikolayenko finishing third with 16%. Khlan, a agri-businessman, was the “Ukraine Forward!” nominee (Nataliya Korolevska Party) in 2012 who came the closest to winning a seat in parliament. This time Khlan is the Poroshenko bloc candidate in district 185 and the front runner. Meanwhile Opanashchenko, ditched the Party of Regions label, became the de facto leader of the reinvigorated Liberal Party of Ukraine, and is running as an independent for this seat – although he remains a member of the controversial Peace and Stability faction in Parliament. Expect some serious money to be spent in the race over the next three weeks as the candidates battle it out.
Chernihiv 205 (city and Desnayanskiy rayon) & 207 (Koryukivka): Despite a solid 50-28% victory in 2012, Byut MP Valeriy Dubil is vacating Chernihiv city district 205 to take a more secure place on the Byut party list (#19) this cycle. The vacancy has resulted in a diverse assortment of 20 candidates which include multiple businessmen, an athlete, a pensioner, a military officer, a battalion commander, a medical doctor, a deputy prosecutor and even Ukraine’s first astronaut, Leonid Kadenyuk (and former Lytvyn’s party MP). Businessman Valeriy Kulich is the nominee from the Poroshenko bloc and Chernihiv Battalion Commander Roman Pytskiv is the nominee from National Front. Former Yushchenko era Deputy Governor Volodymyr Prykhodko is also in the race as an independent. Independent MP Ihor Rybakov is running for re-election in district 207 and facing a challenge from local Communist MP Vikor Hubar. This is one of the few races in this cycle where current MP’s are challenging each other. Communist Victor Hubar was born in a village in Koropskoho rayon located in the district and still officially lives there today. Rybakov however, continues to list his residence as Luhansk. Nonetheless, that didn’t prevent Rybakov from trouncing his rivals in 2012 by at 38-14% margin over the nearest opponent (a different Communist Party candidate). Independent businessman Grigoriy Bozhok (who faces a clone Bozhok) and candidates from Byut, Poroshenko bloc, National Front, Strong Ukraine, Opposition Bloc, and the Radical Party are also in the race.
Kyiv 223 (Shevchenko Rayon in the city center): Downtown Kyiv features a rematch of the 2012 race between Svoboda candidate Yuri Levchenko and longtime Shevchenko Rayon Administration Chairman Victor Pylypyshyn (formerly with Lytvyn’s People’s Party). Pylypyshyn edged Levchenko 28-27% (or 442 votes out of 98,000 cast) in the initial count but the results were later canceled due to fraud allegations and the race was rescheduled till December 2013. Pylyphyshyn also prevailed in the special election which took place a month after Euromaidan began. Levchenko pinned his hopes almost solely on pro-Euromaidan sentiment carrying him to victory and failed in campaign fundamentals. As a result Pylypyshyn won 45-41% as an independent with subtle backing from the Party of Regions. Pylypyshyn, ever the agile politician, remained an independent and quickly switched with the turning tide to vote to impeach Yanukovych in February. Now both Levchenko (still with Svoboda) and Pylypyshyn fight it out in round three along with a Levchenko clone candidate, “Darth Vader”, and former Kyiv MP Valeriy Ledediviskiy (backed by Byut). Former Yushchenko Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko, who is best remembered for bringing a Russian language translator to his meetings in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergiy Lavrov, is also in the race.
Dates to Watch:
• October 14 – The Last Parliamentary Session Scheduled. This is the last scheduled meeting of the current parliament before the election. Expect high rhetoric in this final meeting just 12 days before the election with an abundance of charges and allegations from politicians seeking to up their poll numbers. As for substance, wait for the next parliament to be seated in November. This meeting with be 80% theater.
• October 26 – Election Day.
• November 9 – Unrecognized “Parliamentary Elections’ in the so called DPR & LPR (occupied Donbass)
• December 7 – Local Elections in the Donbass – at least that Poroshenko’s plan. The timing will be tight though on the heels of the parliamentary elections, seating the new parliament, electing a Speaker and Prime Minister, etc.