What if the Election Was Today? Despite appeals from President Poroshenko in favor of open party lists, the status quo 50/50 system is likely to be the framework for the parliamentary election. Under this system, half of the members are elected by geographical districts and the other half by a closed party list system. Some in the government have advocated the return to the closed party list system used in 2006 because in the short term it would benefit them politically. However, this the same system that resulted in parliament returning Yanukovych to the post of Prime Minister in August 2006 –just a year after his disgraceful fall during the Orange Revolution. Suffice to say, there are very few positive arguments in favor of a closed list system and its adoption would be a sign of democratic decline rather than progress under the new government. Time is short before the election and when parliament meets on August 12-15, deciding the rules of this election will be a top priority. As mentioned in the article entitled “Reforming Ukraine Election System, Re-Apportionment and the Time for Minority Districts”, they key votes to change the election law are members from districts rather than party lists. The Byut, UDAR and Svoboda coalition that toppled Yanukovych now relies on Kolomoyski’s faction (Economic Development) and Yeremeyev/Lyvtyn (Sovereign Ukraine) factions to get a majority on any vote. Since almost ¾ of those members are elected from districts, there is little Poroshenko can offer to persuade them to adopt a party list system. Thus, with little time and little to offer, the status quo system is likely to remain in effect for this election. As for the districts in Crimea and potentially the Donbass where elections cannot currently take place (due to annexation or war), they will simply be postponed and scheduled at a later time when conditions allow for safe elections.
In this case, there would be 12 empty seats from Crimea (ten) and Sevastopol (two) as well as no elections in 17 districts currently occupied by terrorists in conflict zones as of today (41-45 Donetsk, 51 Horlivka, 53 Yenakiyeve, 54 Shaktarsk, 55-56 Makyivka, 61 Starobesheve, 104-105 Luhansk, 109 Krasnodon, 110 Alchevsk, 111 Sverdlovsk, and 114 Station Luhansk) for a total of 197 members (instead of 225) elected from districts in the October Parliamentary Election. As for the date of the election, the President is expected to announce the dismissal of Parliament during his Independence Day speech on August 24. Depending on if Parliament changes the campaign period from 60 days (currently) to 45 days during their August 12-15 session, the election will be scheduled either October 12th or 26th.
Here are several scenarios which show the results and composition of the Parliament following the election based on the limited polling data currently available (see Ukraine Update July 30). The most current “poll of polls” from July 30 in Graph 1 below shows the following average poll ratings for parties in Ukraine.
Graph 1: Poll of Polls Average Party Rating on July 30
Scenario 1: Party List Election Results. In this scenario we assume that Poroshenko persuades members of Parliament currently elected from districts to change the law to adopt a party list electoral system (either closed or open). Under this system, any party/bloc that receives more than five percent of the vote receives seats in Parliament. Currently six parties that supported Euromaidan are receiving more than an average of five percent in the polls while none of the parties that opposed Euromaidan are above that threshold. This is highly likely to change once the campaign begins but if the election were today the parliament would look like Table 1 below.
Please note that current parliamentary factions are also included in the table even though these factions are not competing as parties or blocs in the elections. Also, though seven factions currently exist in parliament, individual members associated with a party or party leader are included in the list of “seats currently”. For example, 13 deputies are associated with Strong Ukraine and it’s leader Sergiy Tyhypko are officially “independents” in parliament but for a more accurate view of what the parliament will look like after the election, we have separated them. . Oleg Lyahsko is the only Radical Party member currently in parliament and they do not have a faction. The same goes for Anatolyi Hritsenko the leader of Civil Position. President Poroshenko’s Solidarity team won three seats in Vinnitsya in 2012 (including his own district). The Communist faction was recently liquidated under a new procedure although at least 23 deputies belonged to that group. Thus, while officially there are 93 independent deputies in parliament, the Communists, Lyahsko, Solidairty, Civil Position, and Strong Ukraine deputies have been taken out of the total.
In this scenario, Solidarity could partner with UDAR (their current coalition and electoral ally) and any one other faction to form the majority. In this case, it would most likely be Byut as a majority of 278 would be strong enough to survive for many years. In addition, if they could reach consensus with the often contrarian Anatolyi Hritsenko (leader of Civil Position) then they would have a constitutional majority which would allow passage of Poroshenko’s proposed constitutional changes. Oleg Lyahsko’s Radical Party would be a situational coalition partner but essentially not needed. Given concerns about Lyashko’s connections with oligarch Dmitro Firtash, this is probably a positive.
The relative ease in which a 2/3 vote for constitutional change can be achieved with the parliamentary composition as it is under this scenario explains why President Poroshenko has called for a return to party list election systems. In his effort to gain support for a party list electoral system, Poroshenko has privately offered to lower the barrier for representation from five to three percent. In this case, if the Party of Regions were to agree, then Poroshenko wouldn’t need the votes of the Economic Development and Sovereign Ukraine factions to change the law. Since the Party of Regions’ rating is a mere 3.4% now, this is a possibility. However given that the historic pro-Russian electorate is more than 40% and the Party of Regions has averaged 33% since 2006 (see graph 1 below), this strongly suggests that they can get more than three percent of the vote. In other words, adoption of this agreement by the Party of Regions would be a last ditch effort to win seats in the new parliament and would only be agreed to if the party is convinced its’ electorate base has permanently been destroyed. In addition, the Party of Regions maintains significant strength in individual districts –especially in the east – which would allow them to benefit far more from the current 50/50 system rather than a switch to the party list system.
Graph 2: Historical Base Vote of Leading Pro-Russian Parties
Scenario 2: Party List Election Results with a 3% Barrier. However, for the sake of analysis, let’s examine what the parliament would look like if the threshold for representation is lowered to three percent using the current polling averages (see Table 2).
Table 2: Election Results if Held Today Under a Party List with a 3% Barrier
In this scenario, the Party of Regions, Strong Ukraine and the Communists win seats in the next parliament. However even if the three groups unite they have only 59 votes which is not enough to block any legislation –let alone prevent constitutional changes. In this situation, the Radical Party and Svoboda become the gatekeepers to a new constitution as they could create a situational alliance with the three pro-Russian factions to block changes. On the surface this seems unlikely but on certain issues this could well happen. In these cases it is critical to “follow the money” and to know the interests of the party financiers. This scenario also requires Poroshenko and UDAR to invite Byut and Civil Position into prominent positions in the government. Given that the preference of the Poroshenko-Klitchko alliance is to have as few coalition partners as possible, this could mean a return to the inefficient “quota” system of 2005. Under this system, Our Ukraine, Byut and the Socialists divided all government posts according to a quota system rather than by competency and qualifications. While these current coalition partners are more ideologically cohesive than the juxtaposed mix of free marketers and socialists in the government of 2005, the country needs clear leadership now rather than government by quota. Thus, under this scenario, constitutional changes are still possible but governing is more complicated.
Scenario 3: Election Results under the Current 50/50 System
In this scenario, the half of the seats selected by the proportional ballot are based on the current polling averages available. However since half of the seats are chosen through districts, this complicates forecasting the party that will hold that seat after the election. For this scenario, we will make the generous assumption that all MP’s elected in 2012 will be re-elected from the parliamentary faction in which they currently belong. For example, if an MP was elected in a district with Byut and is currently a member of the Byut faction, then he/she will be counted as winning that seat in the next election. As mentioned previously there are 12 seats in Crimea and 17 seats in the Donbass where elections are not currently possible due to Russian occupation. Those seats will remain empty and not calculated in this scenario. In addition we will make the following assumptions:
1. For vacant seats from districts, (for example Poroshenko’s district #12 in Vinnitysa) we will assume that the next parliamentarian will be elected from the same party as the original member. In this case Poroshenko ran as an independent but clearly would be classified as Solidarity.
2. If a member was elected in a district with one party but has since switched to another party/faction, the seat will be added to the total of the faction to which they currently belong.
3. On July 24th, eight MP’s left the governing coalition in defiance of Byut to force new elections. Unofficially these eight MP’s did so at the request of Poroshenko and are believed to be part of his emerging Solidarity Party team. Since four of these MP’s (Aryev, Andriyevski, Brigynets, and Zubko) are from single mandate districts, they are counted in Solidarity’s total and not Byut’s. In addition, close Poroshenko allies such as Dombrovksiy in district #11 and Zabolotniy in #17 (both in Vinnitsya) are also included in the Solidarity total. Conversely, Tymoshenko lawyer Mishenko from district #98 (Kyiv) though technically an independent is included in the Byut total.
4. The single mandate members currently in the Economic Development and Sovereign Ukraine factions are the most difficult to categorize. Each member will select a party and/or to run again for office based on their self interests. Since it is too early to anticipate how 76 members of parliament will act, we will classify all “single mandate members” as part of their current factions in this scenario with the assumption that they will continue to be “pro-presidential”. Currently 28 of 41 members of Economic Development and 25 of 35 members of Sovereign Ukraine were elected from districts (outside of Crimea and Donbass occupied districts). These have been a key part of the “European Choice Coalition” which was formed after Yanukovych’s ouster. Since many of these members will run as pro-presidential independents, this is the best classification of their allegiances at this time. Furthermore, independent deputies have had a long tradition of being largely pro-presidential in the past.
5. The “Peace and Stability” faction consists of pro-Russian MP’s and is believed to be close to the financial interests of of Sergiy Kurchenko (the 28 year old oligarch who fled with Yanukovych). Though no party yet exists under that name, we will classify these ambiguous MP’s under the faction name until more information on their plans becomes available. There are currently nine members from districts were elections are expected to conducted.
6. In Odesa district #133, Independent/Rodina Party candidate Igor Markov defeated the Party of Regions candidate Oleksiy Goncharenko in 2012 in an election ripe with credible fraud allegations. Markov was later imprisoned for an unrelated crime then released after Yanukovych fled (allegedly at the insistence of Turchynov interestingly enough…). Markov has since given up his mandate and the seat is vacant. Therefore, given the strongly pro-Russian stance of Rodina party and Markov’s ideology, the seat will be classified as a “Peace and Stability” faction seat. Thus, in this scenario, the parliament would like Table 3.
Of course, this doesn’t take into account single mandate seats that might be won by different parties. For example, the Radical Party in Chernihiv (Lyashko’s base) might be able to win more than just his seat given their currently high rating. Nonetheless, it gives us an idea of the next parliament’s composition. In this scenario, Poroshenko would need to rely heavily on the Economic Development and Sovereign Ukraine deputies elected from districts for his majority. In other words, much in the same way he must do so now. He would also need to accommodate Civil Position, Svoboda and the Radical Party which will require patience and persistence. Still though, through sharing of cabinet posts and leadership positions, Poroshenko would still have a 2/3 majority to make changes to Ukraine’s Constitution as the opposition would be small and fragmented.
Scenario 4: Election Results under the Current 50/50 System and a 3% Threshold: Given the low ratings of the three main pro-Russian parties (Party of Regions, Communists and Strong Ukraine), this scenario explores the parliamentary composition if the barrier for representation on the proportional ballot is lowered from five to three percent. However, there overall result is not substantively changed (see Table 4).
In this scenario, the pro-Russian parties would have 82 votes in the new parliament which is far from the 151 needed to block constitutional changes. Even with the full support of all 29 independents, they are 50 votes short. Poroshenko would have to struggle to keep six pro-Euromaidan factions happy as well as the Economic Development and Sovereign Ukraine factions appeased to make the constitutional changes. However it is still possible under this scenario. It is important to note though, that both Solidarity and Byut would have 70 deputies apiece and Poroshenko would have to rely heavily on support from UDAR to maintain the upper hand in the coalition.
Scenario 5: The Most Pro-Russian Scenario: It is likely that the ratings of the Party of Regions and Strong Ukraine will increase given the country’s historical electoral patterns. In addition, the Party of Development led by MP Miroshchnychenko and former Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Larin have strong financing and the potential to rise rapidly in the polls. Therefore, in the next scenario we will increase the ratings of Strong Ukraine, Communists (and we assume that they won’t be banned by the courts) and Party of Development to five percent each and the Party of Regions to 10 percent which is 1/3 of their historical base vote (see Graph 1 above) but almost three times their current rating. In addition, we will drop Svoboda under the five percent barrier for comparison purposes to give maximum benefit to the pro-Russian electoral options in the apportionment of party list seats. Table 5 below shows what is currently the most “pro-Russian” electoral scenario.
Table 5: Parliamentary Composition in the Most Pro-Russian Scenario
In this scenario, if the pro-Russian parties reclaim their traditional base vote, there could be as many as 111 votes in the new Parliament (Regions, Peace & Stability, Communists, Party of Development and Strong Ukraine). Even if they persuaded all of the independents to support them on a particular vote though, there would still not be enough votes to block constitutional changes assuming Poroshenko keeps his current coalition partners onboard. The pro-Russian electorate is a victim of its own inability to control the situation in Crimea and the Donbass. By not being able to hold elections in those districts, the pro-Russian electorate essentially forfeits 29 seats in Parliament. If those seats were filled then they would have 140 votes – and need just 11 votes from independents to block constitutional changes. Of course, Poroshenko will have difficulty appeasing and managing relationships with eight different factions to get the constitutional changes he wants. Nonetheless, even in the most “pro-Russian” scenario currently feasible, Poroshenko appears able to change the constitution.
Conclusions: Regardless of which electoral system Ukraine’s Parliament will adopt or not adopt, President Poroshenko is strongly positioned to have a pliant parliament to pass needed constitutional changes this November. The absence of Crimea’s votes in Ukrainian elections is being felt immediately but in the ironic sense that it makes Ukraine’s electorate more European and less pro-Russian. The inability to hold elections in certain Donbass districts only heightens the growing disadvantage of the pro-Russian electorate in winning nationwide elections now in Ukraine. Of course actual election results will vary from these preliminary calculations but barring a tectonic move in the orientation of the electoral, this will be the most pro-European parliament in Ukraine’s history. As Table 6 below indicates, the pro-Euromaidan parties benefit the most from a party list election whereas power becomes diluted when the current 50/50 system remains intact. The data is a compilation of Tables 1-5. Nonetheless, in all five scenarios, the pro-Russian parties are only a minor irritant and the bigger issues is management of a wide and diverse (but pro-European) coalition.