Political expert evaluates impact of Ukraine's parliamentary elections

by Peter T. Woloschuk
Special to The Ukrainian Weekly

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - "My main thesis," Dr. Olexiy Haran said, speaking before an audience composed primarily of academic and regional specialists, "is that the results of Ukraine's March parliamentary elections shouldn't be viewed with alarm. They were a real victory for the principles of the Orange Revolution. Ukrainian politics are becoming normal and European, and are dramatically different than those in most of the other post-Soviet successor states."

"As a result of these elections," Dr. Haran continued, "the major political parties in Ukraine have been forced to attempt to build coalitions with various partners. In order to get power they have to compromise and make deals. And that is at the heart of all Western politics."

"Despite all of the problems associated with the campaign and elections, on the national level, they were free and fair," Dr. Haran pointed out. "Each party campaigned freely, each party had access to media, even government media, and there was no interference or manipulation by the government."

These remarks came in a lecture that Dr. Haran delivered at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute's (HURI) 13th annual Petryshyn Memorial Lecture which was co-sponsored by Harvard's Center for Government and International Studies and held in the Belfer Case Study Room on April 10.

In his lecture - titled "Post-Orange Ukraine and the March 2006 Elections: What Now?" - Dr. Haran looked at the outcome of the elections and posited various scenarios for the formation of a new government, and then scrutized each in turn.

He pointed out that Parliament has 30 days to convene after the election results have been ratified and promulgated, and then the various parties have 30 days after Parliament convenes to form a government. If they fail to do so within that time period, under the Constitution the president has the right to disband the Parliament and call for new elections.

"I don't think it will come to that, though," Dr. Haran emphasized. "The election results have not yet been certified and, once they are, the major victors in the election basically have 60 days to pick the prime minister. There is plenty of time for bartering and negotiations."

Dr. Haran analyzed the results of the elections and pointed out that more than 70 percent of the population voted in spite of disenchantment with the current state of affairs and the recent energy deal with Russia. He also underscored the fact that on the national level the results closely mirrored those of the 2004 presidential elections. "The Party of the Regions and its allies carried 10 oblasts, while Our Ukraine and the Tymoshenko bloc and its allies won 17," Dr. Haran said. "This was exactly the same as in Round 3 of the presidential elections in December 2004.

"Although much has been made of the fact that the Party of the Regions won a plurality of votes, it must be emphasized that, even with the Communists and their other allies, they do not constitute a majority and have virtually no chance of forming a new government themselves," Dr. Haran continued.

He also pointed out that this was the first proportional election for the parties as mandated by recent constitutional reforms and that it actually worked to strengthen the parties and give stability to the government. Finally, he noted that the situation on the local level was much more complex, pointing out that the Odesa Oblast had voted for the Party of the Regions but the city of Odesa elected a mayor who belongs to Our Ukraine.

"Under the old system, members of Parliament were free to do as they pleased. There was little party discipline and members could take independent positions on any issue they wished. The electorate was never sure that their deputy was fulfilling their wishes or watching out for their interests," Dr. Haran explained. "Now deputies have to follow the dictates of their party."

"The unfortunate piece of this new system is that deputies run on a national party slate and don't have to come from any particular region," Dr. Haran said. "As a result, in the new Parliament almost 60 percent of all of the deputies come from Kyiv and another 12 percent come from Donetsk."

He continued: "In the new Parliament 75 percent of the deputies belong to the major parties, 61 percent have been elected for the first time, and only 8 percent are women.

"However, Dr. Haran added, "these women are strong, vocal figures who are very charismatic."

In analyzing the outcome of the March elections, Dr. Haran cited three possible scenarios:

"At the beginning of the campaign, polls indicated that Our Ukraine would come in ahead of the Tymoshenko Bloc," Dr. Haran said, "and it was predicted that Tymoshenko would play a major role in the new government, but not as prime minister. However, the bloc's dominant showing made it clear that Tymoshenko now won't accept anything less than the top spot. Her victory is due to skillful campaigning and the fact that she personally campaigned all across the country and attacked both [Viktor] Yushchenko and [Viktor] Yanukovych. As a result she came in first in 14 oblasts and second in nine, including all of the oblasts in the south and east except for Luhansk, Donetsk, Crimea and Sevastopol. If the Tymoshenko Bloc can continue this trend, it has the possibility of becoming the first truly national political party."

"Even if the Orange forces come back together, there are great differences between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, particularly in the areas of European integration and NATO," Dr. Haran said. "However, under the new Constitution, Cabinet officers are sacrosanct for one full year and so they would have to learn to work together."

The second scenario could happen, Dr. Haran said, but it would be forced by businessmen in both camps, not by Messrs. Yushchenko and Yanukovych. "There are businessmen on both sides who want reform to continue and who want to trade with the West," Dr. Haran pointed out. "However, such a coalition would cause a major moral dilemma for many loyal followers in both camps, and, as a result, would have little chance for success."

"The final possibility," Dr. Haran added, "is some sort of a grand coalition of most, if not all, of the major parties," but he quickly pointed out that there were too many disparate demands made by all these groups and the likelihood of them working together was slim at best.

Dr. Haran concluded by saying that he is an optimist and that the ongoing political process in Kyiv gives hope for the future.

"These elections show that Ukraine is beginning to mature politically and that it is developing normal Western inter-party relations," he said. "These elections and their aftermath are really the offspring of the Orange Revolution and give hope for the future."

Born in Kyiv in 1959, Dr. Haran graduated from the department of international relations at Kyiv University (1981) where he also received his candidates degree in international relations (1986) and his doctorate in contemporary history (1996). He has been a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and has lectured extensively in the United States.

Dr. Haran spent six years as a researcher at the Institute of History at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and in 1994 became the dean and organizer of the faculty of social sciences and the first head of the political science department at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (NUKMA).

In 2002 he became the founding director of the NUKMA School for Policy Analysis and in December 2004 began serving as the Eurasia Foundation's regional vice-president for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. The foundation has given out more than 1,400 grants in Ukraine since 1994, averaging more than $20,000 each.

Dr. Haran is the author of "To Kill the Dragon: From the History of Rukh and the New Political Parties of Ukraine" and is the co-author of several other works. He also served as a member of the consultative board of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) under the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was an expert of the Public Advisory Board of the office of President Yushchenko.

The Vasyl and Maria Petryshyn Memorial Lectures were funded by Dr. Wolodymyr Petryshyn and his sister, Olha Petryshyn Hnateyko, in honor of their parents to support annual lectures by distinguished scholars with a national or international reputation in the field of Ukrainian studies. Previous speakers included Ukrainian Ambassador Dr. Yuri Shcherbak, who lectured on Ukraine's emerging foreign policy; Dr. Marta Bohachevska-Chomiak of the National Endowment for the Humanities, who lectured on political communities and gender in Ukraine; and Dr. Dominique Arel of the Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Ottawa, who lectured on the regional factor in Ukrainian politics in the past decade.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, April 30, 2006, No. 18, Vol. LXXIV

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