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Ukraine Votes for Europe and Reforms



On October 26, Ukraine held early parliamentary elections. The elections were free and fair. Six parties are entering parliament, of which three or four may join a coalition government. On the whole the results were as expected, giving the current pro-European government a strong mandate, which should help it to carry out badly needed economic reforms.

The main outcome is that a majority is commanded by the parties of President Petro Poroshenko (Poroshenko's Bloc) and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (People's Front). According to preliminary results with half of the votes counted, each got 21.5 percent of the votes cast. Poroshenko's Bloc got one tenth less of the votes than expected, but these votes went to Yatsenyuk's very similar party. Both these parties are pro-Western, reformist, center-right parties. The sudden rise in the vote for Yatsenyuk suggests popular confidence in him as prime minister, making it likely that he will stay on.

The new civil activist party Self-Help surged surprisingly to 11 percent and became the third biggest party. It was founded by Andriy Sadoviy, the mayor of the Western city of Lviv. Self-Help is an evident coalition partner of Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk. Together these three parties have a solid parliamentary majority.

They might be joined by Yulia Tymoshenko's Fatherland party, which received only 5.7 percent, showing that Yatseniuk was wise to break away from her party last summer.

Two other parties enter parliament. The Opposition Bloc, led by President Viktor Yanukovych's energy minister Yuriy Boiko, received surprisingly many votes at 9.7 percent. This party is the remnant of Yanukovych's Regions party.

The other opposition party is the populist Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko, which threatened to be a new star but fortunately fell back to 7.5 percent.

The Ukrainian parliament is supposed to have 450 seats, out of which half are distributed through a proportional election with a threshold of 5 percent, and the remaining half through majority vote in one-mandate constituencies. Because of the Russian occupation, however, 27 seats will be left unelected, the 12 single seats in Crimea and 15 of the 32 seats in Donbas. Thus, the parliament will only have 423 seats.

According to the preliminary results, Poroshenko's Bloc, which won many one-man constituencies, appears to have won 126 seats, and Yatsenyuk's People's Front 80 seats. In addition Self-Help garnered 34 seats and Fatherland 18 seats, which means that a four-party coalition government could get 258 seats. Together with many of the 110 independent deputies, such a government could reach 300 votes, the majority needed for the constitutional changes Poroshenko desires.

Participation was uncommonly low at 52.4 percent because of limited voting in the east, reflecting both the warfare there and apparent alienation of the eastern voters from the political alternatives that were offered.

To sum up, this result looks like a good omen for reform. The three most reformist parties won. Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk appear strong and competent as leaders. Self-Help will offer the necessary checks and balances and transparency within the government. The parliament is reasonably consolidated but represents all the relevant interests. The communists and hard nationalists have fallen outside of parliament. A large number of civil activists have entered parliament.

Both Poroshenko and Yatseniuk have signaled that they want a quick formation of a new government. They have stated that they want a smaller government selected on the basis of professional competence and not on the old base of coalition quotas.

They have many big tasks to carry out because the current International Monetary Fund program is underfinanced and not sustainable. Large reforms have to be undertaken swiftly, while the new government still enjoys its democratic mandate.

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