Vladimir Ivanov, Doctor of Political Sciences, Associate Professor of Department of Comparative Political Science, Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia‬, exclusively for IAC

In the modern history of Ukraine, July 21 marks the second most important date after Euromaidan, an event that resulted in the unconstitutional power shift. Five years under the ruling parties, which position themselves as pro-European, but de facto are drawing dividends from the war actions in the east of the country, provoked transformation of moods of the Ukrainian voters. On the wave of fatigue with the “old hat” politicians, showman Volodymyr Zelensky was elected the new President of Ukraine. The voting trend in favor of parties unrelated to the previous government can be distinctly traced in the parliamentary elections as well.

Deputies to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine are elected by a mixed voting system: 50% of seats are distributed under party lists and 50% through single member constituencies. In accordance with the law of Ukraine “On Elections of People’s Deputies of Ukraine”, parties that receive five or more percent of the vote enter the Parliament. In 2019, 22 parties competed in the Rada election; however, but only five managed to overcome the five percent electoral threshold.
To start with, the turnout was registered at 49.84%, which was the lowest ever in the history of Ukraine’s parliamentary elections. The most active were Chernihiv (54.8%), Ternopil (54.21%) and Poltava (54.1%) regions, while the lowest turnout was observed in Zakarpattia (41.15%), Chernivtsi (42.06%) and Kherson (43.93%) regions. What factors have determined these figures? First, the holiday season and, therefore, Ukrainians were busy with leisure activities in their summer houses or abroad, and secondly, labor migration, western population to the EU countries and the eastern – to Russia.

Results of the snap elections to the Verkhovna Rada proved to be beneficial for the Servant of the People pro-presidential party, which is primarily explained by the high personal rating of Volodymyr Zelensky. Despite certain contradictions between the words and actions of the Ukrainian President, his telephone talk with the President of Russia Vladimir Putin played into the hands of the Servant of the People party, which was most supported in the southeast of the country and got 43% of the vote.

Quite predictably, the Opposition platform – for Life party came the second, lagging considerably behind the leaders of the race. Since the current Ukrainian President was unwilling to negotiate directly with Moscow, Yuriy Boyko and Viktor Medvedchuk assumed functions for establishing friendly relations with Russia and thus facilitated the party’s way to Parliament. In March 2019, Yuri Boyko and Victor Medvedchuk met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and head of Gazprom Alexey Miller to discuss the contract extension for Russian gas transit via Ukraine. In July, Yuriy Boyko, Viktor Medvedchuk and Vadim Rabinovich held a conference with the United Russia party, where the Ukraine-Russia dialogue was discussed among other topics. Leaders of the Opposition Platform – for Life created its image as the only party capable of bridging the two states, which brought them 13% of the vote.

Voter’s support to the Servant of the People and Opposition platform – for Life parties indicates the desire for peace in the country expressed by Ukrainian citizens. This is also confirmed by the failure of the radical right parties, for instance, the odious nationalist Nadezhda Savchenko, who ran in the single-mandate constituency No. 51, received only eight votes.

The third and fourth places were taken by the European Solidarity and Fatherland (Batkivshchyna) parties, with a small margin between them. Petro Poroshenko gained the backing support of the nationalist electorate that shares the triune slogan “Army. Mova. Vira” (“Army, Language, Faith”), while Yulia Tymoshenko was supported by less radical citizens that do not favor Kiev-Moscow dialogue.

The fifth party in the new parliament was the Voice (Holos) of Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, musician and lead singer of the rock band Okean Elzy. Mr Vakarchuk graduated from Yale University, and as a leader of Voice party intends to further advance Ukraine’s way into NATO and the EU. The Voice, with its pro-European ideology, deprived the European Solidarity party of votes and gained about 6%.

The five parties that passed to the Parliament will have to build a new or proceed with the earlier course for Ukraine, while the “second” league parties, which gained more than 2%, will operate relying on the state budget funding. The parties that passed the two percent threshold are: Oleg Lyashko’s Radical Party, Strength and Honor, Opposition Bloc, Sharia Party, Groysman’s Ukrainian Strategy, and Svoboda (Freedom).

Despite the fact that the presidential party received 254 mandates, forming a coalition remains important in the work of the next Verkhovna Rada of the ninth convocation. The following three options are the most likely.
The first and most likely option is the mono-majority. Servant of the People party can form a coalition with non-partisan deputies who are ready to join the presidential team. However, in this case, Volodymyr Zelensky should recognize that this will not only bring him and his party the full authority, but also the full burden of responsibility for decisions taken.

The second option is the union of Voice and Servant of the People parties. This association was actively discussed, since both Svyatoslav Vakarchuk and Volodymyr Zelensky are new faces in politics, not identified with the previous government. Nevertheless, establishing a dialogue with Russia will be problematic under this coalition (opposed by Voice) and the total Ukrainization that has outraged many residents of Ukraine will not be “curtailed.”

And finally, the third option is the coalition between Servant of the People and Fatherland. Yulia Tymoshenko has repeatedly expressed her willingness to help the president’s team. But here, the problem lies in the different electorate age of the parties and in the reluctance of Volodymyr Zelensky to cooperate with the “old” parties.

Essentially, elections to the Verkhovna Rada are elections of Prime Minister. According to Volodymyr Zelensky, only a “completely independent economist” can have aspirations for this position. It can be assumed that the Ukrainian President was referring to Vladislav Rashkovan, representative of Ukraine in the International Monetary Fund and former deputy of Valeria Gontareva, head of the National Bank. However, the question arises as to whether Vladislav Rashkovan would be an effective PM, given the fact that hryvnia devaluation and state funds embezzlement (to refinance some commercial banks) took place under Valeria Gontareva.

In summary, it should be emphasized that the new convocation of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine assumes responsibility for introducing changes, in connection with the citizens’ expectations. First and foremost, the Parliament faces the task of resolving the conflict in the east of the country. Other priority issues include the right to free speech, lost in recent years, and the introduction of basic anti-corruption procedures. Moving forward to new goals is impossible unless the above problems are resolved. The future of Ukraine directly depends on the efficient deputies’ activities in the Verkhovna Rada.