Ukraine

Last update: 3 weeks ago

On 21 April 2019 the presidential runoff was won by comedian and actor Volodymyr Zelensky. He defeated incumbent President Petro Poroshenko with a landslide, gaining 73 percent of the votes. Poroshenko got 25 percent of the votes. The turnout was just over 62 percent. Zelensky’s role in the popular television series “Servant of the People” has become reality, as he plays a teacher-turned-president that goes on to wipe out corruption and fight against oligarchs. For a majority of the people, this refers to the political establishment personified in this election by Poroshenko, and the government’s failure to end corruption over the years.

Zelenskiy succeeds President Petro Poroshenko, who had been elected to office following the so-called EuroMaidan revolution of 2013/14. Although Poroshenko managed to modernise the military and achieved a separation of the Ukrainian church from the Russian Orthodox church, he is accused by his critics of coming up short on many of the promises he made regarding systemic changes. Zelenskiy, a newcomer with no prior experience in politics, will now have the daunting task of implementing major reforms expected by his voters.

Zelensky dissolved the parliament on 21 may 2019 in order to bring foward the parliamentary elections. This in an attempt to gain a majority in parliament which would be needed to pass legislation.With approximately 43.14% of the votes, Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party was the winner of the election. The party, only founded in 2018, is pro-European and pro-NATO, but other than that quite broad and undefined in its ideology. President Zelenskiy became Ukraine’s first president, since the fall of the Soviet-Union, to rule the parliament with a single majority. However, the low voting turn-out is also historic: only 49.9 percent of the population cast a vote.

 

Download Country Update

Want to get notified by mail when Ukraine gets updated?

Map of Ukraine

Short facts

Population:
45,198,200 million (World Bank 2015 est.)
Governmental Type:
Republic
Ruling Coalition:
One party: Servant of the People
Last Elections:
21 July 2019 (Parliamentary elections)
Next Elections:
October 2020 (Local elections)
Sister Parties:
Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (SDPU)
Image of Volodymyr Zelensky (Source: https://www.president.gov.ua/photos/urochisti-zahodi-z-nagodi-skladennya-prisyagi-prezidentom-uk-2905)

Volodymyr Zelensky

President

Read biography
Image of Oleksiy Honcharuk (Source: https://www.kmu.gov.ua/ua/news/novim-premyer-ministrom-ukrayini-stav-oleksij-goncharuk)

Oleksiy Honcharuk

Prime Minister

Read biography

Political Situation

Political system
Ukraine has a parliamentary presidential system, which means that the country elects on national level a head of state, the president, and a legislature. The president is elected for a five-year term directly by the people. The president needs a majority of the votes in the first round to be elected. Otherwise a second round is held, in which only the two candidates with the highest amount of votes (in the first round) can compete.

The parliament (Verkhovna Rada) has 450 members, elected for a four-year term. Until 2005, half of the members were elected by proportional representation and the other half by single-mandate constituencies. Starting with the 2006 parliamentary election, all 450 members were elected by proportional representation, but after a change in 2011 under Yanukovich’s presidency the parallel system of proportional representation and single-member constituencies was restored. From that moment on, candidates can be elected through party lists or self-nomination.

The constitution prescribes that the governmental parties must have a majority in parliament. Thus, minority coalitions are formally no option for government coalitions. Representative bodies and heads of local government throughout Ukraine are elected simultaneously with the Verkhovna Rada.

Latest political issues
On 21 November 2013, a small protest broke out after President Yanukovych abandoned a trade agreement with the European Union, favouring closer ties with Russia. After the protesters were beaten at night by police, the videos of the incident put online sparked a much larger outrage throughout the country, with hundreds of thousands of people on the streets within days, dubbed as the Maidan protest. The Maidan protests resulted in pro-EU protesters occupying the Maidan square and taking control of government buildings for months. Eventually, clashes between pro-EU protesters and the police resulted in an apogee on 18 February 2014, when over 70 protesters were killed. In the political turmoil that followed, President Yanukovich fled the country to Russia. An interim government was appointed with Olexander Turchynov as interim president. In the weeks that followed, pro-Russian protests broke out in eastern Ukraine and the southern province of Crimea. Pro-Russian and Russian forces took control of government buildings and strategic military complexes in the Crimea on 27 February, increasing tensions between Ukraine and Russia. On 16 March 2014, the Crimea joined Russia trough a referendum in which an overwhelmingly majority voted in favour of Russia. The West claims this to be a violation of territorial integrity and a violation of international law, whereas Russia says it had to protect its Russian citizens in Crimea.

In the months following the annexation of the Crimea by Russia, the conflict reached a climax. Malaysia Airlines plane MH17 was shot down above eastern Ukrainian territory, killing all 298 passengers on board. The event sparked international outrage and triggered the close involvement of the international community. The European Union, the United States and other countries intensified sanctions on pro-Russian separatists and Russia. Meanwhile, the provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk declared themselves independent from Ukraine on 11 September 2014. On 6 September 2014, both parties agreed to a ceasefire in the capital of Belarus, Minsk.  

This so-called Minsk I ceasefire was violated continuesly, and got out of control in January 2015. In February, Ukraine, Lugansk, Donetsk and Russia agreed to the Minsk II accords, and a new ceasefire was born. However, this ceasefire was violated intensively in the first week when pro-Russian separatists opened an offensive on the strategic city of Debaltseve, which eventually led to their victory when the Ukrainian army retreated from the area. After this offensive, both parties seem to abide by the Minsk II accords, although fighting remains an every-day activity. 

Sanctions on eastern Ukraine and Russia remain.

Elections

Parliamentary elections

 


On 20 May, the day of his inauguration, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced his intention to dissolve parliament and call early elections. The presidential decree issued on 21 May set the elections for 21 July, Zelensky dissolved the parliament on the grounds that the current coalition didn’t have the support of the majority of the parliament. 62 MPs filed a constitutional challenge against the decree, but the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of early elections on 20 June. After the elections results were published it became clear that the president’s party, Servant of the People won a majority. The party won 254 seats out of 424, thus enabling it to form a government without a coalition. For the first time in the history of independent Ukraine, one party is able to control the cabinet of ministers, the office of the president and parliament on its own. Many consider the victory of Zelensky to be the result of disappointment in the previous government and the continuous power of oligarchs in the Ukrainian society.  

Campaign
The OSCE reported that, during the campaigning period contestants were able to freely convey their messages to the electorate. The campaign was seen as competitive with a huge amount of candidates representing a wide spectrum of political options. Despite this, vote buying remained wide-spread in many regions of the country, especially in single-vote mandate districts. The National police initiated over 125 criminal investigations concerning vote buying
On top of that, a number of incumbent MPs and mayors, who stood as candidates, often misused their incumbency, by promising and providing benefits to voters.

Election results 2019
Due to the war in eastern Ukraine elections couldn’t be held in 26 constituencies, as a result 26 out of 450 seats will be left vacant. With all votes counted, the Central Election Commission (CEC) showed five parties passing the 5 percent threshold, thus entering the Ukrainian Parliament (Rada). Voter turnout was historically low with only  49.9 percent of the population casting their vote.

Party

Seats party lists*

Seats constituencies**

Total

%

Servant of the People

 124

  130 

254

 43.16 %

Opposition Platform — For Life

 37 

  6 

 43

13,05 %

Fatherland

 24

  2 

 26 

8,08 %

European Solidarity

 23

  2 

 25 

 8,10 %

Holos (Voice)

 17

  3

 20 

 5,84 % 

Opposition Bloc

 -

  6 

 6

 3,03 % 

All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda"

 -

 1

 1

 2,15 %

Self Reliance

 - 

 1 

 1

 0,62 %

United centre

 -

 1

 1

 -

Bila Tserkva Together

 -

 1

 1

 -

Independent single constituencies

 -

46

 46

 10,85

Proportional lists
** Single-mandate constituencies

The elections resulted in a major win for Zelensky’s Servant of the People, along with which three new political parties entered the Rada, namely Opposition Platform- For Life, European Solidarity and Holos(Voice). Opposition Platform consist of  former members from its predecessor For Life, Opposition Bloc Ukraine Forward! And Ukrainian Choice. The party is openly pro-Russian and anti-EU. European Solidarity essentially is a rebranding of “Poroshenko Bloc” and aims to continue Porsohenko’s political agenda. Holos is founded by singer Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, who presents himself as anti-establishment  and is considered to be Liberal, pro-EU and pro-NATO. Thanks to Servant of the People and Holos, 80  per cent of MPs are newcomers. Furthermore, the average age of MPs has gone down from 48 to 41 years compared to the previous parliament. A record number of 87 women will enter the Rada as a result of the elections making up 19.3 % of the total number of deputies. A significant increase from 2014 when 11,1 percent of the parliament was made up of women.  

 

Aftermath
With Zelensky getting the majority in parliament he is now expected to deliver on his long list of promises made during his presidential campaign. First and foremost tackling the widespread corruption and influence of oligarchs in Ukraine. In this respect elections are seen as a victory over the old elites ruling the country along with the oligarchs. But as OSCE and other reports show, oligarchs were heavily involved in the recent campaigns. With media coverage being particularly unfairly distributed, as it was largely dictated by business and political interests. This did not ensure equal coverage for all the candidates. President Zelenskiy himself has business ties to oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, owner of 1+1, one of Ukraine’s most popular TV channels, which had always broadcasted his shows and has given Zelenskiyi a powerful platform. On the day before the presidential elections, the  channel was filled with shows by comedian Zelenskiy. The overall media landscape lacks objectivity and is “divided along political lines” and concentrated in the hands of a few owners.


Presidential elections

On 21 April the presidential runoff was won by comedian and frontrunner Volodymyr Zelensky. He defeated incumbent President Petro Poroshenko with 73 percent of the votes. Poroshenko got 25 percent of the votes. The turnout of the votes was just over 62 percent. On 31 March 2019 the first round of presidential elections was held in Ukraine. Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky then already enjoyed the majority, namely 30.23 percent, of the votes. Incumbent President Petro Poroshenko was second with 15.95 percent, followed by Bativshchyna Party leader Yulia Tymoshenko with 13.38 percent. 

Frontrunner Zelensky, 41 years old, is best known for his role in the political comedy series Servant of the People where he plays a teachers that becomes president of Ukraine through some extraordinary circumstances, and proceeds to fight corruption and shake up the political system. During his anti-establishment campaign he mocked his political rivals with jokes, sketches and other performances. Zelensky promised that, if elected, he will fight against corruption and for reforms. Moreover, he promised to address and implement peace talks for eastern Ukraine. He also wanted to implement a new law on ‘People’s Rule’ in order to establish referendums where Ukrainians could express their expectations for the authorities. More than 35 million people were eligible to vote in the first round. 

Election results

Candidate

Party

First round

Second round

Votes

%

Votes

%

 

Volodymyr Zelensky

Servant of the People

5,714,034

30.24

13,541,528

73.22

 

Petro Poroshenko

Independent

3,014,609

15.95

4,522,320

24.45

 

Yulia Tymoshenko

Fatherland

2,532,452

13.40

 

 

Yuriy Boyko

Independent

2,206,216

11.67

 

Anatoliy Hrytsenko

Civil Position

1,306,450

6.91

 

Ihor Smeshko

Independent

1,141,332

6.04

 

Oleh Lyashko

Radical Party

1,036,003

5.48

 

Oleksandr Vilkul

Opposition Bloc

784,274

4.15

 

Ruslan Koshulynskyi

Svoboda

307,244

1.62

 

Yuri Tymoshenko

Independent

117,693

0.62

Political parties

Social Democratic Parties

Logo of Socialist Party of Ukraine

Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU)

Party Leader: Oleksandr Moroz

http://www.spu.in.ua/

Read more

Other Parties

Logo of Servant of the People (Source: https://sluganarodu.ua/)

Servant of the People

Party Leader: Volodymyr Zelenskiy

Number of seats: 254

https://sluganarodu.ua/

Read more

Logo of Opposition Platform — For Life (Source: http://zagittya.com.ua/)

Opposition Platform — For Life

Party Leader: Yuriy Boyko

Number of seats: 43

https://https://www.platform.org.ua/

Read more

Logo of Batkyvschina (All-Ukrainian Union "Fatherland" (incl. United Opposition)

Batkyvschina (All-Ukrainian Union "Fatherland" (incl. United Opposition)

Party Leader: Yulia Tymoshenko

Number of seats: 26

http://www.tymoshenko.com.ua

Read more

Logo of European Solidarity (Source: https://eurosolidarity.org/)

European Solidarity

Party Leader: Petro Poroshenko

Number of seats: 25

https://eurosolidarity.org/

Read more

Logo of Holos (Voice) (Source: By Tohaomg - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80807355)

Holos (Voice)

Party Leader: Svyatoslav Vakarchuk

Number of seats: 20

https://https://goloszmin.org/

Read more

Logo of Opposition Bloc (Source: http://opposition.com.ua/ru/)

Opposition Bloc

Party Leader: Evgeny Murayev

Number of seats: 6

opposition.com.ua

Read more

Logo of All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda"

All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda"

Party Leader: Oleh Tyahnybok

Number of seats: 6

http://svoboda.org.ua/

Read more

Logo of Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform

Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR )

Party Leader: Vitali Klitschko

http://klichko.org/home/

Read more

Biographies

Image of Volodymyr Zelensky (Source: https://www.president.gov.ua/photos/urochisti-zahodi-z-nagodi-skladennya-prisyagi-prezidentom-uk-2905)

Volodymyr Zelensky

President

Read biography
Image of Oleksiy Honcharuk (Source: https://www.kmu.gov.ua/ua/news/novim-premyer-ministrom-ukrayini-stav-oleksij-goncharuk)

Oleksiy Honcharuk

Prime Minister

Read biography
Image of Petro Poroshenko

Petro Poroshenko

Former President and Leader of Ëuropean Solidarity"

Read biography
Image of Yulia Tymoshenko

Yulia Tymoshenko

Leader of Batkyvschina (All-Ukrainian Union "Fatherland" (incl. United Opposition)

Read biography
Image of Vitaly Klitschko

Vitaly Klitschko

Mayor of Kiev

Read biography
Image of Svyatoslav Vakarchuk (Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassykyiv/28260122095/)

Svyatoslav Vakarchuk

Leader of the "Holos" party

Read biography

Sources

  • BBC
  • Central Election Commission
  • Central Europe Review
  • Chernobyl.info
  • Committee to protect Journalists
  • Economist
  • Election World.org
  • EU External Relations
  • EU Institute for Security Studies
  • Freedom House – Nations in Transit 2005
  • Glavred info
  • Government Portal
  • Guardian
  • International Herald Tribune
  • Liga
  • Kmu
  • Korrespondent
  • Kyiv Post
  • Mirror Weekly
  • NATO – Ukraine
  • OSCE/ ODIHR Election Reports
  • Rada portal
  • Reuters
  • RFE/RL
  • Rian
  • The Guardian
  • The Telegraph
  • Transitions Online
  • Ukrainian Government Portal
  • UA Monitor
  • Ukraine info
  • Ukrainian Monitor
  • Ukrainian Weekly
  • Ukrayinska Pravda
  • Unian News from Ukraine
  • US Department of State

Special thanks to Oleh Kyriyenko (International Secretary of the SPU, Vitaly Shybko)