Ukraine

Last update: 3 months ago

By the end of 2013, political turmoil broke out in Ukraine after the riots on Maidan Square where over 70 protesters were killed. President Yanukovych fled to Russia and was removed from power by the parliament in Kyiv. An interim government was appointed and presidential elections were set for 25 May 2014. Businessman Petro Poroshenko won these elections and got installed as the new President of Ukraine. 

In the wake of the ousting of President Yanukovych however, Russia took control of the autonomous region Crimea. On 16 March 2014 an overwhelming majority in this region voted to join Russia, in a referendum unrecognised by the rest of the world. In October 2014 Ukrainians went to the polls, this time to elect a new Ukrainian parliament. Pro-Western parties won an overwhelming majority during these elections. The self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in Donbas, however, decided not to allow for these elections, but to hold their own, a week later.

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Map of Ukraine

Short facts

Population:
45,198,200 million (World Bank 2015 est.)
Governmental Type:
Republic
Ruling Coalition:
Five-party including the Petro Poroshenko bloc, the Popular Front, Samopomich (Self-Rule), the Radical Party, and the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland)
Last Elections:
15 November 2015 (local elections)
Next Elections:
Spring 2019 (presidential elections)
Sister Parties:
Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (SDPU)
Image of Petro Poroshenko

Petro Poroshenko

President

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Image of Volodymyr Groysman

Volodymyr Groysman

Prime Minister

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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

After winning the presidential elections of 25 May 2014, President Poroshenko announced that he intended to hold early parliamentary elections as soon as the political chaos in the East had been resolved. On 25 August Poroshenko dissolved the parliament and announced that early elections would be held on 26 October 2014. In late July Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk already announced that he wanted to resign, after two parties left the coalition government. However, parliament voted against this, forcing him to remain Prime Minister until the early elections. These elections on 26 October were won, by an overwhelming majority, by pro-Western parties. Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front ended as the single largest party. Preliminary single-mandate districts results showed, however, that Poroshenko’s Bloc will likely have the most MPs overall. 

Campaign
Despite all the changes in the country, “attempts to bribe voters in this election were probably as common as under President Viktor Yanukovych”, said a local observer from the Ukrainian OPORA election watchdog. The police had opened several criminal cases regarding voter bribing. In their preliminary findings and conclusions on the parliamentary elections, the OSCE stated that “there were a number of credible allegations of vote buying, many of which are being investigated by the authorities”. But in general, candidates were free to campaign, and the election campaign was competitive and visible. Misuse of administrative resources was not named as an issue of major concern, unlike in previous elections. Overall, the OSCE’s preliminary findings showed that democratic principles were generally respected.

Election results 2014
With all votes counted, the Central Election Commission (CEC) showed six parties passing the 5 percent electoral threshold and thus entering Ukrainian Parliament. Far right-wing party Svoboda seems not to have made it into parliament, with 4.71 percent of the votes.

Party Seats party lists* Seats constituencies** Total %
People's Front  64   18   82   22,14 %
Petro Poroshenko Bloc  63   69   132   21, 82 %
Self Reliance Party  32   1   33   10,97 %
Opposition Bloc  27  2   29   9,43 %
Radical Party of Oley Lyashko  22  0   22   7,44 % 
Batkivishina  17   2   19   5,68 % 
All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda"  -  6  6  4,71 %
Strong Ukraine  -   1   1  3,10 %
Zastup  -   1  1  2,65 %
Right Sector  -  1  1  1,81 %
Volia  -  1  1  -
Independent single constituencies  -  -  -  -

* Proportional lists
** Single-mandate constituencies

Voter turnout was 52.4 percent. Remarkable is that 64 MPs were re-elected to parliament who had voted for the highly controversial laws of 16 January, which then President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions pushed through parliament amid the Maidan movement, severely limiting certain rights, including the freedom to association.

Aftermath - Opposition reaction
Three days after the elections, the far-right wing party Svoboda released a statement claiming ‘mass falsifications’ based on the difference between the exit polls (which gave Svoboda 6.3 percent of the votes) and the actual results. The party believes that it had in fact passed the 5 percent threshold, and that the alleged falsifications are the result of efforts by Russian President Putin and his ‘agents’’ in Ukraine. CEC Chair Mikhail Ohendovski promised the party to check the ballot protocols of the districts where Svoboda believes falsifications took place.

'Elections' in Donetsk and Luhansk
In the East, polling stations did not open in the areas controlled by separatists, designated as the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics”. These two breakaway regions held their own elections on 2 November 2014. They insisted they will never again be part of Ukraine. During the regular parliamentary elections on 26 October only 42 percent of the people in the Donetsk region and 26 percent in Luhansk were able to vote. As a result, 27 out of 450 parliamentary seats (also including the seats representing the annexed Crimea region) will be left vacant.

The EU has not recognized the elections of 2 November in the Donbas and stated that they were illegal. Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament said that: “The EU will not recognize these illegitimate elections, held contrary to Ukrainian legislation. In addition, such elections contradict the Minsk Protocol and are aimed at breaking the peace process in the Donbas region.” EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini called the vote an "obstacle to peace". Also the OSCE said it would have nothing to do with the elections and the organisation did not send any international observers.

President Poroshenko called on Russia to denounce the vote. He described the elections as a "farce, [conducted] under the barrels of tanks and machine guns". The Russian Foreign Ministry, while not recognising the election, said it “respects the will of the people of Southeast Ukraine".

OSCE report
As mentioned above the OSCE preliminary report was quite positive. The report mentioned that “there were many positive points to the process, such as an impartial and efficient Central Election Commission, an amply contested election that offered voters real choice, and a general respect for fundamental freedoms”. However, the OSCE also stated that “there were a number of credible allegations of vote buying, many of which are being investigated by the authorities”. But in general candidates were free to campaign, and the election campaign was competitive and visible.


Presidential elections

The elections were held in Ukraine on Sunday 25 May 2014 as former president Yanukovych was ousted by the Euro Maidan revolution on 22 February. Petro Poroshenko, the winner of the presidential elections with 54.7 percent of the votes, became president of a country in chaos. Two eastern regions declared independence and were plagued by violence as the country faces bankruptcy. The new president of Ukraine was tasked with restoring peace and order in the country.

Runner-up was former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, candidate for the Batkivschyna All-Ukrainian Union, with 12.82 percent of the votes. Radical Party leader Oleh Liashko surprisingly became third with 8.32 percent of the votes. Liashko is well known for his television appearances.

Poroshenko claimed the victory at his Kyiv headquarters on Sunday evening 26 May. He spoke in Ukrainian, Russian and English saying “The first steps of my team will focus on ending the war, the chaos, the unrest and bring peace to the land of Ukraine”. Poroshenko promised leniency towards non-violent separatists in eastern Ukraine “For those people who don’t take [up] weapons, we are always ready for negotiations to guarantee them security, to guarantee their rights, including speaking the language they want”. He was also committed to end the conflict with Russia and wanted to start negotiations to replace the Budapest Memorandum. He said “without Russia it would be much less effective or almost impossible to speak about the security in the whole region”.

Many of the people in the eastern part of the country were not able to vote. The Kyiv government lost control in large parts of the Donbas region where separatists did not allow people to vote. In the city of Donetsk, home to one million Ukrainians, not a single polling station was opened. With the rise of armed groups, the increasing paramilitary activity and a population that distrusts Kyiv, voter turnout in the eastern regions of Ukraine was very low. In other parts of Ukraine the voter turnout was very high. The elections were seen as the most important since Ukrainian independence. Mykola Hosovskiy, of the General Prosecutor’s Office stated “For the first time in the history of election processes in Ukraine, there were no complaints [...] about the use of administrative resources”.

Election results

Candidate Party Votes % of the votes
 Petro Poroshenko  Independent  9,857,308  54,70 %
 Yulia Tymoshenko  All Ukrainian Union "Fatherland"  2,310,130  12,82 %
 Oleh Lyashko  Radical Party  1,500,377  8,32 %
 Anatoliy Hrytsenko  Civil Position  989,029  5,48 %
 Serhiy Tihipko  Indepedent  943,350  5,23 %
 Mykhailo Dobkin  Party of Regions  546,138  3,03 %
 Vadim Rabinovich  Independent  406,301  2,25 %
 Olga Bogomolets  Independent  345,384  1,19 %
 Petro Symonenko  Communist Party of Ukraine  272,723  1,51 %
 Oleh Tyahnybok  All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda"  210,476  1,16 %
 Dmytro Yarosh  Right Sector  127,772  0,70 %
 Andriy Hrynenko  Independent   73,277  0,40 %
 Valeriy Konovalyuk  Independent   69,569  0,38 %
 Yuriy Boyko  Independent  35,928  0,19 %
 Mykola Malomuzh  Independent  23,771  0,13 %
 Renat Kuzmin  Independent  18,689  0,10 %
 Vasyl Kuybida  People's Movement of Ukraine  12,391  0,06 %
 Oleksandr Klymenko  Ukrainian People's Party  10,545  0,05 %
 Vasyl Tsushko  Independent  10,434  0,05 %
 Volodymyr Saranov  Independent  6,232  0,03 %
 Zoryan Shkiryak  Independent  5,021  0,02 %
 Invalid/blank votes    244,659  1,35 %
 Total votes    18,019,504  100 %
 Registered voters/turnout    29,625,200  60,19 %

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/

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Other Parties

Logo of Petro Poroshenko's Bloc "Solidarity"

Petro Poroshenko's Bloc "Solidarity"

Party Leader: Petro Poroshenko

Number of seats: 143

http://solydarnist.org/

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Opposition Bloc

Party Leader: Yuriy Boyko

Number of seats: 29

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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: 19

http://www.tymoshenko.com.ua

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Logo of Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform

Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR )

Party Leader: Vitali Klitschko

http://klichko.org/home/

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Logo of All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda"

All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda"

Party Leader: Oleh Tyahnybok

Number of seats: 6

http://svoboda.org.ua/

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Our Ukraine - People's Self Defense Bloc

Party Leader: Viktor Yushchenko

http://www.razom.org.ua/

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Logo of Communist Party of Ukraine

Communist Party of Ukraine

Party Leader: Petro M. Symonenko

http://kpu.ua/uk

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Biographies

Image of Petro Poroshenko

Petro Poroshenko

President

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Image of Volodymyr Groysman

Volodymyr Groysman

Prime Minister

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Image of Yulia Tymoshenko

Yulia Tymoshenko

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

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Image of Vitaly Klitschko

Vitaly Klitschko

Mayor of Kiev

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Image of Oleh Tyahnybok

Oleh Tyahnybok

Leader of The All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda”

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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)