MOSCOW, October 28 (RIA Novosti), Daria Chernyshova — Ukraine's snap parliamentary elections were a referendum on whether to support the Minsk agreements and give autonomy to Donbas or not and are expected to make the country easier to govern, experts told RIA Novosti on Tuesday.
"This election was a referendum on the dominant political issue of the day, which is whether or not to support the Minsk peace process and give effective autonomy to the rebel controlled regions of Donbass," Nicolai Petro, a professor of international politics at the University of Rhode Island, said, pointing out that Popular Front, Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) and the Radical Party, who together garnered more than a third of the seats, oppose the Minsk agreement.
"On the other side, the Poroshenko Bloc, which presumably supports the current peace plan, can only rely on the opposition bloc to support the peace process. Together they have nearly as many seats as those who oppose it, so swing votes will matter a great deal," Petro told RIA Novosti, adding that acrimonious debates on this subject will continue.
At the same time, the results of the elections mean that Ukraine will be easier to govern, bringing branches of power in alignment.
"The election results appear to give a stronger mandate to the parties and coalition that was actually in power before these elections, so it could make Ukraine easier to govern because the different branches of power are more in alignment than before," Mary Dejevsky, a columnist for The Independent and The Guardian, said.
On Sunday, Ukrainians cast their ballots in early parliamentary elections. According to Ukraine's Central Election Commission, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk"s People's Front is in the lead with 22 percent of the vote, while Petro Poroshenko Bloc, led by the country's president, is close behind with 21.63 percent, with more than 83 percent of ballots having been counted.
RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA
The approach of Kiev's new coalition government toward Russia is likely to be dominated by the pragmatism of Petro Poroshenko, rather than the anti-Russian rhetoric of Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Dejevsky said.
"Poroshenko showed a more pragmatic attitude towards Russia than the rather hostile and ideological attitude shown by Yatsenyuk before the elections, but it was hard to judge how far Yatsenyuk's tough line was just electioneering and to distinguish him from Poroshenko, so if they go back into coalition, I would expect Poroshenko's pragmatic line to prevail," Dejevsky said.
Petro pointed out that Ukraine's government "has long been a standard assumption of the parties that now dominate the Rada [Ukraine's parliament] that all of Ukraine's problems — the lack of social cohesion, the lack of economic competitiveness, its military failures, corruption — come from Moscow." So that the "solution they propose is to sever all ties with Russia, and the best way to do that is to cast Russia as Ukraine's inveterate enemy."
"Given these election results, one must admit that this strategy has been successful. Assigning blame to an external enemy is a tried and true means of rallying public support," Petro said.
Poroshenko said earlier he considered Yatsenyuk's party a strong partner candidate for the creation of a parliamentary coalition. The president also said his "Strategy-2020" plan will help implement reforms and special programs that will make Ukraine eligible for EU membership within six years.
The Ukrainian government now faces one of its greatest challenges – the urgent need to rebuild its economy, which requires drastic reforms.
"This is the very same problem faced by the previous two Ukrainian governments, and it is hard to be optimistic, even though there is an enormous amount of help, both in money and personnel, now coming to Kiev from the west, especially the EU," Dejevsky noted.
Petro stressed that the elections "results confirm a dramatic rise in support for nationalist parties in Ukraine. They can now count on a very solid majority among those seated according to party list."
"The hope is that such a solid coalition, with the backing of a pragmatic nationalist president, can push through a dramatic social, political, and economic transformation of Ukrainian society. The temptation, which is typical of situations of unchallenged political dominance, is to run roughshod over the minority. Given the absence of effective institutional and legal constraints on power, this danger is especially acute for Ukraine," Petro said.
He also said that the relations within the coalition would most likely be frosty, as Poroshenko will have to reappoint Yatsenuyk as prime minister, even if he has no intention to do so.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
The results of the elections, as Petro said, "are both surprising and intriguing." Petro Poroshenko Bloc did not dominate, and now has to form a coalition.
"The Opposition Bloc, actually the remnant of the Party of Regions, made a very surprising come back. Its ten percent showing is higher than almost any opinion poll indicated, and shows the resilience of anti-Maidan sentiment throughout Russophone Ukraine, where they continue to be the most popular party," Petro said.
The Freedom Party, the Communist Party, Right Sector and Strong Ukraine find themselves among the notable losers.
"Of these, the only real surprise is the Freedom Party, whose leader Oleh Tyahnybok, had carved out a visible niche for himself during Euromaidan. The current variety of openly nationalistic parties seems to have diluted his monopoly on that message," Petro told RIA Novosti.
Speaking about the West's reaction toward the elections, Dejevsky noted that it has been "a really depressing amount of apathy."
"There was relatively little interest in the campaign and quite low key reporting of the result. in one way, I suppose, this might be positive in that less attention might mean that some of the ideological that goes out of the Ukraine issue," Dejevsky said, adding that the elections can be viewed as the latest chapter in Ukraine's post-USSR evolution. "But its greater leaning towards the West can also be explained by the disorder and resentments surrounding the departure/removal of Yanukovych."