What is the political rationale for the parliamentary elections in Ukraine? What sort of political landscape is emerging in the country? Are we just witnessing a legitimisation of a political landscape that is already formed in the country?

VoR’s Dmitry Linnik is joined by:

Dr Domitilla Sagramoso, lecturer in Security and Development, Department of War Studies, King’s College London

Lukasz Kulesa, Research Director at the European Leadership Network (ELN)

Alexander Mercouris, legal expert and political commentator

Oleksii Leshchenko, vice-president of the Gorshenin Institute in Kiev

Dmitry Babich, VoR’s political analyst on the line from Moscow

Soundbites

LK: “You look at the elections, and they are still taking place according to the 2011 electoral law, you have one half being a proportional system, the other, a single majority mandate. This will affect the outcome because it gives a lot of space to the practices we have seen before – the money coming in, the oligarchs financing this or the candidates, the parties having less coherent programmes and being more like political projects, some of them clearly guided by politologists that we’ve seen operating in Ukraine before.

“I hope we will see plenty of continuation of President Poroshenko’s line with his bloc gaining the majority. The question is, who else gets enough votes to get into a coalition with this Bloc if a coalition is possible. This is another repetition from the past – the complete unreliability of the opinion polls…”

DB: “Everything has been changing for the worse since the end of last year and I think there will be further movement in the same negative direction. This new parliament will be even less diverse than the one Ukraine has now because it will reflect the opinions of a much smaller country. It is clear that the east of Ukraine will not be represented in the new parliament in any significant way…

“If the ideological opposition is just 9% inside the parliament, it means the end of a united Ukraine because if the east is not represented in any significant way, Donbass will certainly not return to a united country – that is quite clear.

“The election will be conducted according to the old legislation, that is why people give so many percentage points to Mr Poroshenko – he will certainly use the same methods Mr Yanukovych used in his time, but this time the atmosphere is a lot more tense, there is a lot of violence, there is still a latent civil war going on in the east and people are being thrown into garbage containers… So, I would say that everything has changed for the worst.”

OL: “There is a high demand in Ukraine for a total ‘reset’ of power – because we inherited a very corrupt system, this corruption is overwhelming in Ukraine, it’s present in all spheres – in politics and everywhere! This high demand for a ‘reset’ of power is why we had the presidential elections this year and why we are now having these parliamentary elections. Poroshenko announced these parliamentary elections just to meet the demands of the people who went through the worst [ever] crisis in the country [Ukraine] – that is the rationale or ‘emotionale’ here…”

AM: “The major problems are outside the parliament. We’ve heard about the latent civil war that’s going on in the east, but we haven’t touched on the very difficult economic situation which appears to be deteriorating very rapidly, and the parliament that’s coming out of this looks like in some ways a narrower version of the parliament that existed before – with the same sort of politicians in it, as well as being very unstable.

“Part of the reason for these elections is that Mr Poroshenko needed to consolidate his position in the parliament as well – he didn’t have a parliamentary bloc behind him when he became president. This will give him that – the kind of party that has been created – the Poroshenko Bloc, and has been created in a very hurried way, doesn’t actually look terribly solid.”

DS: “These elections are going to be very important because they will have to determine the kind of parliament that emerges and the prime minister is going to be chosen from the majority. It’s going to be very-very relevant to how things develop in Ukraine in order to then determine whether we have a much more nationalist parliament without a counterweight from the east. I think it will be very important to understand to what extent some of these nationalist parties are going to be pushing…

“Some parties on the far-right fringes are calling for nuclear rearmament which of course will probably never happen, but it will show an indication that it could result in further tension rather than a continuation of what existed before. I think this is a scenario which could end up being very pessimistic.

“There was a lot of optimism in the West at least after the presidential elections where the more far-right parties scored really badly, but it seems like the opinion polls are a lot more varied and give more support to some of the more right-wing parties. So, even though some show a little more moderation – maybe Fatherland, we are still talking about parties which want a much more assertive policy in the east and maybe a much more assertive policy towards Russia…”

OL: “Crimea will have no chance in taking part in these elections and neither will parts of Donbass … So they will not be represented in this parliament, that’s true.”

LK: “The good news is that the Right Sector, the Kremlin’s favourite bogeyman, is not going to make it – it has 1-2% support. The Right Sector seems to have been put on the side of Ukrainian politics as they are much too radical for the Ukrainian’s taste. The same goes for Svoboda – the nationalist party that made big gains in the last parliamentary elections. Right now it seems neither will make it to parliament. The bad news is that Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party is mixing populism and the anti-oligarch feeling with nationalism.

“We have to take into account this patriotic revival in Ukraine, and this is something that is common to all the Ukrainian parties – everyone is a patriot, and for the majority of the people being a patriot right now is also being anti-Russian…”

AM: “One of the reasons why it has been confined in the way it has is because there was a conscious will by certain political groups in the Ukraine to prevent people like Mr Yanukovych, the Party of the Regions or whatever participating in electoral processes. What we are seeing at the moment is an artificial construct in which certain people and certain groups have been eliminated from the political landscape, leaving the more patriotic and nationalist groups as having a monopoly. That is not the view that you get in the West…”

DB: “The western media kept saying that there are only a handful of neo-Nazis in Ukraine. These are the Svoboda Party, former known as the National Socialist Party of Ukraine, the Right Sector and a couple of figures like Dmitro Yarosh or Andriy Parubiy. And the others are patriots, liberals and they aren’t bad. That is a simplified vision of events…

“I would not say there is a danger of this parliament being more nationalist – I am 100% sure that it will be more nationalist and this nationalism will not get into parliament through parties like the Right Sector or Svoboda, it will get through Oleh’s Lyashko’s Radical Party, Batkivshchyna [Fatherland], UDAR [Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform] – all these parties have radical nationalists in their ranks.”

DS: “I think there is a problem with the presentation of events in Ukraine generally by the western Anglo-Saxon press and the inability to understand a lot of the nuances. I think similar problems are also found in the Russian press – TV, sometimes.

“Of course, a misunderstanding of the situation in Ukraine is not helping, and painting some of these blocs as being much more democratic than they actually are is always a problem. On the other hand, there was a very massive street movement against the Yanukovych government. It wasn’t simply orchestrated by someone at the top and one should give credit to that. It might have then been manipulated and received a lot of support from the US or Europe but I would argue that there was general disenchantment with the Yanukovych regime and its corruption…”

OL: “I would strongly not overestimate the role of the ultranationalists or neo-Nazi forces in Ukraine and Ukrainian politics. Among the parties that are likely to get into parliament I would say that there are no forces and no people that can be called ultranationalist or Nazi. Patriotic, yes…”

(VoR)