Op­po­si­tion unites, but ques­tions linger about elec­toral strength

Kyiv Post - - Business Focus/news - BY YURIY ONYSHKIV

The dis­parate op­po­si­tion to Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych took its first ma­jor step to­ward con­sol­i­da­tion on April 23 when its two lead­ing par­ties an­nounced they would unite for par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in Oc­to­ber.

Af­ter spend­ing two years since Yanukovych’s elec­tion jostling for po­si­tion, the par­ties of im­pris­oned for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Yu­lia Ty­moshenko and for­mer For­eign Min­is­ter Arseniy Yat­se­niuk said they would cam­paign and bal­lot to­gether.

The move could help the op­po­si­tion mount a chal­lenge to Yanukovych’s power, which he has amassed through changes to the con­sti­tu­tion and a clam­p­down on po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents.

But an­a­lysts said the op­po­si­tion will strug­gle to se­cure a ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment, de­spite hold­ing a lead over Yanukovych’s Party of Regions in the polls.

Yat­se­niuk, also a for­mer par­lia­men­tary speaker, an­nounced the unity move in a joint press con­fer­ence with Ty­moshenko’s right-hand man, Olek­sandr Turchynov.

“We have united in or­der to win the par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in Ukraine, [and] to re­store democ­racy and jus­tice in Ukraine,” said Turchynov, deputy head of Ty­moshenko’s Fa­ther­land party.

A dec­la­ra­tion, signed by Ty­moshenko and Yat­se­niuk, said the Ty­moshenkole­d Fa­ther­land party and Yat­se­niuk’s Front of Changes would form a joint list for the elec­tions and agree on joint can­di­dates for sin­gle-man­date dis­tricts.

Half of the 450-seat par­lia­ment will be elected from closed party lists, the other half in sin­gle-man­date dis­tricts. The Verkhovna Rada is now dom­i­nated by a pro-pres­i­den­tial ma­jor­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to an April 2 Razumkov Cen­ter poll, Fa­ther­land and Front of Changes have 13.5 and 9.5 per­cent of sup­port, re­spec­tively. Taken to­gether, this puts them ahead of the Party of Regions, which showed 19.5 per­cent sup­port.

An­other op­po­si­tion party, led by world cham­pion boxer Vi­tali Kl­itschko, has 7.4 per­cent back­ing, but has not joined op­po­si­tion.”

De­spite its ap­par­ent ad­van­tage, an­a­lysts said the op­po­si­tion may strug­gle to clip Yanukovych’s wings. While it may win a ma­jor­ity of the 225 seats elected by pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion,

the

so-called

“united the au­thor­i­ties are likely to in­vest heav­ily in the sin­gle-man­date dis­tricts.

“There is no doubt that the op­po­si­tion will win on the closed party list, but there are doubts that it would be able to be equally suc­cess­ful in sin­gle­man­date dis­tricts,” Kostyan­tyn Dykan, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst at the Razumkov Cen­ter. “The Party of Regions is a party of bil­lion­aires. They have vast re­sources that they will di­rect to the dis­tricts” to se­cure a fa­vor­able vote, he added.

Crit­ics sus­pect Yanukovych’s camp may try to fix the elec­tions, as they al­legedly did when he ran for pres­i­dent in 2004, lead­ing to the Orange Rev­o­lu­tion. It could also try to lure a large num­ber of in­de­pen­dent win­ners in sin­gle-man­date dis­tricts in or­der to swell its ranks.

Both the Party of Regions and Yanukovych have said they are com­mit­ted to free and fair elec­tions.

Yat­se­niuk al­ready de­clared plans for what a “new ma­jor­ity” in par­lia­ment would do: im­peach the pres­i­dent and in­ves­ti­gate the “crimes” of the cur­rent ma­jor­ity. No fur­ther poli­cies were de­tailed at the April 23 press con­fer- ence. Yat­se­niuk said they will be pre­sented at a joint forum on May 12.

Even if the op­po­si­tion forms a ma­jor­ity, the pres­i­dent still has the au­thor­ity to ap­point the cab­i­net of min­is­ters and other key state po­si­tions, such as the head of the se­cu­rity ser­vices.

An­a­lysts say the op­po­si­tion’s chance of suc­cess de­pends heav­ily on their abil­ity to unite, putting aside long­stand­ing am­bi­tions and ri­val­ries.

“The doors to the united op­po­si­tion are open to ev­ery­one who shares [our] val­ues and ob­jec­tives,” Yat­se­niuk said, hint­ing at Kl­itschko’s party. The box­ing champ has said he will not unite with the other par­ties, as he be­lieves he can gain more seats sep­a­rately.

The al­liance be­tween Yat­se­niuk and Ty­moshenko would be an un­easy one. They ex­changed barbs be­fore and af­ter the 2010 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign, and she ear­lier dis­missed him as “pocket op­po­si­tion” to Yanukovych.

Yat­se­niuk said that was all in the past now.

Kyiv Post staff writer Yuriy Onyshkiv can be reached at [email protected] com

Ex-for­eign Min­is­ter Arseniyy­at­se­niuk

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