Opposition unites, but questions linger about electoral strength
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,
“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