As with any policy there are two ways to look at it when it comes to casual effects upon implementation.
As yet, the new election law in Ukraine has not been implemented and has only passed the first reading at the RADA. It will be a while yet before it goes to the President for signature or veto, although you would hope it doesn’t linger too long with a parliamentary election in 11 months.
The new Ukrainian system appears prima facie to all but mirror the German system in the Bundestag. That being the case, one has to assume that the Ukrainian law makers have adopted the vast majority of the recommendations from the Venice Commission. Undoubtedly not all recommendations, but certainly for such a radical change, the majority.
In effect 50% of MPs will come from Party Lists and 50% from constituencies with a 5% election threshold. As I said, mirroring the German Bundestag system. All seemingly fairly good news and certainly an improvement on what has gone before it (subject to any devil in the detail I have not seen).
However, there are issues with the 5% threshold and the abolition of voting for “blocs” . This has no effect on the current ruling party as it easily passes the 5% threshold and can stand on its own two political feet without the need to be part of a political “bloc”.
Bloc Tymoshenko (BYuT) will of course no longer be an electable concern. Ms Tymoshenko’s Batyvshchina party though will also remain untroubled easily clearing the 5% threshold as will Yatesniuk’s Front for Change. If Svoboda, the far right party, manages to repeat its polling at the regional elections when the parliamentary elections are held they too will just scrape over the 5% threshold.
The other parties which currently sit in the RADA, ex President Yushenko’s party, the current Speakers Party, the Communists and several others now look doomed to become political irrelevances in the national assembly. A minor regional presence is about all they can hope for from 2012 unless they merge into those that will undoubtedly cross the 5% threshold.
Parties that are in allegiance with the ruling PoR and also that currently exist within the BYuT bloc will fall by the wayside.
At this point, we should look at the votes cast when passing this new law. 366 in favour from a 450 seat assembly. That is far more than the current majority can muster meaning that MPs in Tymoshenko’s party must have voted in favour of sacrificing the smaller parties in Bloc Tymoshenko.
Did they do so in the hope that these small party MPs will simply join Tymoshenko’s Batyvshchina Party with a view to more easily “whipped” voting? Did they do so in the belief that most will go to Batyvshchina rather than Front for Change, the only other credible opposition party who will certainly pass the 5% threshold?
What of Svoboda, the far right nationalist party? One of the reasons it got more than 5% of the vote in the regional elections is that Batyvshchina did not run in all regions. Can they really garner 5% of the vote in national elections against Batyvshchina, PoR and Front for Change? As is seen across Europe, the failure to engage with far right parties and do battle with them on their ideological ground is a serious failing for many mainstream parties, often with very unpleasant results within society.
It is unlikely Front for Change will absorb Svoboda voters simply because Arseny Yatensiuk is Jewish and whilst we are talking about political issues, Ukraine is far from being a politically correct society. The fact he is Jewish will be enough to turn away numbers of the current Svoboda voting base.
Before her incarceration, Ms Tymoshenko shared several political platforms with Svoboda at rallies but that had much more to do with presenting a respectable crowd to the media than any truly shared ideology. She does not have the anti-EU and anti-Russian views or rhetoric expressed by Svoboda.
PoR are also out as far as Svoboda are concerned for the same reasons as Batyvshchina.
It is of course all well and good for PoR if both Svoboda and Front for Change do well as it splits the Tymoshenko vote rather than theirs. The fact remains however, there is no natural home for the millions of Svoboda supporters should it fail the 5% threshold and alienating several million nationalists from the democratic process is not necessarily a good idea.
What seems likely through this change in electoral law is that there will be a need, more often than not, for a ruling coalition. It looks unlikely that any party will gain enough votes to form a majority government alone as the years roll by. It was of course, why the allies insisted on the German electoral model in 1949. No single party majority, undiluted Hitler-esque government was likely. All things considered there would normally be a need for a ruling coalition.
From all the parties mentioned above it will also be interesting to see where the current Speaker, Mr Lytvyn, will jump. His party will not make the 5% threshold and he has historically aligned himself with both BYuT when in power previously and currently with PoR now they hold the keys.
With Tigipko’s Strong Ukraine, which would easily have passed the 5% threshold, already entering the PoR fold, one has to suspect Lytvyn will head the same way, although that is not guaranteed. (What is in politics?)
Given the severe dislike for Ms Tymosehnko amongst ex-President Yushenko’s party, PoR or Front for Change seem the most likely destinations for the OU-PSD.
Should this law come into force, it will be interesting to see the horse trading and directions the minor parties, which will cease to exist on the national stage, will take.
One absolute bonus should this law come into force is that the personalisation of Ukrainian politics by way of Bloc Lytvyn and Bloc Tymoshenko etc will be history. The last thing a nation needs is personalised politics as seen in the USA. Policies and manifestos should count for far more than faces and names. By the same token, it would also be bad for Ukrainian politics should fewer and fewer parties cross the 5% threshold. The eventual result of a two party democracy would be a disaster.
Another bonus, for the electorate is that the voting forms should start to become smaller over time. At the moment they are as long as an unwound toilet roll in length such is the amount of runners and riders. Quite how both currently and historically, there is such a small percentage of unspoiled ballots is an achievement in and of itself if you ever saw a ballot paper here.
Anyway, the progression of this law and what eventually gets signed into law is something to keep an eye on in the immediate future. The ramifications could be immense.