Yesterday I had occasion to be in a regional party office of one of the smaller contending parties for the Ukrainian parliamentary elections 2012. It is probably better not to say which one in case there is some obscure and antiquated law dating back to Stalinist or Soviet times that could be invoked against said party because a foreigner was on the premises during the official electioneering period or some such nonsense.
I wasn’t there for anything to do with the elections themselves but needed to see someone who was working there over other matters. To be honest, not being Ukrainian, I can neither vote nor join a political party, so hanging out in small opposition party election offices would be a rather pointless thing to do even if I was welcomed to do so with no good reason to be there – which would be unlikely. (Yes indeed, legally permanently domiciled in Ukraine and taxation therein does not equal the right to vote and therefore representation.)
Anyway, it was a hive of activity it has to be said, and something of an eye opener as well when I consider what is proclaimed in the media by those taking part, in comparison to what is the reality of the political positions of all runners and riders in the elections.
As those familiar with the forthcoming Ukrainian elections will be aware, 50% of seats will be won via proportional representation and filled by party members on party lists and the rest in head to head contests in constituency seats. Not dissimilar to the German system.
Several things struck me.
Firstly on a regional basis in Odessa, it seems that many constituency seats do not have a recognisably United Opposition nominated, or even orientated, candidate running for some constituency seats. Just like the lottery, you obviously can’t win it if you don’t buy a ticket – and just like the lottery, even if the chances of winning are minimal, there is that chance to win if you have a ticket. Why, one has to ask, are some seats not/hardly being contested?
Secondly, in some constituency seats there seem to be those genuinely with a chance to win running against a lot of “technical” candidates who are complete unknowns, or slightly more worryingly, can be linked indirectly to the known candidates running in those constituency seats via businesses, friendships or loose cordial associations.
Thirdly, on a national note, when considering the demographics of the nation and general historical political biases of the regions and thus the 50% of seats available under proportional representation, it hands the ruling PoR coalition a distinct advantage despite the fact the election laws were also supported by some ( including senior) members of the United Opposition.
So I sat down and did some math in what has to be said was a less than stringent academic model.
My assertion up until yesterday was that it would be a close race with the real probability that Klitschko’s UDAR would be king-maker post parliamentary elections – if UDAR was to choose to align with United Opposition or PoR.
To be honest it is not necessarily the case UDAR will align with either after the election. After all, if they are all so tainted as to avoid joining forces with them prior to the elections, they will still be just as tainted afterwards. In my Utopian dream, I had hoped for either the United Opposition or PoR to win and UDAR to remain independently in opposition. Thus any government would be a minority government dependent on UDAR backing (or not) any proposed laws, forcing some form of necessary debate over anything and everything that would go through the RADA – almost like a democratic form of governance!
Anyway, having done the maths on the assumption that it will be either a free and fair election or that the cheating by both PoR and United Opposition will be fairly even and thus cancel themselves out, I find no way for a United Opposition win.
In the worst case I have the United Opposition at about 150 RADA seats, and the best case about 170 RADA seats.
A far better situation than they have today, but still nowhere near the 226 needed to have a majority. If UDAR manage to get 10% of the RADA seats in line with the opinion polls, then that is 45 RADA seats. Even if UDAR aligned with the United Opposition after the elections that still does not reach 226 RADA seats under the best case scenario I arrive at for the United Opposition.
I am presuming that the PoR/Communist/Lytvyn coalition holds together in my less than academic model. A defecting party to the United Opposition would certainly carry them over the line with UDAR assistance as well. The fact is I don’t see the ruling PoR coalition falling apart.
Quite simply I don’t see the electoral math supporting the rhetoric of the United Opposition. They seem destined to remain in opposition, albeit with a much larger number of opposition MPs. In fact 150 – 170 opposition MPs would make life far more difficult for the PoR in certain circumstances and would certainly rule out any changes to the Constitution where 300 votes are needed. Ergo not all doom and gloom for the United Opposition, but certainly my math does not match their rhetoric.
Of course things can change between now and election day, but as far as I can see, it would take an occurrence of Biblical proportions, or a split in their coalition, to put the ruling PoR coalition into opposition – and that’s before any cheating takes place!
So I come to the rather gloomy conclusion that whether there will be cheating or not (and there always is – by all parties involved), the United Opposition will lose, despite the probable limited successes of the strategy not to run against each other in the majority of constituency seats.
The upside, for me at least, is that our old Mayor is high enough up the UDAR party list to be guaranteed a RADA seat, and that means our current disaster of a Mayor will get some extremely close attention – to the point he may get forced out – and long overdue many would say (including some from his own party)!
Let’s hope my back of a cigarette packet (metaphorically speaking) model is flawed and a possibly different result may occur.