Project: The Colors of Revolution

Struggles in Ukraine necessary as nation 'strives' toward democracy
Unlike elections in the U.S., voting in Ukraine is by politial party,
candidates names kept secret by political parties

by Thaddeus McCleary

Thaddeus McCleary and Ihor Kohut, director of the  Agency for Legislative Initiatives.
Thaddeus McCleary and Ihor Kohut, director of the
Agency for Legislative Initiatives.

On March 27, 2007 crowds assembled once again on Independence Square in Kyiv. President Yushchenko’s decree to dissolve parliament was only observed by 200 members while 250 remained in session, declaring the decision unconstitutional. Among this group were Prime Minister Yanukovych and his Party of Regions.

In the October 2004 Presidential elections none of the 24 candidates for President received majority vote forcing a run-off election in November between Victor Yushchenko and Victor Yanukovych. The November run-off elections were won by candidate Yanukovych, but the Constitutional Court of Ukraine declared the elections invalid due to voter fraud. Civil disobedience followed until citizens voted for President Yushchenko in the second run-off elections, affirmed by the Supreme Court in January 2005.

Party of Regions supporters set up camp on  Independence Square, Kyiv.
Party of Regions supporters set up camp on
Independence Square, Kyiv.   

The Our Ukraine party gained the office of the president and a parliamentary majority for the Orange Revolution coalition in 2004; however, failure to quickly implement promised changes led the coalition to lose their position to the Party of Regions in the elections of 2006. With the Party of Regions holding the majority, the legislative and executive branch stood opposed to one another. Immediately Party of Regions party leaders began to form a coalition to gain the necessary two-thirds majority to block presidential vetoes.

Unlike elections in United States, voting in Ukraine is by political party with the lists names of the actual candidates kept secret by political parties. Ukrainian law only allows parties to enter into coalitions with other parties while individuals are unable to defect from their party. Party dynamics began to change when several members of parliament attempted to align with other coalitions. President Yushchenko believed that the citizens of Ukraine were no longer being represented and called for new elections for May 27th. However, opposing members of parliament refused to pass the necessary legislation to fund the new elections.

Party camps in coalition with the Party of Regions
on Independence Square, Kyiv.

During and after the president dissolved parliament, some felt certain that a compromise would come. However, many doubt that new elections will solve the issue of fair representation in parliament. “It is well known that individuals can pay party officials for a place on the party list,” explained Yuri Vukymenko from the Razumkov Center. “Voting for individual candidates is one electoral reform expected in the coming years.”

On May 27th, the deadlock ended as the president, prime minister, and chairman of the parliament agreed to hold new elections on September 30. Campaigning began during the talks as three main parties struggle to secure enough seats for a majority in parliament. Looking forward in hope, Ihor Khut suggests that “such political struggles are a part of a necessary learning process as Ukraine continues to strive toward democracy.”