Since Leonid Kuchma’s presidency, none of the presidents was re-elected in Ukraine for the second term. This means that none president was able to retain the authority longer than one term in a row. The answer to ‘why?’ question lays nor in parliamentary, neither in presidential but in the local election.
The current president Volodymyr Zelensky demonstrated the highest level of the electorate mobilization in the second round of the election. Consequently, the citizens have the right to ask him for more than any other president ever elected in Ukraine.
Such level of trust was a favourable starting point to decisively launch the reforms, including the transformation of culture and principles underlying political parties building. Zelensky and his team had as much as 1,5 years to develop party structure and avoid old mistakes of his predecessors.
However, the real party development is effort-consuming work which includes deciding and agreeing on the ideology and values as well as recruiting the professionals who are committed to bring this ideology into life while not crossing the red lines. To make this happen, they need to have to clearly understand why it is necessary to invest in the party.
It seems to be much easier to follow the old schemes. Not bother about party building but make the President Office demonstrate ‘the results’ on the local election by negotiating with the mayors who have a toxic reputation and already developed the networks to collect the votes while spending the budgets as ‘buckwheat’ to strengthen their electoral support. That is exactly what ‘Servant of the People’ did this election. This, in particular, was revealed in the approach for recruitment of the mayor candidates in towns and villages of Kyiv oblast, which was scrutinized by Movement CHESNO. In these circumstances, mainly the previous mayors were re-elected using the brand ‘Servant of the People’. Some of them have kept their mandates since the ‘Party of Regions’ times.
Fighting for small towns’ mayors
‘Servant of the People’ lost in all oblast level cities.
It is expected that now the party will communicate the results of the local election referring to the number of the councilors’ mandates received. This is everything left for them to do. Actually when it comes to this indicator ‘Servant of the People’ really held the first position.
To achieve this result, the party of the central authority initiated the ‘partisation of the country’ process in Parliament. This led to lowering the party nomination system to the level of communities with more than 10K voters. This automatically encouraged the current mayors and councilors to look for the parties’ brands.
To understand how the central authority has been working before the election and if the numbers and indicators that Bankova reported on had a significant impact on the voters, it is necessary to analyze the results of mayors’ election in 2010, 2015 and 2020.
The graph clearly demonstrates that the majority of the winning candidates are self-nominated. Those, who political parties did not manage to build the dialogue with. These numbers and fraction were much more significant before the party system was lowered to the cities with 10K voters and before the decentralization reform was launched (when the number of towns was higher).
When it comes to the parties’ nominees, the tendency remains the same. The central authority party consistently holds the second position. In 2010 it was ‘Party of Regions’, in 2015 – ‘Block of Petro Poroshenko’ (today – ‘European Solidarity’), while in 2020 it is ‘Servant of the People’.
It is evident that the party which brought Viktor Yushchenko to power, ‘Our Ukraine’ rolled back to the 7th position and did not reach 1% of the newly elected mayors. ‘Party of Regions’ after Yanukovych’s escape was split into several groups, namely ‘Opoblock’, ‘Nash Kray’ ‘Vidrodzhennia’ and several more regional projects. However, all together they did not reach even 5%. While ‘Party of Regions’ in the last election had more than 31%.
In 2020, as a result of the election, ‘European Solidarity’ has less than 3% of mayors. The regional leadership indicator fell twice. Speaking about ‘Servant of People’, their support was twice less than the support of ‘Party of Regions’ in 2010 and three times higher than ‘European Solidarity’ in 2015.
‘Opposition Platform – For Life’ and ‘Nash Kray’ as projects with the roots in ‘Party of Regions’ have around 7% of mayors in 2020.
Further, ‘Batkivshchyna’ has a stable position with the 4% level of support and is ranked as a 2-3th party. It is not necessarily the sign of the successful party-building but definitely demonstrates that voters of ‘Batkivshchyna’ are consistent in their views.
The percentage of representation has increased for ‘Svoboda’. While in 2010 the party received only 0,5% of the mayors, now it rises to 1,3%.
Then, if we take a look at the names of the parties, it will be revealed that every local election top-20 positions are held mostly by new parties. This is another evidence confirming that new political projects are permanently created instead of real party building. Therefore, there is no wonder that in this situation city mayors retain the power, while changing party brands to gain central authority support, which in return, keeps the eyes closed on the criminal proceedings and enhances subsidies allocation for the community, which could be spent for the self-benefit instead of citizens’ sake.
Why retaining power in the regions is crucial?
If we keep aside the results of candidates running for the mayors’ positions and take a look at the results of political parties in the local election, the tendency will remain the same.
In 2010 ‘Our Ukraine’ barely managed to reach 1%, while ‘Party of Regions’ gained 33,6%. However, already in 2015 the ‘regionals’ hardly achieved 5% of support. Nevertheless, in 2020 ‘Opposition Platform – For Life’, ‘Nash Kray’ and ‘Opobloc’ together received over 14% of votes.
These local elections were quite successful for ‘Batkivshchyna’. The party which had less than 6% of all mandates, received 10% as a result of this election and steadily keeps the 2nd position three election cycles in a row.
‘European Solidarity’ and ‘Svoboda’ improved the results and increased the percentage ratio of their representatives in the local councils. As for now, these parties have 9% and about 2% correspondingly.
However, it is important to mention that after the election reform, the party system was lowered to the community level with 10K of voters. Thus, parties had new areas for growth even though many communities were amalgamated, and the number of councilors was decreased by three times.
The election deposit did not cut off the marginalized parties or projects as it was expected but instead increased the threshold to enter the politics. While in 2015 candidates were nominated by 90 parties, in 2020 this number rose to 111 parties. Therefore, it means that the technical component increased by more than 10%.
The number of party brands is new in every election cycle. 1 out of 2 political parties in Ukraine change its name, and it mostly happens ahead of the election.
The management of political parties does not demonstrate a commitment to developing their parties. Thus, it becomes necessary to rename the parties before the election and spend money to promote the new brands instead of investing this funds in party building and systematically work with the community to prepare for the next election cycle when the county will vote for the central authority, namely the president and the Parliament.
CHESNO movement for KyivPost