More than a week after Ukrainian citizens went to the polls for the extraordinary elections of the Verkhovna Rada, the Central Election Commission who officially announced the interim results is still processing the last protocols.

The election of Petro Poroshenko in May, following the Euromaidan revolution of almost a year ago, led to the dissolution of the 6th Parliament of the country – then home of pro-Yanukovych parties. Two hundred and eight parties were officially registered in Ukraine, amongst these, 52 were balloting this year: 29 were on the party list , the remainder being single-mandate districts.

Whilst the general voter turnout of 52.4 per cent remains lower than the last presidential and parliamentary elections, it reached up to 70 per cent in the Lviv region whereas only 32.4 per cent of voters came to the polls in the Donetsk region and other eastern parts of the country (see map). However, 3 million voters in rebel-held regions were unable to vote and only 425,217 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) registered to vote for the Party elections in a different district as of 21/10/2014.

This unexpected low turnout could be attributed to a growing lack of confidence from the people towards their government due to the ‘wait-and-see’ policy highlighted by the slow pace of reforms and peace talks, which further adds to discontent around the failure to address terrorism in the summer. One could argue that the reconstitution of new parties only assembled the same faces under a different umbrella, a real question being raised as to whether things have changed at all?

Firstly, it is worth noting that OSCE/ODIHR (who deployed 80 long-term and 600 short-term observers from OCSE participating states) declared the elections largely fair and transparent throughout the regions.

In addition, even though an official ceasefire in the Donbass region took place on 5 September, deliberate destabilisation by separatist-rebels is still occurring. However, a consensus amongst Ukraine’s government and the international community declared the elections of the 26 October the ‘only legal and legitimate expression of the will of the Ukrainian people, and the seats that could not be filled through these elections should be filled in a by-election organised in full respect of Ukraine’s laws and constitution’.

The overwhelming victory of pro-European parties (except the Opposition Bloc and the Radicals) is clearly a relief to most of the West. Both pro-EU blocs – People’s Front (Yatsenyuk’s party) and Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc (PPB) – are expected to form a coalition with the Samopomich party (Self-Help party headed by Andriy Sadovyi, Mayor of Lviv), a Christian-democratic party. The extreme right, Svoboda (‘Right Sector’) and the Communist Party of Ukraine didn’t make the 5 per cent threshold.

The success of pro-Western parties also set the stage for the future of Ukraine in the EU/NATO framework and represents a significant step forward in strengthening Ukraine’s democracy.

If the outcomes of the elections demonstrate a desire to go West, Kiev’s intentions to claim back the annexed Crimea is hindering Ukraine’s official membership to NATO ( as NATO would have to retaliate against Russia leading toward a full-scale war between the United States and Putin).

In addition, whilst this pro-Western rhetoric is inspiring and arousing hopes for sturdy economic and social reforms, will the new coalition model help achieve the vision of the people?

Since both Yatsenyuk and Turchynov are seen as the leaders of the ‘war party’, whereas Poroshenko is considered to be the leader of the ‘peace party’, their divergence in foreign policy might hinder the potential for reform in the domestic policy. The Kiev post raises the question: Will the winners work together? Alternatively, if ‘Ukraine’s leaders fail in this regard, Russia’s tactics will have succeeded’, as Carnegie think tank argues.

This was the election of the activists and NGOs’ representatives; the so-called ‘Euromaiden generation’, and the new kids on the block have even higher expectations weighing on their shoulders. The emergence of a new generation of politicians is widely regarded as a positive development, particularly in the fight against corruption. However, it is worth noting that some MPs have already begun querying their low salary levels, having the potential to open the route to bribery and the continuation of oligarchical running of the country. Rather than this being an early warning sign of a fall back into the old ways, let’s hope parliament’s new débutantes will become the true actors of change in Ukraine.

 

Melanie Pinet studies War Studies at King’s College London and was an international observer during the parliamentary elections in Ukraine on 26 October. She is a researcher at CoVi (Common Vision) and tweets from @Melanie_Pinet.