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News Analysis: Early parliamentary elections spark controversy in Ukraine amid turmoil

English.news.cn   2014-08-30 19:41:44

KIEV, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's recent decision to call early elections to "purify" the parliament has sparked controversy in the country, which is already torn between an industrial, Russian-speaking east and a more westward-looking west.

Six months after anti-government street protests toppled the previous authorities, Ukraine is experiencing the most dramatic period of its modern history with political, social and economic turmoil raging across the country.

Hoping for positive changes to their state, next month, Ukrainians will go to polls in what experts called "the most controversial election in the history of independent Ukraine" to help their country emerge from the ongoing crisis.

MOTIVES FOR PARLIAMENT DISSOLUTION

On Monday, Poroshenko dissolved the parliament and called for early elections on Oct. 26, claiming that the country's legislative body should be "purified."

The move was widely expected by local analysts, as the ruling coalition in the parliament broke up last month and Poroshenko pledged the nation would have a new parliament in place in the next few months, much earlier than previously scheduled elections in 2017.

Claiming that 80 percent of the Ukrainian citizens support the parliamentary shift, Poroshenko said that elections were needed to reload the country's political elite amid the current "historical change."

Poroshenko said that the lawmakers who "directly sponsor" independence-seeking insurgents in eastern Ukraine and who are "responsible for the deaths of pro-European activists" killed during the protests in winter could not sit in the parliament any more.

Meanwhile, some local experts referred to other reasons for the dissolution of the parliament.

According to Andrei Zolotarev, an analyst at the Kiev-based analytical center "Third Sector," Poroshenko exploited the opportunity to call the elections to strengthen his influence on lawmakers.

"The president hopes to acquire a faction in the parliament, allied to him. That plans may come true because the voice of opposition is almost unheard in Ukraine," Zolotarev said.

Another political analyst, Oleg Soskin, said that the current parliament demonstrated its "disability" after the ruling coalition break-up and described the elections as an "essential move" to protect Ukraine from the conflicts in the east.

Soskin also echoed Zolotarev, saying that Poroshenko will benefit the most from the shift in the parliament.

"The Poroshenko group has a plan to create a pro-government majority. Now it is clear that by the dissolution of the parliament Poroshenko wants to consolidate his power," Soskin said.

CONTROVERSIAL ELECTIONS

The upcoming parliamentary vote comes at a very difficult time for Ukraine as government forces are waging a violent war against rebels in the east of the country. Thus, the reasonability of elections in the current environment was questioned by many analysts here.

According to Viktor Nebozhenko, director of the sociological service Ukrainian Barometer, the early parliamentary elections are "not entirely relevant" during the crisis in eastern regions and amid uncertainty of the legal status of the Crimean peninsula after its affiliation with Russia.

"There are around 5.5 million eligible voters in Lugansk and Donetsk regions and 1.5 million voters in Crimea. During the war in the east and annexation of the peninsula, 7 million people will not have an opportunity to vote and will not have their representatives in the parliament," Nebozhenko said.

However, the Ukrainian Central Election Commission (CEC) pledged to "ensure the right of Ukrainians to expression of their will" during the elections.

According to the CEC, Crimean residents who consider themselves as Ukrainians will have the opportunity to vote in calm Ukrainian regions and the polling stations will also be set up in the government-controlled areas in the eastern Lugansk and Donetsk regions.

According to the Ukrainian law, the elections could be considered as legitimate if at least one polling station works in every constituency.

The CEC also said that the country will spend around 71 million U.S. dollars on the election -- a sum which some experts consider to be very high.

Since the current elections were called on an urgent basis, expenditures for it were not included in the country's state budget for 2014, which is already weak as government spends around 5.8 million dollars per day on conducting the military operation in the east.

"Potentially, the authorities are able to find the money for the elections, but the question is how effectively that funds could be spent in the situation, when some people are unable to take part in the vote," said Konstantin Matvienko, the head of "Gardarika" analytical center.

Meanwhile, some experts believe that the elections may boost the country's economy because the competitive political parties and candidates will spend their own money for the election campaign.

"I think that the elections will spur the economy as the expenditures eventually will work for the improvement of the gross domestic product," said Vladimir Fesenko, director of the Penta Center of Applied Political Studies.

He estimated that the election campaign will help to boost the country's 2014 GDP by 0.5 percent.

MIXED PARLIAMENT

The nominations for political forces and independent candidates in the election, which will be conducted under a mixed system, are due to conclude on Sept. 26.

Although some political parties shifted their names and conducted a substantial rebranding on the eve of the parliamentary race, voters here understand that they will see a lot of old lawmakers in the new assembly.

The political group "Bloc of Poroshenko" allied to the president, which is widely expected to gain the majority of seats during the elections, gathered a lot of political veterans in its ranks.

Among its members are the politicians who quit their membership in the former ruling Party of Regions, Fatherland Party of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms or "Udar" led by famous world heavyweight champion boxer Vitaly Klitchko.

Fatherland Party and Udar, who won 102 and 40 seats respectively in the assembly after 2012 elections, are forecasted to garner enough votes to enter the next parliament.

According to the recent polls, the Radical Party of Oleg Lyashko, one of the frontrunners in the recent presidential campaign, is also one of the favorites of the parliamentary race.

Meanwhile, Lyashko is believed to be an ally of Sergey Lyovochkin, the former head of administration of the ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.

While the number of contenders for the mandate is estimated to grow compared with the 2012 campaign, analysts do not expect to see many newcomers in the legislative body, because very few political groups would be able to surpass the 5-percent threshold needed to enter parliament.

"I think it is necessary to reduce the threshold to 1-2 percent to grant opportunities to the new political forces and parties to enter the parliament. Without this move, the parliament will remain 'old'," said Ruslan Bortnyk, the head of the Ukrainian Institute of Political Analysis and Management.

Meanwhile, Alexander Chernenko, chairman of the Committee of Ukrainian Voters, believes that the elections will change the Ukrainian political landscape for the better.

"With a responsible approach of people toward their choice and with the decent control of the elections, we have a chance to choose not ideal, but more or less normal parliament. At least better than the previous one, because the former parliament was worse than ever," Chernenko said.

 

Editor: Fu Peng
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