He Who Won was the One who Lost the Least, Ukraine Analyst, 28.02.2010
Viktor Yanukovych was inaugurated Ukraine’s fourth president on 25 February. Was this a victory for democracy and therefore the Orange Revolution or the defeat of the Orange Revolution because its arch nemesis, Yanukovych, was elected and received the satisfaction of ‘revenge’ for his defeat five years ago. Comparing the election results this year with those five years ago we can conclude that all the traditional political forces lost a portion of their voters.
The left suffered the greatest defeat. In the 1999 and 2004 elections, Communist Party leader Piotr Symonenko and Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz both received sufficiently high number of votes to place them in the top five candidates. In the 2010 elections, Symonenko came sixth while Moroz did not even enter the top ten out of eighteen candidates, after come third in 2004. The top five candidates in the 2010 elections were either centrists (Yanukovych, Sergei Tihipko) or national democrats (Tymoshenko, Arseniy Yatseniuk, Viktor Yushchenko).
The mobilisation of voters through the laying on of transport for voters helped to thwart a reduction in voter support. This was especially the case for Yanukovych as the Party of Regions that he leads laid on transportation which was assisted by the concentration of large urban centres and big factories where the directors are Party of Regions members. The reduction in the number votes for Yanukovych in his heartland strongholds of Eastern-Southern Ukraine were compensated for by an increase in votes in ‘orange’ Western-Central Ukraine. Yanukovych obtained 2.68 percent fewer votes in the second round of this year’s elections than he received in the re-run second round on 26 December 2004. But, this would look even less than 2.68 if we took into account the overall reduced number of voters in Ukraine.
Tymoshenko had a more difficult task. In 2004, Yushchenko campaigned as leader of the opposition against an unpopular regime and discredited President Leonid Kuchma. In the 2010 elections, ‘orange’ forces were in power and therefore took responsibility for the poor state of affairs and economic crisis in the country. In addition, Yanukovych did not have a strong opponent that threatened his voter base. In contrast, Tymoshenko was faced by an additional second opponent, Yushchenko, who constantly attacked her forcing her to fight an election campaign on two fronts. The 2010 elections were also the first where there was a massive campaign to vote ‘against all’. In previous elections only marginal candidates or political party’s called for a vote against all and these appeals were not widely disseminated in the media. In the 2010 elections, Yushchenko and some well known members of the Ukrainian intelligentsia called upon Ukrainians to vote against both candidates, calls that were widely disseminated by the media. These reduced the number of votes for Tymoshenko because voters either did not turn up to vote or they voted against both candidates. Tymoshenko lost most votes along the border line between ‘orange’ and Yanukovych Ukraine. In the 2004 elections these regions had voted for Yushchenko whereas prior to those elections they had voted for the left. Although Tymoshenko increased her vote in Eastern-Southern Ukraine this proved to be insufficient to compensate for votes she lost in other regions. In the second round of the 2010 elections, Tymoshenko received over three million fewer votes than Yushchenko had in the re-run second round of the 2004 elections.
The 2010 election results are not a good indicator of trends for mainstream political forces as none of them increased their support on previous elections. If they do not reverse this situation then they risk losing more votes in the next parliamentary and local elections.
Those politicians who claimed to be ‘new leaders’ and received good election results in the first round of this year’s election, need to show concrete proof that they are indeed the ‘new political forces’ that Ukraine needs in the run up to the next elections. If they fail to show their ability to be new political leaders then they risk losing their support.
In the next few years the political struggle in Ukraine will continue to be conflict prone and fierce.