Ukraine’s parliamentary elections and the far right

On the 26th of October 2014, Ukrainians voted at the early parliamentary elections. Ukraine currently has a mixed electoral system (50% under party lists and 50% under constituencies) with a 5% election threshold. Here are the results of the National Exit Poll 2014.

Since these are not official results, the following analysis is preliminary:

As I argued in February this year, popular support for the far right Svoboda party had dwindled already by the beginning of Euromaidan protests in Ukraine. Svoboda obtained 10.44% of the vote at the 2012 parliamentary elections, but in November 2013 only 5.1% of the voters would have cast a ballot for this party. Moreover, Svoboda failed to recover its lost support during the 2014 revolution in Ukraine, so only 5.6% of the voters would vote for the party in February 2014. At the early presidential election in May 2014, the leader of Svoboda Oleh Tyahybok obtained 1.16% of the vote.

Svoboda’s relative failure to mobilise its former electorate can be attributed to the demise of former president Viktor Yanukovych’s regime: Svoboda was successful in 2012 because it was considered an anti-Yanukovych party, so with Yanukovych ousted, almost half of Svoboda’s electorate was gone too. Furthermore, in 2012, Svoboda was also considered almost the only “patriotic” party, but now all democratic parties are patriotic, so Svoboda has lost its “monopoly” on patriotism.

What should also be noted is that the decline of Svoboda is much deeper than the simple comparison of electoral results in 2012 and 2014 can demonstrate. In 2014, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and part of the Donbass region did not take part in the parliamentary elections as Crimea is now criminally annexed by Russia, while part of the Donbass region is under control of (pro-)Russian extremists. These two regions voted heavily for Yanukovych’s party and the misleadingly named Communist Party of Ukraine and, therefore, brought down the support for Svoboda on the national level. If citizens in Crimea and Donbass had been given a chance to freely vote in the 2014 parliamentary elections, Svoboda’s results would have been even worse.

Where did Svoboda’s former electorate go? I presume that more moderate voters went back to the national-democratic forces, such as the People’s Front or Samopomich. Part of Svoboda’s former electorate apparently went to the Right Sector and Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party. The inclusion of these two parties into the far right category is tentative. As a political party, the Right Sector is ideologically quite different from the movement under the same name that was formed during the 2014 revolution; the party is less radical than the movement, so I suggest the term “national conservative” as a more relevant one. Lyashko’s Radical Party is dangerously populist and a typical anti-establishment force. However, both the Right Sector and Lyashko’s Radical Party have extreme right members, but they are a minority. In contrast to Lyashko’s Radical Party, the Right Sector will not be able to enter the parliament, but its leader Dmytro Yarosh will most likely be elected in one of the single-member districts.

The People’s Front led by prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk also involved extreme right candidates: Andriy Biletskiy, leader of the neo-Nazi Social-National Assembly and commander of the Azov regiment, and Vadym Troyan of the same affiliation, ran in single-member districts and were supported by the People’s Front. At the time of writing, it is not clear whether Biletsky and Troyan have been elected.

The veterans of the Ukrainian far right, the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, have failed again. I presume the aim of their participation in the elections is not about getting into the parliament; rather, it is about having official observers in the electoral commissions – sometimes in the past observers from fringe political forces provided “services” to interested parties, i.e. were involved in corrupt schemes.

To conclude this preliminary analysis, the Ukrainian far right forces do not appear to be as successful in the electoral terms as they were in 2012. Populism, however, is still a problem, while relatively large segments of the Ukrainian society fail to recognise the threat that populism poses to the consolidation of democracy in Ukraine.

Russian Communist Party wants Ukrainians fighting in the east classified as "terrorists"

Russia’s Communist Party is calling for Russia to officially recognize Ukraine’s volunteer battalions as “terrorist organizations.” The statement, issued by two Communist MPs, specifically names the the paramilitary-political party Right Sector, and the Dnipro, Donbas, and Azov Battalions in their complaint.

Azov Battalion recruits
Azov Battalion recruits

The named volunteer units are some of the most notable formations fighting on Ukraine’s front lines in the east, and the government has seen considerable success in its Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) thanks to the initiative of volunteer special forces that have been made up largely of local eastern Ukrainians. While autonomous in command they are subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which also controls Ukraine’s National Guard. The battalions also coordinate with and train at National Guard bases.

The appeal was brought forth by Russian State Duma deputies Valery Rashkin, the Deputy Chairman of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, and Sergei Obukhov, its Secretary, who appealed to Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika to recognize and include the groups as both foreign and domestic “terrorist organizations.”

Obukhov believes that Ukrainian forces fighting Russian-sponsored terrorists and insurgents in the east must be recognized in turn by the Russian Federation as terrorist organizations themselves, and that the Russian Foreign Ministry should petition the UN to ban their funding at the international level.

“I am a supporter of the toughest measures for persons, organizations and even states representing a real threat to Russia’s security and our citizens. No sanctions, protest notes and wailing about the “aggressiveness” of our country should worry us and make us detour from our path,”  said Rashkin.

The move appears to be an attempt to mirror calls by US Senators to classify the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) as a “foreign terrorist organization,” and expert opinion that Russia is acting as a state-sponsor of terrorism. A WhiteHouse.gov petition for the US to designate Russia as the latter collected over 105,000 signatures.

“In Russia, this is already being done – for example, through the identification and confiscation of assets of the sponsor terrorist tycoon [Ihor] Kolomoiskiy. But the Americans, in turn, discuss funding the Right Sector. Apparently, to “promote democracy” through punitive actions. If so, then the United States should in fact be defined as a state sponsor of terrorism,” he Rashkin continued.

Ukrainian Volunteer Corps
Ukrainian Volunteer Corps

The Communist statement also recalls that on March 3 a criminal case was brought against Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh for “public calls to extremist activity.” The incident in question occurred when Russia alleged that Yarosh had made a posting on the Russian social media site VK appealing to Chechen leader Doku Umarov for support – a statement which Right Sector says was the result of the account being hacked.

Yarosh, a commander of the Right Sector ‘Ukrainian Volunteer Corps’ battalion, was recently put on a Interpol’s wanted list at the request of Russian authorities.

Rashkin previously urged Russian special forces to “follow Mossad examples” and assassinate” Yarosh.