Political parties in Ukraine
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This article presents the historical development and role of political parties in Ukrainian politics, and outlines more extensively the significant modern political parties since Ukraine gained independence in 1991.
Ukraine has a multi-party system with numerous political parties, in which no one party often has a chance of gaining power alone, and parties must work with each other to form coalition governments. In the (October 2014 and last) Ukrainian parliamentary election 52 political parties nominated candidates. In the last nationwide (October 2015) local elections this number had grown to 132 political parties.
Many parties in Ukraine have very small memberships and are unknown to the general public. Party membership in Ukraine is lower than 1% of the population eligible to vote (compared to an average 4.7% in the European Union). National parties currently not represented in Ukraine’s national parliament Verkhovna Rada do have representatives in municipal counsels. Small parties used to join in multi-party coalitions (electoral blocks) for the purpose of participating in parliamentary elections; but on November 17, 2011 the Ukrainian Parliament approved an election law that banned the participation of blocs of political parties in parliamentary elections. Ukrainian society's trust of political parties is very low overall. According to an April 2014 poll by Razumkov Centre 14.7%.
Parties can only register with the Ministry of Justice if they can "demonstrate a base of support in two-thirds of Ukraine's Oblasts" (Ukraine's 24 primary administrative units). Then within six months the party must establish regional offices in a majority of the 24 oblasts. In practice these offices rarely stay active and open in-between elections.
Major parties and political camps
- a pro-Western and pro-European general liberal national democrats who from time to time featured individual politicians with a nationalist past (for example Andriy Shkil, Andriy Parubiy and Levko Lukyanenko) with the Our Ukraine Blocs and Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko (now Fatherland) as its frontrunners; UDAR replaced the Our Ukraine Bloc in the 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary election. In the 2014 parliamentary election UDAR did not participate but its members filled 30% of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc election list. The Petro Poroshenko Bloc won the election with 132 seats.
- a pro-Russian, latently Eurosceptic, often anti-American and partly anti-liberal group of parties, which in the 1990s was dominated by the Communist Party of Ukraine, and was dominated by the Party of Regions from the late 2000s till the party disintegration shortly after the 2014 Ukrainian revolution.
The first movement (mentioned above) gets its voters mainly from Western Ukraine and Central Ukraine; the latter from Eastern Ukraine and Southern Ukraine. The radical nationalistic All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda" (7 seats in the Ukrainian parliament) can not be placed in the above-mentioned two major movements. "Svoboda" gets the lion share of its votes from Western Ukraine.
Ukrainian parties tend not to have a clear ideology but to contain different political groups with diverging ideological outlooks. Unlike in Western politics, civilizational and geostrategic orientations play a more important role than economic and socio-political agendas for parties. This has led to coalition governments that would be unusual from a Western point of view; for example: the Azarov Government which included the Party of Regions with the financial backing of some Ukrainian oligarchs and the Communist Party of Ukraine and the social-democratic Batkivshchyna and the economically liberal European Party of Ukraine in the Second Tymoshenko Government.
Criticism on current situation
Professor Paul D'Anieri has argued (in 2006) that Ukrainian parties are "elite-based rather than mass-based". While former Ambassador of Germany to Ukraine (2000–2006) Dietmar Studemann believes that personalities are more important in Ukrainian politics than (ideological) platforms. "Parties in the proper meaning of this word do not exist in Ukraine so far. A party for Germans is its platform first, and its personalities later."
|Number of parties|
Independent Ukraine, party forming (early 1990s)
Even before Ukraine became independent in August 1991, political parties in Ukraine started to form around intellectuals and former Soviet dissidents. They posed the main opposition to the ruling Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Ukraine (CP(b)U). At the first convocation of the Verkhovna Rada those parties formed the parliamentary opposition People's Council. The most noticeable parties of the parliamentary opposition included the People's Movement of Ukraine (The Movement) and the Ukrainian Republican Party. Due to the August Putsch in Moscow (19–21 August 1991), a process to prohibit communist parties in Ukraine took place. Led by Oleksandr Moroz, the parliamentary faction of the CP(b)U, Group of 239, started a process to re-form the CP(b)U into the Socialist Party of Ukraine. The restriction on the existence of communist parties in Ukraine was successfully adopted soon after the Ukrainian independence, however in the couple of years the resolution was later challenged and eventually the restriction was lifted. In 1993 in Donetsk the first congress of the reinstated Communist Party of Ukraine took place, with the Party led by Petro Symonenko.
In the hastily organized 1994 parliamentary elections the communists surprisingly achieved the highest party rating, while the main opposing party, the Movement, did not gain even a quarter of their earned seats. The re-formed party of the CP(b)U, the Socialist Party of Ukraine, and its major ally, the Peasant Party of Ukraine, performed relatively strongly. About a third of the elected parliamentarians were not affiliated. The elections became a major fiasco of the Democratic forces in Ukraine. After the 1994 elections numerous independent political parties were elected to the Ukrainian parliament, leading to the formation of nine deputy groups and parliamentary factions: Communists, Socialists, Agrarians, Inter-regional Deputy Group (MDG), Unity, Center, Statehood, Reforms, and the Movement. The concept of a "situational majority" was first used during that convocation to form a parliamentary coalition. The ruling coalition in the parliament often included the Communist Party of Ukraine, the Socialist Party of Ukraine, Agrarians, MDG, and Unity.
Parties for oligarchs and clans (1994–2004)
During the Kuchma presidency (1994–2004) parties started to form around politicians who had achieved power; these parties were often a vehicle of Ukrainian oligarchs. Scholars defined several "Clans" in Ukrainian politics grouped around businessmen and politicians from particular Ukrainian mayor cities; the "Donetsk-clan" (Rinat Akhmetov, Viktor Yanukovich and Mykola Azarov), the "Dnipropetrovsk-clan" (Yulia Tymoshenko, Leonid Kuchma, Viktor Pinchuk, Sergey Tigipko and Pavlo Lazarenko), the "Kiev-clan" (Viktor Medvedchuk and the brothers Surkis; this clan has also been linked to Zakarpattia) and the smaller "Kharkiv-clan".
After the 2002 elections the Ukrainian parliament saw some consolidation of democratic political parties and the establishment of the main political camps in Ukraine: a coalition of nationally oriented deputies with the pro-European vector, a coalition of left-wing parties, and the pro-Russian parties coalition of the former Soviet nomenklatura. A major change took place during the Orange revolution when finally the two opposing political camps were established after the left-wing coalition split.
Merging parties (2011-now)
On 17 November 2011 the Ukrainian Parliament approved an election law that banned the participation of blocs of political parties in parliamentary elections; since then several parties have merged with other parties. Strong Ukraine merged with the Party of Regions on 17 March 2012. Front of Changes and former Our Ukraine Bloc and Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko members performed in the 2012 parliamentary elections under "umbrella" party Fatherland. Front for Changes leader Yatsenyuk headed this election list; because Fatherland-leader Yulia Tymoshenko was imprisoned.
On 15 June 2013 Reforms and Order Party and Front for Change merged into Fatherland. A part of People’s Movement of Ukraine (including its former chairman Borys Tarasyuk) also merged with Fatherland (the rest of this party had merged with Ukrainian People's Party in May 2013).
In preparation for the upcoming 2014 parliamentary elections, several ministers of the Fatherland party in the government of Arseniy Yatsenyuk moved to the new party People's Front, which elected as its party leader Yatsenyuk on 10 September 2014.
UDAR merged into the Petro Poroshenko Bloc on 28 August 2015 after in the 2014 parliamentary election, 30% of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc election list had been filled by members of UDAR (as non-partisan).
- Some Ukrainian parties could not be clearly classified as belonging to one of these two major movements, they were either synthesising the ideas of the two camps and/or strove to position themselves as a balancing force; examples of these parties are Socialist Party of Ukraine, Lytvyn Bloc and Labour Ukraine.
- Ukrainian politicians have switched to parties that belong(ed) to another of these two major movements.
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UDAR submits to Rada resolution on Ukraine’s integration with EU, Interfax-Ukraine (8 January 2013)
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Klitschko: I lead my team to Parliament, UDAR official website (14.09.2014)
Deadline for nomination of candidates running in early election to Rada expires, ITAR-TASS (September 15, 2014)
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People's Front 0.33% ahead of Poroshenko Bloc with all ballots counted in Ukraine elections - CEC Archived November 12, 2014, at the Wayback Machine., Interfax-Ukraine (8 November 2014)
Poroshenko Bloc to get 132 seats in parliament - CEC, Interfax-Ukraine (8 November 2014)
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Strong Ukraine party decides on disbanding to join Regions Party, Kyiv Post (March 17, 2012)
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(Ukrainian) "ФРОНТ ЗМІН" ІДЕ В РАДУ З "БАТЬКІВЩИНОЮ", Ukrayinska Pravda (7 April 2012)
Yatseniuk wants to meet with Tymoshenko to discuss reunion of opposition, Kyiv Post (7 April 2012)
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Front for Change, Reforms and Order to dissolve for merger with Batkivshchyna - Sobolev, Ukrinform (11 June 2013))
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Jatzenjuk an die Spitze der Partei „Volksfront“ gestellt, Ukrinform (10 September 2014)
- «Народний фронт» представив кандидатів, Hromadske.TV (10 September 2014)
- Klitschko becomes leader of Petro Poroshenko Bloc 'Solidarity' party, Interfax-Ukraine (28 August 2015)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Political parties in Ukraine.|
- Ukraine's party system: specifics of establishment, problems of functioning, trends of evolution, 2010 analysis by Razumkov Centre