Written by Brian Mefford
Yuliya Tymoshenko and Ihor Kolmoyskyi appear to be the winners in the Special Parliamentary Elections held in seven districts across the country on July 17th. Tymoshenko-backed candidates won victories in Kherson and Poltava, while Kolomoyskyi-supported candidates won in Volyn and were leading narrowly in Ivano-Frankivsk. While no Solidarity/Bloc Poroshenko candidates won on Sunday, the President can take consolation in the victory of two independent candidates which are likely to join his faction once they are sworn into office. The special elections will took place in Volyn District 23 (villages around Manevychi), Dnipropetrovsk District 27 (October Raion of Dnipro City), Ivano-Frankivsk District 85 (Kalush City), Luhansk District 114 in Stanytsia Luhanska, Poltava District 151 (town of Lokhvytsia), Kherson District 183 (Korabelnyi Rayon in Kherson City), and Chernihiv District 206 (Chernihiv City). Here is a rundown on the results:
In Volyn District 23, Ukrop’s Iryna Konstankevych won a decisive 57% – 13% victory over Motherland’s Liudmyla Kydra to fill the vacancy created by the death of Ihor Yeremeiev. The victory by Konstankevych was notable since she lost the parliamentary race in a neighboring district in 2014 by just 28 votes out of 100,000 cast. The Ukrop candidate is likely to join oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi’s Renaissance faction in Parliament once sworn in. Her closet opponent, Motherland’s Liudmyla Kydra lost to incumbent Ihor Yeremeyev in 2014 by a 41% – 22% margin. The biggest surprise in the race though was that the People’s Will faction failed to field a candidate to replace their founder, Ihor Yeremeyev. This fact, combined with the arrest of fellow faction member Oleksandr Onishchenko, may well signal the collapse of the faction in the near future.
In Dnipro (formerly Dnipropetrovsk) District 27, political newcomer Tetiana Rychkova defeated Zahid Krasnov by a 45% – 37% margin to fill the vacancy created by the election of Kolomoyskyi ally Borys Filatov as Dnipro mayor last fall. Both Rychkova and Krasnov ran as independents, but Rychkova – as a senior military office in the Ministry of Defense, had the quiet backing of President Poroshenko. Krasnov, a Dagestani businessman, finished a competitive third place in last year’s mayoral election to Filatov. Both candidates saw “clone candidates” with similar names siphon almost seven percent of the vote from their tallies. The failure of a Kolomoyskyi backed candidate to win in his hometown was the one low point of an otherwise good election for his allies. Conversely, the victory of a Poroshenko backed candidate in Kolomoyskyi’s hometown gave the President a nice consolation prize in an otherwise difficult election.
In Ivano-Frankivsk District 85, Ukrop’s Viktor Shevchenko holds a 978 vote lead out of 47,000 cast over Poroshenko bloc candidate Serhiy Nasalyk. Billed as the ‘battle of brothers’, Nasalyk was trying to fill the vacancy of his brother Ihor, who resigned to become the Minister of Energy and Coal of Ukraine. Viktor Shevchenko is the brother of Ivano-Frankivsk MP Oleksandr Shevchenko who is the local head of the Ukrop party. Shevchenko was originally elected with the Bloc Poroshenko but quit the faction last fall, comparing the Poroshenko faction to the ‘Titanic’. If Shevchenko maintains his lead with approximately 1500 votes remaining to be counted, it will be a big victory for Kolomoyskyi in Ivano-Frankivsk.
In the Stanytsia Luhansk district 114 a record 107 candidates filed to fill the vacancy created by the appointment of MP Yuri Harbuz as Luhansk Governor. The count was delayed by the replacement of the chairperson and deputy chairperson (from the Opposition Bloc and Poroshenko Bloc respectively). A large controversy arose over the last minute change of more than 200 local election commissioners just an hour before the start of voting. Mostly initiated by Nash Krai party who imported loyalists from Odesa and Zaporizhya, the change resulted in confusion within commissions over the actual membership composition. Nonetheless, Nash Krai’s candidate, businessman Serhiy Shakhov, is leading by a 42% – 18% margin over independent and former MP Valeriy Moshenskyi. Moshenskyi was the only non Party of Regions candidate to win election to parliament in 2012 from Luhansk. The Opposition Bloc’s Borys Lebediev is believed to be a cousin of former Yanukovych Defense Minister Pavel Lebedyev. A victory by Shakhov from Nash Krai, or independent Valeriy Moshenskyi, would be a moral win for the President, as it would prevent an Opposition Bloc victory in the district.
In Poltava District 151, Motherland’s Ruslan Bohdan has won the contest to replace MP Taras Kutovyi who was named as the Minister of Agriculture and Food Policy in the spring. Bohdan defeated the Mayor of Pyriatyn, Oleksiy Riabokin, by a 23% – 15% margin. Riabokin ran as an independent but is a member of the Socialist Party. Bohdan the Chairman of the oblast Motherland organization. Despite the popularity of the Minister of Agriculture and Food in the district, the Poroshenko Bloc failed to field a candidate in the race.
In Kherson District 183 (Korabelnyi Raion in Kherson), Tymoshenko’s Motherland Party pulled another upset victory to fill the vacancy created by the appointment of Andriy Hordeiev as Governor in late April. Former Kherson Governor Yuri Odarchenko defeated another former Khreson Governor, Andriy Putilov of the Poroshenko Bloc, by a 25% – 16% margin. Former MP Mykhailo Opanashenko ran with Kolomoyskyi’s Renaissance Party and finished third with 14%. Opanashenko finished second to (now) Hordeiev in 2014. Ironically, Hordeyev replaced Putilov as Poroshenko’s appointed Governor, and Putilov replaced Odarchenko as Turhcynov-Tymoshenko’s appointed Governor in 2014.
In Chernihiv District #206, independent Maksym Mykytas who was backed by Poroshenko ally Serhiy Berezenko, defeated Morherland’s Dmytro Vlasenko by a 31% – 27% margin. A total of 75 candidates competed to replace Vladyslav Atroshchenko who now serves as Chernihiv Mayor. Berezenko, a deputy head of the Poroshenko faction, won election in a neighboring district last summer over Ukrop’s Gennadiy Korban, and wields growing influence within the party. Berezenko recruited the head of UkrBud (a state building company) Maksym Mykytas to run as an independent. However Mykytas will clearly join the Poroshenko faction in parliament.
The victories by Kolomosykyi and Tymoshenko candidates will increase the ranks of both factions in Parliament. Kolomoyskyi’s Renaissance faction will increase to 25 members and Tymoshenko’s Motherland will grow to 21 members. The Poroshenko bloc lost three seats, but can be relieved that these were merely special elections in seven districts and not early parliamentary elections in all districts. While the politicians will debate the winners and losers, the one clear signal is that competitive elections in Ukraine are alive and healthy.