The sound of one hand clapping Yushchenko’s solo debate

August 27, 2009

Viktor Yushchenko in a desperate attempt to be seen relevant has called for a public debate on his proposed constitutional reforms in the lead-up to the January 17 Presidential election.

Yushchenko spouses the words “Democracy”, “European Integration” and “strong leadership”. Yet close analysis of Yushchenko’s proposed constitutional changes reveal a hidden agenda, proposals that are far from being “democratic” or helping bring Ukraine closer to Europe. It’s a recipe for disaster.

If adopted, Yushchenko’s proposals,would see Ukraine revert back to a Presidential “rule by decree” autocracy and reject European values and European models of Parliamentary democracy. It would seriously divide Ukraine and entrench absolute power in Ukraine’s head of state.

This issue should have been debated two years ago not on the eve of the next Presidential election.

Yushchenko has gone about it all wrong. The first step and question that needs to be addressed is “Should Ukraine take a backward step and reinstate absolute Presidential authority or does it adopt a European model of Parliamentary democracy?” 25 out of 27 EU states are governed by a Parliamentary system. Only France (Semi) and Cyprus are Presidential systems.

Yushchenko’s hidden agenda is not about seeking democratic reform but more about trying to gain some attraction and relevance in the lead up to the January 17 presidential poll. His current support rating is below 4% and he needs an issue that can help give him some focus, even if what he is trying to sell is tainted by deceit and wrapped up in words talking about democracy, stability and strong leadership.

Already Yushchenko’s national debate is doomed to fail. Ukraine’s major parties Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko and Party of Regions are showing no sign of wanting to participate in Yushchenko’s election agenda this side of the presidential ballot.

Whats more the changes to Ukraine’s Constitution, as proposed by Yushchenko, would be required to be passed at a national referendum and the process of holding a referendum will not take place before January 2010.

Change can not be forced on the public who will naturally distrust the reject any proposal . Unless there is wide cross factional support any proposed referendum seeking change is doomed to fail – as Europe recently learned in its proposed adoption of a constitution.

Adding to Yushchenko worries is that his proposal would not resolve the ongoing political crisis facing Ukraine and will only make matters worst as the model proposed has a number of serious flaws in its design and on closer analysts is far from being considered democratic.

There are no proper checks and balances in Yushchenko’s proposal. The President will have absolute authority and control and absolute immunity. Impeachment of the president being the sole means of accountability will be virtually impossible and can be only initiated by the proposed senate. He can dismiss the parliament if its not to his liking at any time without restriction or reason.

The system proposed by Yushchenko seeks to establish a US style Presidential system and not a European democratic parliamentary model.

Yushchenko wants to create a two-house Senatorial system based on Ukraine’s 25 oblasts and two main city regions (Kyiv and Sevastopol). Each regional oblast/electorate would elect three Senators which would be won by which every party receives the highest number of votes (Which can be as low as 34%). After the first election one third of the Senate would face re-election every two years.

Yuschenko’s proposal is undemocratic in that each oblast and region does not have equal number of constituents. Smaller Western Ukrainian oblasts with less then 350,000 voters elect the same number of Senators as regions that have 2.5 million voters. Western Ukraine will have considerable more power and representation then in Ukraine’s more populous Eastern regions.

Table showing projected Senate seat allocations based on 2007 Parliamentary election results. This table shows the extent of distortion in the out come of Yushenko’s proposed Senate System.

Party votes 2007 % seats %
BYuT 5740511 24.62% 48 59.26%
PoR 6318266 27.10% 30 37.04%
OU-PSD 152886 0.66% 3 3.70%
Sum 23315257 52.38% 81 100.00%

* 2007 Parliamentary Vote

Region Vote-2007 % Party
Chernihiv Oblast 242869 1.99% BYuT
Chernivtsi Oblast 189132 1.55% BYuT
Cherkasy Oblast 309421 2.53% BYuT
Crimea 536569 4.39% PoR
Dnipropetrovsk Oblast 789955 6.46% PoR
Donetsk Oblast 1720073 14.08% PoR
Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast 397326 3.25% BYuT
Kharkiv Oblast 659324 5.40% PoR
Kherson Oblast 213996 1.75% PoR
Khmelnytsky Oblast 345818 2.83% BYuT
Kirovohrad Oblast 178507 1.46% BYuT
Kyiv Oblast 485666 3.97% BYuT
Luhansk Oblast 932833 7.63% PoR
Lviv Oblast 752127 6.15% BYuT
Mykolaiv Oblast 304075 2.49% PoR
m.Kyiv 629904 5.15% BYuT
m.Sevastopol 118917 0.97% PoR
Odesa Oblast 526179 4.31% PoR
Poltava Oblast 292145 2.39% BYuT
Rivne Oblast 302552 2.48% BYuT
Sumy Oblast 271361 2.22% BYuT
Ternopil Oblast 342930 2.81% BYuT
Vinnytsia Oblast 433455 3.55% BYuT
Volyn Oblast 325709 2.67% BYuT
Zakarpattia Oblast 152886 1.25% OU-PSD
Zaporizhia Oblast 516345 4.23% PoR
Zhytomyr Oblast 241589 1.98% BYuT
Foreign Embassies 8566 0.07%
sum 12220229 52.41%
Total Vote 23315257 100.00%

Poll: President’s Party Biggest Losers

August 24, 2009

The Research and Branding opinion poll indicates that had fresh parliamentary elections been held last week Viktor Yushchenko’s party “Our Ukraine-Peoples Self-Defense bloc” would receive less then 3% support and lose representation with the overall reduction in the number of seats flowing on to Arseniy Yatseniuk’s “Front for Change” party and an increase in the number of seats allocated to Party of Regions and Bloc Lytvyn with a further loss of seats allocated to Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko and one seat reduction to the Communist Party of Ukraine. The poll reflects much the same overall voting pattern as the presidential poll.

Joint parliamentary and presidential elections are unlikely to occur. As of July 23 Yushchenko has lost authority to dismiss Ukraine’s parliament and looks set to lose all power at the next election.

Candidate Party Parliament Election 2006 Parliament Election 2007 Research & Branding Group
Date from 26-Mar-06 30-Sep-07 04-Aug-09
Date To 14-Aug-09
Link % Seats % Seats % Seats *
Party of regions PoR 32.1 186 34.4 175 29.3 209
Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko BYuT 22.3 129 30.7 156 15.5 111
Bloc Arseniy Yatsenyuk Y-Front 10.6 76
Bloc Lytvyn BL 2.4 4.0 20 3.9 28
Communist Party of Ukraine CPU 3.7 21 5.4 27 3.7 26
Our Ukraine-Peoples Self Defence OU-PSD 14.0 81 14.2 72
Socialist Party of Ukraine SPU 5.7 33 2.9
Others <3% 19.8 5.7 6.9
Against all 2.7 10.8
Not going to vote 9.8
Not sure 9.5
sum 100.0 450 100.0 450 100.0 450

* notional seat allocation

Yushchenko slumps to 2%

August 24, 2009

Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yushchenko has slumped to a low 2.0% according to the Research and Branding Group’s most recent opinion poll.

The poll taken between August 4 and August 14 spanning the period where Russian President Dmitry Medvedev delivered a scathing criticism of Ukraine’s embattled president showed a further marginal decline in Yushchenko’s support and influence (Not that it can get much lower then 2%).

Research and Branding Group’s polls show a high voter participation rate. The percentage of those polled that say they will either vote against all or not at all during the second round of voting is very high and raises a troublesome question, “What happens if the winning second round candidate does not receive an absolute majority of votes (50% or more)?”

At a cost of over 1.5 billion hrivina Ukraine may very well wish it had adopted a parliamentary collegiate system of electing its head of state.

Candidate Party 2004 Presidential election Research & Branding Group Research & Branding Group Research & Branding Group
Date from 31-Oct-04 01-Apr-09 12-Jun-09 04-Aug-09
Date To 26-Dec-04 09-Apr-09 22-Jun-09 14-Aug-09
Link [0] *** [1] ** [2] ** [3] **
Viktor Yanukovych PoR 39.3 44.2 27.9 38.4 26.8 38.8 26.0 39.6
Yulia Tymoshenko BYuT 15.6 29.3 15.8 28.8 16.5 28.0
Arseniy Yatsenyuk Y-Front 13.4 12.3 12.6
Petro Symonenko CPU 5.0 3.8 3.5 4.5
Viktor Yushchenko OU 39.9 52.0 1.9 2.1 2.0
Volodymyr Lytvyn BL 5.5 3.9 4.2
Inna Bohoslovska 3.0
Leonid Kuchma 2.0
Oleksandr Moroz SPU 5.8
Others <2% 8.0 4.9 6.2 7.3
Against all 2.0 3.8 9.0 19.0 8.0 16.6 9.9 19.0
Not going to vote 8.6 8.3 8.9 9.0 6.6 6.8
Not sure 7.4 5.0 9.5 6.8 10.4 6.6
sum 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0

** Notional second round
*** Final results

Parliament vetoes President Yushchenko set to lose his deposit

August 21, 2009

Ukraine’s parliament has overruled President Viktor Yushchenko’s veto on the Law of the presidential election. The legislation was supported by 325 out of 371 MPs registered in the session. Under Ukraine’s Constitution the parliament can override the President’s right of veto with the support of 2/3rd majority of the 450 member Parliament.

Yushchenko has indicated that he would appeal to Ukraine’s Constitutional Court but failed to outline on what grounds the appeal would be based. (His past success rate in appeals to the courts has not been high)

Earlier Yushchenko had objected to the proposed reduction in the official campaign period from 120 days to 90 days, even though Ukraine’s Constitution provides for a 90 day election period for early Presidential elections.

The other point of contention is the deposit that is required to be paid by would be Presidential candidates. Under the new law the deposit is only refunded to those candidates that progress to the second round of voting. Ukraine has a two round presidential election system, if no candidate has an absolute majority of votes then the two highest polling candidates face off in a second ballot. (A total waste of time, money and resources given that if Ukraine adopted a preferential voting system they would achive the same result by holding one round of voting)

Current opinion polls show a second round ballot between Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko is most likely with Viktor Yuschenko polling less then 4% support. Yushchenko is set not only to lose the first round but also his deposit (500,000 UAH)

Opinion of the Venice Commission was expounded specially for Yushchenko… so that not to lay a bad trip on him

August 20, 2009
“Themain goal of the new Constitution of Yushchenko is to implement anoligarchic mode in Ukraine”,- stated MP from BYuT faction VALERIYPYSARENKO making a comment on the draft law amending the Constitutionpresented by Viktor Yushchenko for the estimation Venice commission ofCouncil of Euorope.
Accordingto MP, Yushchenko’s team is telling a kind and beautiful fairytale forthe whole country that the Commission has positively estimated thePresident’s draft law. In truth the commission is severe on the mainproposals of the Constitution of Yushchenko which are related to thestate system of Ukraine and people will expression.
“ThePresident’s team cancels all democratic grounds which were defended andprotected by Viktor Yushchenko in 2004. A retinue doesn’t want todisappoint their king so the opinion of  the Venice Commission wasspecially expounded in Ukraine for the President”, – noted MP.

“According to the draft law amending the Constitution of Ukrainepresented by the President all state authorities will be separatedbetween him and the parliament pretended a senate, which practicallywill be a knot of oligarchs. The composition of the parliament willdecrease up to 83 members who will definitely find an opportunity toseparate the country. And namely between these people and ex-presidentsas well all state powers will be separated. And Viktor Yushchenko willget both a life-time Senate parliamentary and inviolability”, – statedparliamentarian.

InPYSARENKO’S opinion a draft law “On Making Amendments to theConstitution of Ukraine”, made by President Viktor Yushchenko has nochances to be approved in the parliament, that’s why there is a risk ofconstitutional revolution.

“Blocof Yulia Tymoshenko doesn’t support a draft law on the newConstitution. I think that Yushchenko’s dreams about an unlimited powerwill remain as his pink dreams forever”, – summed up PYSARENKO.pinion on the draft law of Ukraine amending the Constitution presented by the President of Ukraine

Yuschenko not on the rise

August 18, 2009

The latest poll to be published shows a detailed breakdown of the various contenders support for Ukraine’s Presidential elections which are less then five months away. This poll also shows a likely 2nd round two candidate race outcome with Yanukovych (Party of Regions) winning with 52.2% of the registered vote.

The results of the poll are consistent with other polls published of late. Most polls show incumbent President, Viktor Yushchenko, in an unwinnable position with less then 4% support.

What’s interesting in this poll is the number of voters who indicated they would vote in the second round is close to the required 50% turn out threshold. If the number of voters falls below 50% then Yushchenko may retain office even though his support rating is one of the lowest for a head of state in the world.

Source: UkrNewsSocis center for social and political studies

Publication Date 17 August 2009
Poll Date July 24 to August 4, 2009

2,000 respondents in all regions of Ukraine.

Margin for error rate 2.8%

Candidate Party 2nd round 1st round
Viktor Yanukovych PoR 26.10% 25.00%
Yulia Tymoshenko BYuT 24.40% 20.50%
Arseniy Yatsenyuk Y-Front 14.50%
Viktor Yushchenko OU 3.80%
Petro Symonenko CPU 3.70%
Volodymyr Lytvyn BLP 5.90%
Vitalii Klychko EPON 2.60%
Oleh Tiakhnybok Svoboda 1.50%
Serhii Tihipko 1.40%
Inna Bohoslovska 1.30%
Unknown 49.50% 19.20%
sum 100% 100%

Passing of time Another opportunity lost

August 17, 2009

Ukraine’s embattled president, Viktor Yushchenko, has less then five months remaining of his five-year term of office.

With the passing of August is also the passing of last opportunity in which any proposed amendments to Ukraine’s constitution can be initiated before the Presidential elections scheduled for January 17, 2010.

Under the terms of Ukraine’s Constitution any amendments must be proposed before and later confirmed by the Parliament during the following Parliamentary session. The next regular session of the Parliament commences on September 1

If Ukraine was to adopt changes to its Constitution before the Presidential election it would have to do so next week.

Yulia Tymoshenko’s government surprisingly has proposed holding an extra-ordinary Parliamentary session on August 21, ten days before the next regular September session is due to start.

There are at present two items on the agenda both seeking to overturn the President’s obstructionist right of veto.

One is the proposed changes to Ukraine’s budget and the need for appropriate funding of preparations for hosting the Euro 2012 Football Championship.

The second more controversial issue is proposed changes to the laws on presidential election. Changes that Yushchenko has falsely claimed are detrimental to democracy in Ukraine.

Next week will be the last chance to make a real difference and change the way Ukraine elects its head of state.

The proposed changes would reduce the time set for the presidential election campaign from four months down to three. There is nothing extraordinary or wrong in this proposal. The time required for the official Presidential campaign can be as little as two months, as is the case of any early presidential or parliamentary election. Three months provides sufficient time for nominations and the preparation of the ballot. Narrowing the time of the official campaign period should also reduce some of the indirect costs involved in the campaign. It will not effect the overall Presidential campaign which has already started.

The law also requires candidates to pay a higher deposit in order to nominate for election. The aim is to reduce the number of minor candidates that do not have any real prospect of being elected nominating and negatively effecting the outcome of the election. The real sting in the tail is that only those candidates that progress into the second round of voting will get their 500,000 UAH deposit back.

Any minor candidate such as Yushchenko (Our Ukraine) or Yatseniuk (Y-Front for change) who fails to secure second place will be gambling on the outcome and will risk losing their deposit. They will have to decide if it worth the risk.

Under Ukraine’s two round presidential voting system, if no single candidate has 50% or more votes then the two highest polling candidates face off in a run-off ballot the following month.

A vote for a minor candidate is a vote wasted

The problem with Ukraine’s first past-the-post Presidential electoral system is that minor candidates play a negative role in the outcome of the election. They take votes away from the main candidates in the process deny any other candidate the benefit of their support. This is particularly the case with Viktor Yushchenko.

Yushchenko, who has less then 4% in the polls, is considered to have no hope of surviving the first round of voting and will not be reelected to a second term of office.

According to the polls Arseny Yatseniuk (13%) is five percentage points below Yulia Tymoshenko (18%) who is currently in second place to face off in a second final ballot against Party of Regions candidate, Viktor Yanukovych (23%).

Both Yushchenko and Yasteniuk are members of “Our Ukraine” and as such are competing for the same votes. United they could out-poll Yulia Tysmochenko but divided and competing against each other they risk losing their deposit.

The pressure is on for one or the other to pull out of the race. A reduced official campaign period and the possible loss of their deposit just adds to the pressure Yushchenko is under.

Yushchenko will try and portray that the proposed amendments to the law of the presidential election are undemocratic and designed to limit participation and choice.

The proposed law is not the problem (although maybe the deposit should be refunded to those that can secure 10% or 12.5% of the overall vote). The real problem is the two-round first-past-the-post voting system. At a cost of over US $100 Million per round the two round voting system denies minor candidates the opportunity to make a positive contribution in the outcome of the election.

A better alternative would be for Ukraine to adopt a single round preferential voting system where voters rank in order of preference candidates of their choice.

If no candidate has 50% or more votes then the candidate(s) with the least votes are excluded from the count and their votes redistributed according to the voters’ preference. Results known within days not months after the first ballot. One round of voting at half the cost as the two round system.