Rally around “Ze!” Flag: Ballots as Pitchforks in Ukraine’s Parliamentary Race

08 Aug 2019

(Point & Counterpoint) The Parliamentary election in Ukraine brought resounding victory to the Servant of the People (SoP) party put together around the newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Analyzed here are the results of the parliamentary election and the risks associated with the sudden dominance of the pro-presidential party.

President Zelensky pursued two immediate goals when he announced a snap parliamentary election during his inaugural address in the Rada. First, he sought to maximize the share of parliamentary seats controlled by his political party, SoP. Second, he wanted to reinforce his image of a political disruptor bent on sweeping away the old political guard. On both counts, he hit the mark. His party list received 43.16 percent of the votes, while its candidates won in 65 percent of the single-mandate races. For the first time in Ukraine’s political history, a single party will now control the majority of seats in the parliament. Meanwhile, in July, for the first time in at least a decade, the share of Ukrainians who thought their country was moving in the right direction (41 percent) exceeded the number of those who thought it was on the wrong track (37 percent). Finally, Zelensky’s approval has remained steady since his inauguration with 58 percent of respondents fully or partially satisfied with his activities.

However, the key downside of an early election—the haphazard manner of composing party lists and selection of poorly vetted candidates—will affect both the efficacy of the new parliament and the president’s ability to carry out his central promise of cleaning up the system. While the parliamentary election gave Ukrainians a chance to “kick the rascals out,” it brought to the new parliament a largely inexperienced crowd united only by the superficial “Ze!” brand and tied to the whims of its leader.

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