Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ukraine: Return of the Orange?

By MSS

The results of Sunday's parliamentary election in Ukraine are almost final. It looks like the two erstwhile Orange partners, President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine and the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko (BYuT), will have enough seats to reconstitute their coalition, should they be able to conclude an agreement on policy and office spoils.

As was the case in the previous elections of March, 2006, the winner of the plurality of the vote was the Party of Regions, led by Viktor Yanukovych, the man whom Yushchenko defeated in the 2004 "Orange Revolution" re-run of the presidential election that initially had Yanukovych declared, fraudulently, the winner.

However, that is all he has won -- the most votes and seats. The Ukrainian constitution gives no advantage in the government-formation process to the largest party (if it has less than 50% of the seats). It also gives no advantage in government-formation to the president. Rather, a majority coalition must be negotiated among parties in parliament summing to more than half the seats, which then presents its candidate for prime minister to the president (who must appoint that candidate).

After the 2006 elections, it was not possible for BYuT and Our Ukraine to form a majority without another party. It was initially expected that the two parties, plus the Socialists, would form a three-party majority coalition. However, the Socialists ultimately opted to form a government with Regions, thus making Yanukovych the prime minister. This government was unstable, racked with charges of corruption and vote-buying, and ultimately was dissolved, paving the way for these early elections.

The big winner is Tymoshenko, whose party gained a whopping eight and a half percentage points, compared with 2006. The Socialists appear to have fallen below the 3% threshold, barely.

Here are the votes percentages and some other facts about the result, with the 2007 number first and the 2006 number and change from 2006 in parentheses.

    Regions, 34.2 (32.1, +2,1)
    BYuT, 30.8 (22.3, +8.5)
    Our Ukr, 14.2 (14.0, +.2)
    Communist, 5.4 (3.7, +1.7)
    Bloc of Lytvyn, 4.0 (2.4, +1.6)
    Socialist, 2.9 (5.7, -2.8)

    Votes cast for parties below 3% threshold: 11.4 (22.3)
    Lists below the 3% threshold: 15 (40)
    Lists with more than 1%, but less than 3%: 2 (6)
I do not have a turnout figure, but we can surmise from Our Ukraine's raw votes and the fact that as a percentage of the total these did not change, that turnout was down only a little bit. (The Our Ukraine votes were just under 3.3 million in 2007 and just over 3.5 million in 2006.)

Seat estimates are not provided by the Election Commission yet, but the system is one of pure national proportional representation for all parties that cross the 3% threshold. As noted above, the percentage of votes cast on parties that failed to clear the threshold was about half in 2007 what it was in 2006, partly because so few small parties bothered to run this time.

Applying the percentages of each threshold-crossing party to the 88.6% of votes that were "effective" (i.e., not wasted on parties that missed the threshold), we get estimated seat totals as follows:

    Regions: 174
    BYuT: 157
    Our Ukr: 72
    Communist: 27
    Bloc of Lytvyn: 20
If those results hold, then the two Orange partners would have 229, or 50.9% of the 450 seats in parliament, three more than needed to constitute a majority. An election can hardly get closer than that! And if the Socialists yet manage to cross the threshold on a final count, BYuT and Our Ukraine would fall below 50%. It is worth noting that the Bloc of Lytvyn is led by the former parliamentary speaker, Volodymyr Lytvyn, who facilitated the negotiations in 2004 that led to the re-run of that year's presidential election. He would be a potential (though not necessarily reliable) alternative coalition partner should the Socialists' crossing of the threshold turn out to prevent BYuT and Our Ukraine from having a majority.

It is worth emphasizing again that the parliamentary result, whatever it turns out to be in the end, will not be decisive for government formation. Two (or possibly more) parties will have to negotiate to appoint a prime minister and cabinet. Of course, Tymoshenko will insist on not only the prime ministership but probably more than a two-thirds majority of the cabinet posts (her party's proportional contribution to the majority), whereas Yushchenko might try to keep the door open to renewing the coalition with Yanukovych (which would also be a majority), if for no other reason than to keep Tymoshenko from demanding more than he is willing to concede. The president's party may be small, at 14%, but the presidency remains a powerful institution and, more importantly, his party is in a pivotal position in parliament. The negotiations could go on for a while, but right now, things are looking Orange again in Ukraine.

(Cross-posted in the "Ukraine" block at Fruits & Votes.)

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