AMANDA – Ukraine’s parliamentary election: a new beginning?

Ukraine’s parliamentary election: a new beginning?Today, Oct. 26, Ukrainians will go the polls to elect a new parliament.

The election is important because the current composition of the 450-seat parliament, does not reflect the post-Maidan reality, and is unable to meet the challenges facing the country. In fact, a recent poll showed it has only a 15 percent approval rating.

It is also important for restoring democratic legitimacy. It will probably be the most challenging election Ukraine has ever held because of the ongoing conflict in the east of the country, and the very difficult political, economic and social situation.

During the course of this year, Ukraine has been ripped apart. The war has already claimed some 3,600 lives and created some 360,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Crimea has been annexed by Russia, with a considerable part of the Donbas, the industrial region in the south-east of the country, now under the control of Russian-backed separatists. Voting under the likely fire of Russian-backed separatists and government forces in the east will be no easy feat.

Firstly, the cease-fire agreement remains far from being implemented, including ongoing exchanges of fire as the separatists continue to battle take key infrastructure such as Donetsk Airport. Secondly, the cease-fire is insufficient to ensure that Ukrainians living in the east as well as active soldiers will manage to express their vote.

Some 6,000 candidates are registered for the elections. Around two-thirds of the current deputies are seeking re-elections, including 127 deputies who voted for the January 2014 andldquodictatorial laws.

andrdquo However, current polls show that the party of Ukraineand#39s president, Petro Poroshenko, the Petro Poroshenko Bloc (PPB), is far in the lead with some 38 percent and seems set to have a majority in parliament.This would consolidate Poroshenkoand#39s power and give him a strong mandate to push for reform In the case that the PPB fails to win an outright majority, it seems likely that Poroshenko will form a coalition with Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the current prime ministerHowever, even in the case of a majority we should not presume this will be a magic recipe for change.

Getting rid of old habits will be difficult. Many deputies continue to have business interests that are likely to continue to influence decisions when it comes to adopting certain reforms.

There is also a chance that many old faces will return under the newly created andldquoOpposition Bloc.andrdquo While the Party of Regions of former President Viktor Yanukovych many have disappeared, a number of parties have been formed by its formers members including a number a well-known oligarchs such as Rinat Akhmetov, Sergei Levochkin and Yuriy Boyko.

Many more have also infiltrated into other establish parties including Arseniy Yatsenyukand#39s Peopleand#39s Front Party and the PPB.However, to offset those forces, the first post-Soviet generation including many Maidan activists are running.

While in many cases they are inexperienced and it may take them some time to master the ability to form their own coalitions to allow them to push through their reform agenda, it is nevertheless a positive development.The new government will face tough challenges including the energy crisis, an economy on the brink of collapse, the ongoing situation in the east and the continued external threat emanating from RussiaThe government will need to gain the trust of the population.

A poll by the International Republican Institute poll showed that 71 percent of respondents held an unfavorable opinion of police, 75 percent have a negative view of political parties, 73 percent held negative views of the prosecutorand#39s office and 77 percent of people had negative views of Ukrainian courts. Gaining back the legitimacy of these state institutions will be crucial.

The key will be following through on promises of change and reform While some small steps have been taken including the recent creation of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, which will have law-enforcement powers, the majority of urgent reforms having been stalled under the current parliament. In fact, Ukraine cannot survive without foreign aid and this aid will depend on showing progress on reforms.

A strong Ukraine will only be achieved if elites make a full break with the corrupt and criminal past. In a recent survey, it showed that 55 percent of Ukrainians are willing to live through some economic difficulties in order to achieve a better quality of life.

Ukraineand#39s new government needs to deliver it to a patient and brave population. If it does not, there is every chance, they will take to the streets again.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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