Nowhere is democracy’s huge and impressive potential more striking than in Ukraine. The parliamentary elections have confirmed a political shakeup, which offers a lot more than just new faces, says DW’s Bernd Johann.
Nowhere in Europe is a democratic political upheaval unfolding, at least not as energetically and rapidly as in Ukraine. National elections are forcing out unpopular elites — which will not only introduce a new generation of politicians, but will have huge consequences for the political landscape.
The driving force behind this development is the Ukrainian people. They no longer trust the old political groups. Indeed, around half of voters chose candidates from new political parties, and, thus, voted for a radical new start. The old forces and their parties have been severely hit.
More approval for political newcomer Zelenskiy
The votes for the Verkhovna Rada have not all been counted. And as the Ukrainian parliament is made up equally of direct mandates and closed-party lists, it will also take a while before all the prospective power dynamics have been determined. What has already become clear, though is that President Volodymr Zelenskiy’s new party “Servant of the People” has won the vote by a mile. Even an absolute majority is within reach. They are right to demand the right to build a government.
As was expected, ex-comedian and TV star Zelenskiy clung onto his victory from the presidential election in April — which threw him into Kyiv’s political center with a landslide victory. The low turnout at the parliamentary vote is a minor blip in that success. The reason for that — the vote was brought forward and took place right in the middle of the summer holidays.
Ukrainians want a fresh start
Almost every single candidate from “Servant of the People” which has made it into parliament is a nobody. Their weakness is the lack of political experience. But, of course, voters see a clear advantage there — new politicians would bring fresh blood into Ukrainian politics. In a democracy, we call that a new beginning.
It is remarkable that alongside Zelenskiy’s “Servant of the People” group, yet another new party has just made it past the 5% threshold, which you need to get into the Verkhovna Rada. That is “Holos” (Voice), the party led by the popular Ukrainian rock star Svyatoslav Vakarchuk. This party, too, was just recently founded.
Old political class lost big time
The members of the old Ukrainian political class are the losers of this election. Pro-Russian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk and his party “Opposition Platform – For Life” is one of those groups. Medvedchuk tellingly visited Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin shortly before the election. He has very close ties to Putin. “Opposition Platform – For Life” will still be the second biggest party in the Ukrainian parliament with just over 10% of the vote.
But the pro-Russian outfit is no longer the force it was before the war in Donbass. Its rocky performance shows just how much Putin’s aggressively anti-Ukraine politics have weakened the pro-Russian voice in Kyiv.
Yulia Tymoshenko “Fatherland” party and former president Petro Poroshenko’s “European Solidarity” have also lost a lot of political ground. Defeat is particularly painful for Poroshenko. Not even a tenth of voters voted for his party. The poor showing is unlikely to be enough for him to lead a strong opposition. Radical political parties played, incidentally, no role in this election. Contrary to Russian propaganda reports, far-right and fascist parties were absent in these elections, just as they were in the 2014 elections.
Probation begins for Zelenskiy
For President Zelenskiy, his probation period is now about to begin. Most of all he has to get political results, working with parliament in tow. His to-do-list will include presenting ideas for a solution to the conflict with Russia and the separatists in Donbass, but also introduce concrete steps to fight the corruption and nepotism of the extremely wealthy Ukrainian oligarchs. It is not just the voters are who expect progress on that front — Ukraine’s trade partners in Europe are also watching.