Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 77

The 1994 parliamentary election was under a majoritarian electoral system, with two rounds of voting for each seat. Under the new electoral law, which is the same as that used in Russia, half the parliament’s 450 seats are allotted to party lists and half to single race individual constituencies.

Eight parties made it into the legislature via the party list contest: the Communist (84), Rukh (32), Socialists/Peasants (29), Greens (19), Popular Democrats (17), Hromada (16), Progressive Socialists (14), and United Social Democrats (14).

The new electoral system was bound to affect the representation of parties in parliament. As before, the four leftist parties form a majority of the deputies. In comparison with 1994 the Communist Party has strengthened its position on the left and the Ukrainian Popular Movement (Rukh) on the right, while there was a small shift of voters from the right to the center. Dominique Arel argued that a key factor in these developments was the fact that several smaller parties failed to clear the 4 percent limit and hence did not share in the party-list seats. This was in large part due to personal rivalries and poor strategic sense by those parties’ leaders. For example, the pro-reform group, which had 25 deputies in the old parliament, split into two factions–the Party of Reform and Order led by Viktor Pynzenyk, and those who followed Serhy Holovaty into the Forward Ukraine bloc with the Christian Democrats. Neither party cleared the 4 percent barrier. The National Front, a bloc of three nationalist parties, declined to join a coalition with Rukh, and went down with just 2.7 percent support. In contrast, the Peasant and Socialist parties formed a coalition and together won 7 percent. The leading parties also did fairly well in the individual races, with the Communists winning 37 and the pro-Kuchma Popular Democrats 13. Although independent candidates won about half the 225 seats, back in 1994 200 independents had won seats in the Rada.

The electoral law tried to encourage the emergence of nationwide parties–by requiring each party to collect signatures in at least 14 oblasts. However, in practice, each party is heavily regional–Rukh in the west, the Communist Party in the east and Crimea, Pavlo Lazarenko’s Hromada in Dnipropetrovsk, and so on. Thus, the parties are more blocs of regional elites than representatives of different points on the ideological spectrum. Having frequent contested elections is therefore a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for an effective system of democratic government to emerge.