Ukraine complete results

At last. 100% of protocols have been processed from the parliamentary election of 26 March in Ukraine.

The results show only marginal change from what was reported within a day of the election, and are also close to the exit-poll estimates. The Party of Regions, headed by Viktor Yanukovych, ended up with 32.1% of the votes. The Yulia Tymoshenko bloc took 22.3% and Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine won 13.9%. The Socialist party obtained 5.7%.

While Yanukovych’s support grew and Yushchenko’s declined as votes came in more slowly from the east and south, the ultimate impact was not that great (as can be seen by the previous post where I tracked progress in the count). As the final 39% of votes were counted, Yanukovych’s grew by just under 10% (not percentage points!), Yushchenko’s and the Socialists’ declined by just over 11%, but Tymoshenko’s barely changed at all (-1.6%). That her share stayed largely constant even as later votes counted were more likely to be from the east suggests she is much more of a bridge between east and west Ukraine than her image outside the country as the more radical leader would imply. She is, after all, from the east (specifically, Dnipropetrovsk, where Yanukovych won over 60% of the vote, even in the “clean” final round of the 2004 election).

I have not yet seen preliminary seat estimates, but the calculation of seats in a single nationwide proportional election (with 3% threshold) is straightforward. Regions should have about 186 seats, Tymoshenko about 129, and Our Ukraine about 81. When combined with the 32 (or so) seats won by the Socialist Party, the three parties most identified with the Orange Revolution will have a reasonably comfortable majority of about 243 seats (54%).

[UPDATE, 2 April: Although results are not yet official, a 31 March Kyiv Post article offers seat estimates that agree with those in my paragraph immediately above.]

As I have noted before, despite its rather poor performance, Our Ukraine will remain pivotal. If it wants to reassemble the Orange coalition, that will happen, and Yanukovych’s plurality will be irrelevant. If instead it opts for a grand coalition with Yanukovych, that, too, amounts to a majority.

The only other party to cross the 3% threshold was the Communists, whose 3.7% of the vote should be good for about 21 seats. (Ultranationalist Vitrenko got 2.9%, former parliament speaker Lytvyn’s list got only 2.4%, and 1.8% voted “against all these parties”–all forty five, that is.)

It is worth putting this result in perspective. The table below shows the percentages of votes for the major parties in the just-completed elections in comparison to the 2004 presidential and 2002 parliamentary elections. For 2004, the first round, which was a multicandidate field, is more comparable to a multiparty parliamentary election than the runoff, although the latter is also shown.


As the table clearly shows (and shows even more clearly if you click on it to open up a larger version in a new window) Yanukovych’s 32.1% is down considerably from the 41.4% he (supposedly) won in the first round of the presidential election. This was the basis for my “stunning defeat” headline a few days ago.

However, parliamentary elections are almost always more fragmented than presidential elections (where even for the first of two rounds, we see more alliance building before the election), so the table also allows a comparison only to those parties that cleared the 3% threshold. Looked at this way, Yanukovych ran in place. In either case, the typical media line, at least initially, of a great comeback is hardly supported.

Anyway one looks at it, the two main parties that backed Yushchenko’s candidacy in 2004 outpolled Yanukovych in this election, although given that they did not run a pre-election alliance, there is no guarantee that they will resume governing together. Once again, it is Our Ukraine that will decide that.

The comparison with the previous parliamentary election, in 2002, underscores the extent to which Tymoshenko is really the big winner, and also the extent to which the electoral reform has made a dramatic difference. In 2002, the system was mixed-member majoritarian (or parallel), with 225 single-seat districts (plurality rule) and a 225-seat proportional tier (4% threshold).

In 2002, the party supporting then-President Kuchma (who had groomed Yanukovych as his successor) was significantly overrepresented, because it was one of the few parties running under a label that performed well in the single-seat districts. In other words, it had many more local candidates who were personally popular enough (probably more so than their own party, which commanded only 12.6% of the list vote) to win individual races than did other parties. But this greatly underestimates the extent to which Kuchma (and Yanukovych) were advantaged by the old electoral system, because over one fifth of the members of the parliament elected in 2002 (and, therefore, over 40% of the members elected in single-seat districts) were independents using no party label at all. Many of these collaborated with the administration.

On the other hand, the Tymoshenko bloc and the Socialists were significantly underrepresented in 2002, relative to their list votes, on account of their lesser ability to prevail in local candidate-based races in single-seat districts.

The new electoral system has forced the former independents to declare a party label and to obtain a ranking on a (closed) party list in order to remain in parliament. While it could be said, as the Guardian reported, that

What is most disappointing is that the election campaign remained as personalised and populist as ever, despite a switch to a fully proportional electoral system,

that is only partly true. Yes, these parties ran as the vehicles of known national leaders and not as the clear programmatic organizations expected from a western European perspective. Further, these leaders can be expected to hold tremendous clout over their caucuses, because deputies will owe their election (and possible reelection) to their placement on the list. Nonetheless, the electoral system created a national contest for parliament, somewhat mirroring the presidential contest of 2004 (as the table above shows), and largely ratifying its basic result.

In that sense, the election was a victory for the Orange Revolution and a confirmation of the virtual stasis of Yanukovych’s support–and thus a clear democratic outcome that would have been hidden by the former electoral system and its separate district races for half the seats.


While a 450-seat national closed list is not an electoral system I would ever advise any country to adopt, it served well in the 2006 Ukrainian election.

12 thoughts on “Ukraine complete results

  1. Great blog. I’ll add a link when I have time. I’d have to agree the closed lists will not be appropriate as Ukraine matures as a democratic republic. I was biting my nails and watching Vitrenko’s score last night. She came woefully close to 3%. At the very least, the barrier should be raised to 5%.


  2. I am glad One Eyed Cat mentioned other possible thresholds.

    Assuming the threshold would not have changed the actual vote percentages (not totally plausible, but also not totally implausble), how much difference would it have made?

    At 5%, of course, the Communists would have been out, and so the three-party ‘Orange’ coalition would have around 57% of the seats instead of 54%. Not much difference (aside from being a much more disproportional result).

    At 2.5%, Vitrenko would have made it, and at 2% Lytvyn, too. Even at 2%, the Orange coalition would have been above 50%, but perhaps by just one or two seats (though Lytvyn would put them back up to 53% in this scenario).

    The most important thing is that in none of these could Yanukovych have pieced together a coalition without Our Ukraine (or another Orange party). In fact, even in the unlikely case that Lytvyn would be willing to swing back to Yanukovych’s side, a combination of Regions + Vitrenko + Communist + Lytvyn would still be under 50%.

    In other words, I don’t see much argument to be made for a higher threshold. Even at 3% an awfully high vote total was wasted (over 22%!), and getting a more proportional result (with a lower threshold) would have still permitted the actual reformist majority to be represented as such in parliament.

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  4. I think one of the most beneficial effects of the 3 percent limit is that it will discourage 45 parties from contesting the next election and wasting so much of the vote. It is really amazing that 20 percent of the electorate cast votes that ended up not counting because their party didn’t make 3 percent. Somehow, having an assembly with 3-7 parties or so makes a lot more sense and would do more to encourage good government than a system of dozens of parties and free-floating independents.
    I wonder what would have happened had people been given the Australian ballot where they get to rank the parties?
    When you consider that the Orange forces only received 42 percent of the vote overall, it becomes impossible, really, to determine whether most of the country is still behind the Orange Revolution.
    I’m going to guess that the fault lines remain as they were in 2004. Another question is when or whether some candidate or party will transcend the east-west divide.

  5. The extent of below-threshold parties is pretty mindboggling. It is hardly unprecedented. Russia, Poland, and several other post-Communist countries have had even higher shares of party-list votes not translate into seats.

    I actually prefer smaller (but not too small!) magnitudes to thresholds in national districts. The latter look “easy” to surpass, and thus encourage many parties to run, and many voters to vote for them. Smaller regional magnitudes, provided they do not vary too much in size from district to district, are probably easier to understand. (Everyone can figure out, for example, that if there are 10 seats, then a vote for a party that is certain to be at less than 10% locally is likely wasted.

    The Australian system of transferable votes would require candidate-based voting rather than party lists, and hence, in the Ukrainian situation, would run counter to establishing “an assembly with 3-7 parties…” as a replacement for “a system of dozens of parties and free-floating independents.” I suppose there is no reason in principle why voters could not be asked to rank their party preferences, but that isn’t an electoral rule in use anywhere that I know of, and certainly not in Australia.

  6. When 22.34 percent of Ukrainians have wasted their votes, there’s something to be said for the view of Central Electoral Commission’s head Yaroslav Davydovich that there is a need to raise the threshold.

    Perversely, a low 3% threshold wasted more votes, as it encouraged smaller groups and their supporters to dream of reaching the threshold. I still find the German 5% too high, but as Goldilocks would say, 4% looks just right.

  7. “Smaller regional magnitudes, provided they do not vary too much in size from district to district, are probably easier to understand.” That’s the Scottish manoeuvre, to finesse the threshold issue with unlinked regions. But I disagree.

    First, it doesn’t work: for both the Scottish Parliament elections Labour has won a large “winner’s bonus” in four of Scotland’s eight regions in both elections. Last time, Labour got 38.8% of the seats with only 29.3% of the votes, because the 7 “top-up” MPPs aren’t enough for proportionality, but the other regions aren’t adjusted to correct this, because each region is self-contained, not linked to the others.

    Second, if we want a 4% threshold, you need regions of 25 MPs: perhaps 15 local seats and 10 list seats. That might suit a jurisdiction as densely populated as some German states, and might suit little New Zealand, but in both cases they don’t seem to have much regional sentiment anyway. Where regional lists are wanted, regions of 25 require the creation of regions meaning nothing for the population, because they are too vast geographically.

    Third, where would you find regional magnitudes not varying too much in size from district to district? Scotland is the only such example that I know of. Sweden, Norway and Austria have the best pure-list systems in the world to my taste, and their district sizes are all over the map.

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