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.