There may have been a lot of wasted votes in the parliamentary election in Ukraine, with over 22% of the votes having been cast for parties that failed to clear the 2% threshold. But that’s really nothing compared to the Kyiv mayor’s race, decided by a plurality of the vote.
With over 80 percent of the ballots counted on March 29, Chernovetsky had 32 percent of the vote, well ahead of former heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko (23 percent) and [two-term incumbent Oleksandr] Omelchenko (21 percent), despite long-running polls showing a different picture.
A pre-election poll had put Omelchenko ahead with 26%, but also showed 27% undecided, the Kyiv Post reports.
Obviously, voters can’t vote strategically, even if they might want to do so, without good information. And with many voters undecided, good information is hard to come by.
Chernovetsky is 29th on the pro-presidential Our Ukraineâ€™s party list, which means he is guaranteed a seat in parliament as well.
So, this, in part, answers a question I have had about how a closed-list system is going to work in Ukraine’s single national district. One of the potential problems of closed lists in very large-magnitude districts (and 450 certainly qualifies as “very large”) is that not only do voters have no way to favor one or more candidates within the list over others, but they also may not know who is on the list, and there may be no effective local representation (because national party leaders determine the order of the list).
One way around that is for parties to place mayors or–if simultaneous candidacies are allowed–mayoral candidates, on the list. Then the mayor (or candidate) can serve as the “local face” of the party. If voters who might not otherwise support the party are drawn to it because they like the mayoral candidate who is also on the list, then a “personal vote” may have helped the party notwithstanding that there is no candidate vote for Ukrainian parliament. (Of course, the presence of the victorious mayoral candidate on the list is not evidence that such a personal vote existed, but it is evidence that the party believed it would exist.)
Similar strategies are used in Israel, also a closed-list system in a single nationwide district (albeit in a mere 120-seat district and in a much smaller country). In fact, I have seen a paper that shows that there is actually a very high degree of local representation in Israel, as parties seek to offer regional balance on their lists, in part by the use of mayors as legislative candidates.
Back in Kyiv, the Tymoshenko bloc is expected to have won around a third of the seats on the 120-seat city council. The new mayor’s party, Oour Ukraine, is expected to come in second. Apparently, there was a good deal of ticket splitting. I would normally expect divergence between parties’ votes in the executive and legislative races with plurality for mayor and PR for council; however, I would not necessarily expect it when the plurality race had shown so little consolidation of the leading candidates’ vote shares. That it happened is more suggestive evidence that Chernovetsky had a personal vote, and thus outpolled his party.*
* If anyone has the party votes breakdown in Kyiv (and elsewhere) in parliament and council elections, please post–or provide a link or a guide to how to find the link. I was looking for it on the Election Commission website, but could not locate it, since my Ukrainian reading level is somewhat low (understatement alert!!).