Wikileaks: Ukraine’s election of 2006

Another case of the analysts for the State Department getting things right, at at time when others (such as many, perhaps most news reporters) would be the Ukrainian legislative election of 2006. This was the first election following the Orange Revolution. As I noted at the time, there were media claims that the plurality by the Party of Regions, backing defeated presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, somehow represented a setback for the parties of the Orange Revolution. But, as I also noted at the time, the Ukrainian constitution made it fairly straightforward for a post-electoral majority coalition to form against the plurality party, and thus determine the composition of the cabinet–if they could conclude successful negotiations. The Orange Revolution was a coalition of parties, and they had together won more votes than the Party of Regions. The results actually were a confirmation that the Orange Revolution was ongoing, and represented a real break from previous results, under the pre-reform electoral system, as a table I prepared at the time made clear.

From the cable:

Fundamentally,voting for the Verkhovna Rada reinforced the results of the ultimate Orange win in the 2004 presidential election with remarkably similar aggregate numbers: a majority of Ukrainians supported politicians/parties with overtly pro-Western, pro-reform orientations. The 2006 results also confirmed substantial shifts in the electorate from the 2002 Rada election. […]

Despite incompetence and intra-Orange squabbling by the “Maidan” team in office, significantly lower growth figures, and disillusionment among ordinary
Ukrainians in 2005, voters on March 26 delivered a remarkably similar percentage of votes to the parties who stood together on Maidan as they had to Yushchenko in 2004…

Ultimately, after that election, the Orange parties failed to form that majority coalition, when the Socialists (who had been part of the Orange bloc in 2004) joined with Regions. Although the cable does not predict such a result–its purpose was to review the elections–it does contain what, at least in retrospect, looks like a warning sign:

The Socialists (SPU) can also be considered a secondary winner in the 2006 cycle, even if they aspired to more than the 5.7% they received in their predicted fourth-place finish. The Socialists expanded a nationwide party structure and polled nearly evenly across the country, the only such Ukrainian political force to do so; they confirmed party leader Olexander Moroz’s 2004 presidential first-round third-place support (5.8%), which pushed them past the Communists for the first time as Ukraine’s leading “leftist” (in traditional European terms) force… While the Socialist niche is modest, it is well-defined, with a generally forward-looking, positive political agenda (its economic ideas, however, remain antediluvian).

Perhaps, then, the failure of the Orange parties’ collective majority to cohere into a pro-Western coalition after the election should not have been a surprise–particularly given that “intra-Orange squabbling.” Ultimately, another election in 2007 resulted in the Socialists not returning to parliament, and the Orange coalition finally being constituted–for a while.

All in all, the immediate post-election analysis revealed in the leaked cable was solid. And far better than most media reporting at the time. If only the public could see this sort of reporting in real time–there was nothing in it calling for secrecy–instead of having to rely on reporters and commercial media that are all too often driven by interests other than accurate election coverage.

One thought on “Wikileaks: Ukraine’s election of 2006

  1. What’s going on in the Ukraine? The draft law for the October 28, 2012, election not only raises the threshold from 3% to 5% (which would disadvantage some of the five parties now in Parliament), but changes from a pure-list system back to some kind of mixed member system, almost certainly MMM, which again is said to benefit the ruling Party of Regions (as it generally benefits any “party of power.”) Critics even say that “total government control over the election of half of the deputies in majority constituencies would mean certain death for Ukrainian parliamentarianism.” They also say that both the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute have opted out of the advisory group.

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