Ukraine Update 4/29: Polls, Governor Gaggle & Cabinet Commentary

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Written by Brian Mefford

Cabinet Commentary: On April 14th, Parliament approved Volodymyr Groisman as Prime Minister with 257 votes. The Poroshenko Bloc and Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front won over almost a dozen independent MP’s as well as the People’s Will and Renaissance factions to secure the needed votes. The vote to confirm Groisman as Premier was followed by a vote of 239 in favor to approve the Cabinet of Ministers.

It is important to note that the two key votes were passed with the help of the oligarch oriented Renaissance faction (associated with Ihor Kolomoyskyi) and People’s Will (associated with the late Ihor Yeremeyev). The votes were not charitable in nature, but came with strings attached. For example, it was MP Vitaliy Khomutynnik (the Renaissance faction Co-Chairman) who insisted that the price for their votes was that State Fiscal Service Head Roman Nasirov stay in his post. Hence, Premier Groisman’s statement, “Let’s wait and see” when asked about the new government deciding on a replacement. Khomutynnik, a 39 year old, fifth term MP, previously served as the Chairman of the Taxation and Customs Committee in Parliament (2012-2014) and currently remains an influential member of the important Parliamentary Committee. Kolomoyskyi may have extracted additional promises relating to Governor’s in Odesa and Volyn, in exchange for all 23 of the faction’s votes. As for the People’s Will faction, since the death of their leader, the faction members no longer receive the monthly “supplemental” to their official salaries, and as a result there is no cohesion in the group except for self interest. Nonetheless, through self interest or incentives from the Presidential Administration, the faction provided 16 of its 19 votes for Groisman and the new Cabinet. By turning to the oligarchs to provide the key votes for the new government, the President has sent a discouraging signal about the anticipated pace of reforms.

Groisman starts his job with a 15% favorable rating versus 70% unfavorable according to the latest survey by the International Republican Institute (IRI). However compared to outgoing Premier Arseniy Yatseniuk who has a 7% favorable and 88% unfavorable rating, Groisman is not in a political coma. The President has statistically similar ratings to his new Premier, at 19% favorable and 73% unfavorable.

Here is a rundown on the new Cabinet of Ministers:

Prime Minister: Volodymyr Groisman. At age 38, Groisman becomes the youngest Prime Minister Ukraine’s history (edging out Yatseniuk by a year) and the second Jewish Premier. Groisman made his mark as an effective Mayor of Vinnytsia which is the President’s hometown. Following Euromaidan, Groisman became a Deputy Minister for Regional Development, and eventually Speaker before being confirmed as Prime Minister on April 14th. The selection of Groisman is expected to unify the government and avoid conflicts that occurred behind the scenes between Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk.

First Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Economic Development & Trade: Stefan Kubiv. Poroshenko’s Chief of Staff Borys Lozkhin and Deputy Chief Vitaliy Kovalchuk were both passed over for the position which had been vacant since June 2014. This allows Poroshenko to keep his two best political operatives on staff while at the same time being able to promote a close friend to a key post. Kubiv, age 54, has previously served as the Head of the National Bank of Ukraine following Euromaidan. Kubiv will work dually as First Deputy Premier and Minister of Economy. He replaces Aivaras Abromavicius who resigned in February over frustrations with corruption in the government. In his parting statement, Abromavicius said, “I hope that the new government will give jobs to progressive people focused on reforms and I will support these civil servants as much as I can”. Groisman and Kubiv were quick to note to take note, and retain two of Abromavicius’ deputy ministers, Maksym Nefyodov and Yuliya Kovaliv (who was considered for the post of Energy Minister).

Vice Premier for Social Policy: Pavlo Rozenko. The 45 year Minister of Social Policy has been promoted to Vice Premier. Rozenko served as First Deputy Minister of Social Policy under Tymoshenko’s government from 2008-2010 and was elected to Parliament in 2012 from Klitchko’s UDAR party. Rozenko is viewed as a team player who doesn’t threaten the ambitions of others.

Vice Premier for Euro integration: Ivanna Klympush-Tsyntsadze. Klympush-Tsyntsadze (age 43) is the First Deputy Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament. This newly created Vice Premier’s post will work to help Ukraine accelerate its’ European integration. Klympush-Tsintsadze was an MP from the Poroshenko Bloc and previously a Director of Viktor Pinchuk’s Yalta European Strategy (YES) charitable organization.

Deputy Premier for Regional Development, Construction, Housing & Utilities: Gennadiy Zubko. Zubko (age 48) keeps his same post in the new government to manage decentralization and anticipated utility hikes. He has become a reliable minister for both Poroshenko and Groisman.

Deputy Premier for Humanitarian Affairs: Viacheslav Kyrylenko. Kyrylenko surprisingly avoided getting axed and will remain as a Deputy Premier. Instead of focusing on culture though, Kyrylenko’s new duties will be the humanitarian sphere. Kyrylenko, age 47 from Kyiv oblast, is a six time MP and is the highest ranking Yatseniuk minister in the new government.

Deputy Minister for the Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons: Volodymyr Kistion. By elevating the occupation of parts of Ukraine to a Deputy Prime Minister’s position, Poroshenko is keenly working to elevate both domestic and international attention to the restoration of the Donbass. Volodymyr Kistion, age 50, is a former Deputy Mayor of Vinnytsia under Groisman and went with him to the Ministry of Regional Development after Euromaidan. Kistion’s background as the Deputy Mayor for Housing and Utilities could come in handy if there is a real opportunity to begin rebuilding parts of the Donbass. In addition, in late breaking news on Friday, Luhansk Governor Georgiy Tuka was appointed by the President as a Deputy Minister to assist Kistion. Tuka has served as Luhansk Governor since July 2015 and has a military background.

Minister of Foreign Affairs: Pavlo Klimkin. No surprise that Klimkin, age 48, stays in his post as he is appointed by the President and confirmed by Parliament.

Minister of Defense: Stefan Poltorak. Also no surprise that Poltorak, age 51, stays in his post as he is also appointed by the President and confirmed by Parliament.

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Danylyuk, like a rookie quarterback, will find success if he simply follows the IMF playbook

Minister of Finance: Oleksandr Danylyuk. The biggest surprise in the new government was the appointment of Deputy Poroshenko Chief of Staff Oleksandr Danyliuk as the new Minister of Finance. The Western educated, 40 year old investment fund manager would have been a much ballyhooed appointment had it taken place under Yanukovych. However following in the footsteps of Natalie Jaresko who negotiated the largest IMF bailout in history, the announcement of Danyliuk for the post seemed like a disappointment. In addition, Danyliuk spent the first two weeks on the job answering questions about his financial disclosure and offshore accounts. Nonetheless, if Danyliuk simply follows the IMF playbook (requirements), then he will be regarded as a successful Minister of Finance. If he deviates though, then both Danyliuk and the President will go down in history as the buffoons who bungled Ukraine’s finances. Former Slovak Finance Minister Ivan Miklos and former Polish National Bank Head Lech Balcerowicz had also been floated as potential replacements for Jaresko. However neither wanted to give up their Slovak and Polish passports so they joined the government instead as members of the advisory National Reforms Council.

Minister of Infrastructure: Volodymyr Omelian (age 37). Omelian takes over for his former Andriy Pivovarskyi as the Minister of Infrastructure. Omelian had served as his Deputy Minister prior. “Everything that Andriy Pivovarskyi and us as his team were doing, we are doing systematically” said Omelian. The appointment of Omelian is generally viewed as one of the potential bright spots in the new Cabinet of Ministers. Omelian is supported by the People’s Front faction.

Minister of Interior: Arsen Avakov (age 52). One of Yatsenyuk’s requirements before resigning as Prime Minister was that Avakov stays on as Interior Minister. Yatseniuk got his wish despite criticisms of the minister and open fight with Odesa Governor Saakashvili. Avakov gets credit for the patrol police reforms which have been one of the more noticeable changes made by the post-Euromaidan governments.

Minister of Justice: Pavlo Petrenko (age 36). Yatsenyuk’s other key insistence before resigning was that his boyhood friend Pavlo Petrenko remains as Justice Minister. Yatseniuk prevailed on this matter as well. Petrenko has strong influence within the People’s Front faction and is a rising star in Ukrainian politics.

Minister of Social Politics: Andriy Reva. Reva was the Deputy Mayor for Social Policy in Vinnytsia, and is an ally of Premier Groisman. He is seen as a capable “nuts and bolts” manager.

Minister of Energy: Ihor Nasalyk: The Ivano Frankivsk businessman and formerly Poroshenko Bloc MP is the new Minister of Energy. Poroshenko had long fought with Yatseniuk to keep Volodymyr Demchyshyn in the post. However, ultimately Yatseniuk won the day and Demchyshyn was transferred to the Supervisory Board of UkrNafta as the official Presidential Representative. Meanwhile Nasalyk, age 55, was quick to announce that there will be no negotiations with Russia on has “until the end of the Stockholm proceedings” which will be heard this autumn.

Minister of Information: Yuri Stets (age 40). Stets will remain the head of the controversial ministry. Despite calls to close the ministry by journalists and the international community, the ministry will continue operating which can only be explained by the Stets’ close friendship with President Poroshenko. Poroshenko is the godfather, and First Lady Maryna Poroshenko is the godmother of Stets’ daughter.

Minister of Culture: Yevheniy Nyshchuk. Nyshchuk, age 43 from Kyiv, returns to his post as Minister of Culture. Nyshchuk became well known as the “master of ceremonies” during Euromaidan and became a minister in the first Euromaidan government. Nyshchuk is part of the President’s team in the Cabinet.

Minister of Education: Liliya Hrynevych. Hrynevych, age 50 from Lviv, will move from Chairing the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Science as a member of the People’s Front faction to become the new Minister of Education. Hrynevych is a supporter of standardized testing for university admissions, and is well regarded in the educational community. Outgoing Minister Serhiy Kvit received the consolation prize of being named as an Adviser to the President.

Minister of Ecology: Ostap Semerak. In another surprise move, Ostap Semerak from the People’s Front will serve as the new Minister of Ecology. Semerak, age 43 from Lviv, is a rising star and served as Minister to the Cabinet of Ministers in the first post-Euromaidan government. Though Semerak has worked in politics most of his adult life and not in ecology, he is considered an effective administrator. In one of his first statements after taking office, Semerak said that Ukraine should stop paying Russia for storage of nuclear waste and deposit it in Chornobyl instead. The Ecology Ministry post was a last minute gift to the People’s Front faction.

Minister of Youth and Sports: Ihor Zhdanov. Zhdanov was Tymoshenko’s only minister in the previous government. However when she announced her move into opposition, Zhdanov broke with Tymoshenko and remained in the post. He was awarded accordingly by being endorsed by the People’s Front to keep his job in the new government. Zhdanov is a skilled political operative who has adapted well to his ministry post.

Minister to the Cabinet of Ministers: Oleksandr Saienko. Saienko will move from serving as the Head of the Secretariat of Parliament, over to the Cabinet of Ministers. Saienko, age 33, is a former Assistant to Speaker Groisman.

Minister to the Agrarian & Food Policy: Taras Kutoviy. Kutovyi (age 39) will give up his Chairmanship of the Parliamentary Committee on Agrarian and Land Issues (from Poltava District #151 in Lohvytsya) to become the Minister of Agrarian and Food Policy. In addition to his resignation resulting in a special Parliamentary election for his seat in Poltava oblast, Kutoviy’s departure as Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Agrarian and Land Issues is likely to result in one of the current Deputy Heads of the Committee taking his place. MP’s Hryhoriy Zabolotnyi and Oleksandr Bakumenko from the Poroshenko Bloc are both current Deputy Heads and have the greatest chance to become Chairman. A third Deputy Head, Vadym Ivchenko from Motherland, is not likely to get the post due to his faction’s opposition to the current government.

Minister for the Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced People: Vadym Chernysh. Chernysh, age 44 from Kharkiv, is a former Governor of Kirovohrad under Yushchenko (2006-2007).The minister for the new post will oversee assistance and restoration matters for the occupied Donbass and Crimea. Chernysh’s candidacy is believed to have been lobbied by Poroshenko Bloc Deputy Faction Head MP Oleksandr Tretiakov (Kyiv District # 219, Sviatoshyn Rayon).

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It’s unknown who will be Ukraine’s new Minister of Health, but if they practice the Hippocratic oath and “do no harm” – it will be an improvement over the past

Minister of Health: ??? The Ministry of Health remains the one Cabinet post that is unfilled. First Deputy Minister Oleksandra Pavlenko, a former Serhiy Tyhypko lawyer, has tried to manage the vacancy by stating that Deputy Minister Roman Vasylyshyn is the Acting Head of the Ministry, although it would appear that Pavlenko is actually in charge. The previous Minister, Georgian born Oleksandr Kvitashvili wrote four resignation letters due to his frustration over not being able to change anything. However, Parliament only officially removed him from the past this month. Numerous names have been floated including current Deputy Minister Ihor Perehinets, Poroshenko Bloc MP Oleksiy Goncharenko, Deputy Poroshenko Administration Chief of Staff Dmytro Shymkiv (who refused), and recently, surgeon Andriy Verba from Vinnytsia. Verba has helped many wounded war veterans, but the addition of another Cabinet Minister from Vinnytsia is testing the public’s tolerance of the President. However another intriguing name that has entered the mix of that of Poroshenko Bloc MP Mariya Ionova. Ionova has spent extensive time providing humanitarian assistance to soldiers on the front and is one of the rising stars within the faction. However Ionova is apparently dismissing the talk and seems content to remain in Parliament.

National Bank Governor: Valeria Gontareva appears to be staying in the post for now. Gontareva is a close Poroshenko ally and a scandal linking her to a Russian business partner appears to have died faster than it appeared.

Speaker of Parliament: Andriy Parubiy.Parubiy, age 45 from Lviv, is a lawyer and three term Member of Parliament from People’s Front. He served as Chairman of the National Security and Defense Council for a two month period in 2014 at the height of the anti-terrorism operation in the Donbass.

Vice Speaker of Parliament: Iryna Herashchenko. MP Iryna Herashchenko, age 44, from the Poroshenko Bloc replaces Parubiy as Deputy Speaker. Herashchenko’s work with humanitarian assistance to soldiers on the front has won praise.

Prosecutor General: Yuri Lutsenko (???), the 49 year Chairman of the Poroshenko Faction, is emerging as the winner of the marathon race to replace controversial Prosecutor Viktor Shokin. Though not a lawyer, Lutsenko is relying on Parliament to relax the rules to pave the way for his appointment. This has led fellow Poroshenko Bloc MP Serhiy Leshchenko to mockingly offer his own candidacy for the post of Prosecutor General. While both Lutsenko and one of his main competitors, Anatoliy Matios, are liked by the West, the President doesn’t consider Matios as “his guy”. Thus, Matios, the Chief Military Prosecutor, current Deputy Prosecutor General, and brother of Poroshenko Bloc MP Mariya Matios, appears to be out of consideration. In a compromise move to secure the support of the People’s Front faction, MP Dmytro Storozhuk is said to be the proposed First Deputy Prosecutor. Storozhuk, a 30 year old native of Vinnytsia, was the Deputy Head of Yatsenyuk’s Front for Change party’s legal department from 2012-2013 and has worked as a lawyer. Thus in this situation, Storozhuk would be the prime legal mind at the Prosecutor’s Office, while Lutsenko would be the political figurehead with direct access to the President. A vote to confirm Lutsenko is expected on or after May 10 when Parliament returns from May holidays.

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The Minsk negotiations are an endless cycle. Just like Sisyphus who pushed the boulder up the mountain every day, only to see it roll down to the bottom each night

Other Personnel Moves: Roman Bezsmertnyi, Ukraine’s Representative for the political subgroup of the Trilateral Contact Group working on the Donbass in the Minsk format, has announced his resignation. He will be likely be replaced by civil society watchdog OPORA’s Chairwoman Olha Aivazovska. Bezsmertnyi said, “Everything is currently concentrated on elections, in which she is a specialist”. However Bezsmertnyi is a “black belt” political strategist and elections expert. Bezsmertnyi served as President Kuchma’s Chief of Staff, Yushchenko’s 2004 Campaign Manager, a Vice Premier in the Yushchenko government, and Ambassador to Belarus. It is more likely that the 50 year Bezsmertnyi, sees the Minsk process as a Sisyphus errand with no real end or positive resolution. Bezsmertnyi hinted as much in his final interview this week by stating, “Elections in the Donbass will not be this year or next year”.

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The new civil service law creates an ‘X Factor” competition to select governors and rayon heads

A Gaggle of New Governors: With a new civil service law set to take effect on May 1st, the President is wasting no time in replacing Governors around the country. Currently under the Constitution, the appointment of Governors is the sole prerogative of the President. However under a law set to take effect on Sunday, future gubernatorial and rayon administration heads will be selected by a government commission and a series of public hearings. This “X Factor” style selection process for Governors will certainly be more democratic than the current system of Presidential appointments. However, how it will actually be implemented remains to be seen and most analysts anticipate it will simply bureaucratize the process rather than improve it. Hence, President Poroshenko’s statement to the National Reforms Council that the new law on civil service “should be revised”.

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Ukraine may soon have its own prefects if decentralization passes. However it’s doubtful that any will be as suave and clever as Casablanca’s Captain Louie Renault…

Following Euromaidan, there was brief hope that Ukraine would return to the direct election of Governors as it had prior to the 1996 Constitution. However the Russian annexation of Crimea followed by their military occupation of the Donbass eliminated the direct election of governors from the agenda. As one Presidential Secretariat staff member said, “we can’t give the Russians the opportunity to be able to bribe just one directly elected governor so that he declares that his oblast is seceding and joining Russia. Kyiv needs to keep levers of control to prevent this real danger”. Nonetheless, direct elections of Governors are consistently supported by more than 70% of the population. However none of this will matter much if decentralization is passed this summer by Parliament. If decentralization is passed, Governors and rayon heads will be replaced by elected oblast councils and presidentially appointed “prefects” whose only function will be to prevent separatism and unconstitutional acts. For example, the presidentially appointed prefects won’t be involved in the local governments’ budget debates over roads, schools, hospitals, etc. However if a council attempts to secede or take unconstitutional actions, then the prefect would intervene to prevent it, making use of the full powers of the President and security structures. Assuming the government will somehow manage to find 300 votes in Parliament to pass decentralization this summer, as well as pass “about 500 laws and regulations to complete decentralization”, the positions of Governors and rayon administration heads will be phased out by April 2018. However at the moment, the government is still at least 35 (if not more) votes short of the mark and no decentralization votes will be taking place before July at the earliest. In the meantime, President Poroshenko has been busy make last minute appointments. For example, 91 of 193 appointments and firings of heads of rayon administrations have taken place in the last week. In addition, the President has appointed several new Governors over the last week including:

Zaporizhya Governor Konstantyn Bryl.
Bryl, age 46, was born in Donetsk and has the rank of Major-General in the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). Bryl has also served as a General-Major of the Tax Police and in the Customs Office. Since September last year, Bryl has served as First Deputy Head of Zaporizhya Oblast. He replaces Valentyn Reznichenko who was an ally of oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi.

Khmelnytskiy Governor Oleksandr Korniychuk
. Korniychuk, age 46, was an elected MP from the UDAR party list (#24) from 2012-2014, and owns a large swine farm near Starokostyantyniv in the oblast. Last summer Korniychuk became the Chairman of the People’s Control Political Party in Khmelnytskiy.

Kherson Governor Andriy Hordeyev. Hordeyev, age 33, was elected to Parliament in Kherson district #183 (City of Kherson, Komsomolskiy Rayon) in 2014 with the Bloc of Poroshenko. He defeated independent MP Mykhailo Opanashenko by a 27-11% margin. Prior to the election, Hordeyev had served as an assistant to a Member of Parliament. He replaces Andriy Putilov who resigned after being elected as the Head of the Oblast Council in the October local elections. Putilov was also originally a UDAR MP.

Rivne Governor Oleksiy Muliarenko. Muliarenko
, age 39, is the deputy director of marketing for TOV Stal, was active in the Rivne UDAR political party, and is an assistant to a Member of Parliament. Last October Muliarenko ran for Mayor of Rivne with the Bloc of Poroshenko and finished fourth with 9% (versus 39% for incumbent Volodymyr Khomko).

Luhansk Governor Yuri Harbuz the Poroshenko Bloc MP became the surprise choice as Luhansk Governor following the shuffling of Georgiy Tuka to Deputy Premier for Temporary Occupied Territories and Displaced Persons on Kate Friday. Harbuz was elected to Parliament from Luhansk District #114 in 2014 as an independent by a 26-18% margin over a rival from Tyhypko’s Strong Ukraine Party. Harbuz, age 44, then immediately joined the Poroshenko faction once he was sworn in. As a a native of Milove in Luhansk where he served on the city council in 2002, it is hoped that Harbuz will be respected by the locals.

With less than 24 hours before the deadline there is also talk that Poroshenko may also replace the Governors of Volyn, Cherkasy, and possibly Odesa too. In Volyn, Governor Volodymyr Hunchuk was served since July 2014, and prior was an executive in Poroshenko’s “Bohdan” bus building factory in Lutsk. However the 57 year Governor is viewed as too weak to overcome the intrigues of Kolomoyskyi confidante and local businessman/politician, Ihor Palytsya, who served as Odesa Governor prior to Saakashvili.

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Could Cherkasy, the birthplace of Taras Shevchenko, become Misha Saakashvili’s new lab to conduct reforms?

In Odesa, Governor Saakashvili has long since tired of the corrupt port city, and spends much of his time in Kyiv (more recently at San Paolo restaurant) plotting his new political party. While Poroshenko apparently offered Saakashvili a Deputy Chief of Staff post within his administration, the former Georgian President declined. More recently, Saakashvili, frustrated by his lack of an influential post in the new government, has made increasingly demanding ultimatums of the President by insisting on full control of the SBU, Tax Administration, and Prosecutor’s Office in Odesa. Instead Saakashvili has been forced to settle for funding for the long awaited Odesa-Reni highway which will supposedly start at the end of next month. Saakashvili has even threatened to return to Georgia if his party wins the Parliamentary election there this October (not likely). Meanwhile the President’s patience with Saakashvili has also been wearing thin. A “half” joking scenario mentioned by Bankova Street was to exile Saakashvili and his Georgian team to Moldova, where Misha would serve as Ukraine’s Ambassador (emphasis on “half”). Another scenario though puts Saakashvili as the new Governor of Cherkasy, replacing Yuri Tkachenko who has served since Euromaidan. Not only is Cherkasy far easier to govern than unruly Odesa, but it gives him closer proximity to Kyiv (two hours drive versus five from Odesa). In this case, Cherkasy would become the new laboratory for reforms in Ukraine. The generally pro-Western electorate and lack of strongly entrenched business interests (like in Odesa) might prove more fertile territory for delivering the results the West is impatiently looking for. While both scenarios are unlikely (the former more so), it does signify the growing rift between the President and Saakashvili.

Of course, if Saakashvili was shuffled off to Cherkasy, it would open a vacancy in Odesa. Interestingly, of the six candidates initially mentioned, four are Kolomoyskyi allies, including three Odesa MP’s in the Renaissance Faction: Oleksandr Pressman (District #139 Rozdilna), Vitaliy Barvinenko (District #141 Bilhorod-Dnistrovskiy) and Vasiliy Gulyaev (District #140 Bilyayivka), as well as MP Viktor Bondar who is another Renaissance Faction MP (District #191 in Starokostyantyniv in Khmelnytskiy). Opposition Bloc MP Vadim Rabinovich, who received 6% of the vote in Odesa during the 2014 Presidential race, was also mentioned. The fact that the President is even considered ceding Odesa to either Kolomoyskyi or the Opposition Bloc, gives one an indication that despite the sound bites, little substantive change has taken place in Odesa over the last year. The other candidate mentioned is Zakarpattya Governor Gennadiy Moskal, whose strong management skills have made him Governor of Zakarpattya and Luhansk twice, and also once as the Permanent Representative to Crimea (under Yushchenko). While it is likely that no other changes in the Governors posts will take place before Orthodox Easter Sunday, May 1st, it cannot be ruled out.

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Poll of Polls: With the confirmation vote in favor of Volodymyr Groisman as Prime Minister, Ukraine will now likely avoid new Parliamentary elections this year. Barring a collapse of the thin Parliamentary majority, Groisman has a one year period to perform before he can be dismissed. This essentially means that there will no new Parliamentary elections until at least summer of 2017. However, that has not stopped the politicians from jockeying for political position and preparation for future elections – whether they will be next summer or in autumn 2019 as scheduled. Based on an average of the four latest polls on “if the Parliamentary election was held today”, here are the numbers:

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A graph representing the last 4 polls and the results for the major parties

These four polls taken over the last two months, show Yuliya Tymoshenko’s Motherland Party at 12.9% and in the lead. Tymoshenko has always had a hardcore 13% of the electorate which would vote for under most any circumstances. Tymoshenko received 13% against Poroshenko in the May 2014 Presidential Election, but her party slipped to 5.5% in the October Parliamentary Election that year. However, Tymoshenko’s populist slogans and recent opposition to the government have allowed her to regain her standing with her core voters. Her current 12.9% translates into 50 seats in Parliament, up from her current 19. In addition, it now likely that her party could win an additional 10-12 single mandate seats in Kyiv and the west, that would give Tymoshenko over 60 MP’s if the election was held today. Another factor that inevitably will enhance Tymoshenko’s Motherland Party’s rating is the eventual release of Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko. Tymoshenko made Savchenko first on her party list, in a shrewd political move in the autumn of 2014. At the time, Savchenko was nowhere near the household name that she is now. With the release of Savchenko now appearing sooner rather than later, upon her return to Ukraine, Savchenko will be the highest rated politician in the country. Fame is of course fleeting, and in the interim, Tymoshenko will have to demonstrate an ability (so far not seen) to deal constructively with another powerful and popular woman. Nonetheless, in the short term, Motherland’s Party’s rating will continue to rise and possibly even surge when Savchenko returns to Ukrainian soil.

The Opposition Bloc is currently running second at 11% in the latest composite average of polls. This would give them 43 MP’s from the party list. Assuming their 11 incumbents from single mandate districts would be re-elected (highly likely). In addition, it is now likely given the general discontent with the government, that Opposition Bloc candidates could also win at least 15 districts in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Zaporizhya, and Dnipropetrovsk. If and when (a big “if”) elections are held in the 15 occupied districts of the Donbass, then that could easily add another 15 seats to the Opposition Bloc’s total. That would give the Opposition Bloc close to 70 MP’s if the election was held today, and around 85 MP’s if elections are held in the occupied Donbass.

“Slow and steady wins the race” and that seems to be Samopomich’s strategy at the moment. Now that the party is in opposition to the government, they can no longer be blamed for its failures. Samopomich is banking on this to not only help them maintain the 11% they received in 2014, but to build on it. Currently the polling average has then at 10.4%, which would give them 41 seats in Parliament. This would be a noticeable increase from their current 26 (down from a high of 32 after the October 2014 election). It is possible that in the west, Samopomich might be able to win a handful of single mandate districts if the government’s popularity doesn’t improve. That would give the party around 45 seats in the new Parliament.

The party in power always suffers the most when there is public discontent. As a result, the Poroshenko bloc is currently polling an average of 9.6%. That would translate into a mere 37 seats in Parliament. However with the powers of the incumbency (and now control of the Prime Minister’s post too), the party would certainly be able to up their numbers to around 13% – the same as “Za Yedynu Ukrainu” (For a United Ukraine) achieved in 2002. In addition, the party will retain around 2/3 of the 68 single mandate seats they won in 2014. That would give the Poroshenko Bloc close to 90 MP’s if the election were held today. Since the Poroshenko Bloc once had 150 MP’s in the faction, they would clearly have the most to lose from new elections in Ukraine.

Oleg Liashko’s Radical Party is also now in opposition to the government and their numbers are averaging 7.7%. This would give the Radicals 30 MP’s if the election was held today – up from their current 21. They remain unlikely to win any single mandate districts though.

The newcomer on the political stage is the so-called “Misha Movement” led by Odesa Governor Mikheil Saakashvili. While his yet to be named and created party isn’t included in all of the polls yet, it will clearly be a winning force in any early Parliamentary elections. The “Misha Movement” (for lack of a better name) is currently averaging 6.6%, but the reliable IRI poll puts him as high as 10%. This would give the “Misha Movement” 24 seats in the next Parliament. It is also reasonable to calculate that candidates backed by Saakashvili could win up to a dozen single mandate districts. This would give the former Georgian President 35 seats in the next Parliament. However, Saakashvili has upward potential to increase his party’s rating. Historically in Ukraine, a party will receive votes based on half of their leader’s favorability rating. While Saakashvili’s rating is sliding (down to 34% positive from 40% earlier this year), that formula would give his party around 15-17% of the vote – and put him in competition with Tymoshenko for first place. In that scenario, Saakashvili is looking at closer to 80 MP’s in the next Parliament.

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An estimate based on current polling averages of the number of seats in parliament for each major party if the election was held today

As for other parties, none are currently averaging more than the five percent minimum to win seats in Parliament. Svoboda is closest at 4.5% and would probably retain their six single mandate districts. The MP’s from the Renaissance and People’s Will factions are likely to be re-elected given their financial resources. The same goes for the 44 current independent MP’s too. Ukrop, oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi’s political project, was once promising but now appears to be withering on the vine, as the oligarch and his team lay low in Geneva following the arrest of Gennadiy Korban. Nash Krai, the constructive opposition party created for the local elections last year, could win some single mandate districts – if there is an effort to develop and maintain the party. Beyond that though, there are not many opportunities at the moment for other parties to win Parliamentary seats. Suffice to say that the only real beneficiaries of new Parliamentary elections at this time are Yuliya Tymoshenko and Mikheil Saakashvili. The clear losers would be People’s Front and the Poroshenko Bloc. Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front is far from five percent and would have difficulty holding on to more than ten of the current 20 single mandate seats if the election was held today. Thus, an agreement on no early Parliamentary elections was a key demand made by Yatseniuk prior to his departure. His guarantor, President Poroshenko, is likely to keep his promise to Yatseniuk since his party would also suffer huge losses in early Parliamentary elections.

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