Poll: Ukraine's Top Politicians Enjoying Less Trust

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s top politicians have seen a drop in public trust, as negotiations among Rada factions to form a coalition government have dragged on into their third month since parliamentary elections were held in March.

According to the results of a survey conducted this June by Democratic Initiatives Foundation, a Kyiv-based non-governmental organization, public trust in all of Ukraine’s top political figures has steadily declined since the beginning of the year.

The least trust is enjoyed by Communist leader Petro Symonenko, with 41.1 percent of respondents saying they do not trust him at all, and another 27 percent expressing partial distrust.

The next least trusted politician in the survey is Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, with 30.5 percent total and 30.4 percent partial distrust among respondents.

Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz, President Viktor Yushchenko and faction leader Yulia Tymoshenko (see table) scored third, fourth and fifth in the poll, which rated six politicians in all.

“The people are disappointed,” said Ilko Kucheriv, head of Democratic Initiatives Foundation. “Politicians have failed to reach agreement on the creation of a government coalition. They have proved incompetent in deciding the country’s fate,” Kucheriv said.

“These days, the electorate is demonstrating a higher level of political and civil awareness than those for whom they voted, and this dragging on of the talks has resulted in people getting deeply disappointed in a number of key political figures.”

Public expectations were too high to begin with, according to political analyst Oles Doniy, who emphasized that public distrust is nothing new even for the country’s current political elite.

“Orange” leaders began experiencing a decline in public confidence as early as last summer, amid the personal conflicts that broke out inside the Orange camp, with the situation becoming further aggravated after the gas conflict with Russia in January.

“Now this tendency is just getting deeper,” Doniy said.

“Today we have the electorate divided roughly in two equal parts. If some third political force appears on the horizon, public trust in current political leaders will fall even further,” he added.

Democratic Initiatives experts also used the poll to estimate how much people’s lack of confidence in key politicians went up within the last half year.

For instance, survey results show that distrust in Viktor Yanukovych, the leader of the Donetsk-based Regions faction, increased by 6.7 percent, doubling since the beginning of the year. Lack of confidence in Viktor Yushchenko, who beat out Yanukovych for the presidency in 2004, rose twofold, by 12.3 percent.

The results for other leading politicians were equally pessimistic.

Distrust in Yulia Tymoshenko increased by 11.6 percent, in Yekhanurov by 19.7 percent, Moroz by 8.6 percent, and Symonenko by only 4.3 percent within the last six months.

Thus, while Symonenko enjoys the highest level of distrust among his countrymen on the whole, the level of this distrust increased less since the beginning of the year in comparison to his political colleagues.

Following the March 26 parliamentary elections, the Regions party has the largest number of seats in the Verkhovna Rada (186), followed by Tymoshenko’s Bloc (129), Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine (80), the Socialists (33) and the Communists (21).

If negotiations on the formation of a coalition continue to drag on through the summer, Doniy sees further, but not drastic, public pessimism, as each parliamentary faction has a stable share of the core electorate.

On the other hand, if new strong politicians appear on the scene, especially outside the parliament, or if a parliamentary opposition is formed, public trust in the leaders of the current five Rada blocs will diminish.

Political analyst Andriy Yermolaev, who believes the coalition talks will continue until the end of the parliamentary session, said a government coalition should be put off until September.

According to Yermolaev, recent months have seen a great deal of political hysteria, which has spoiled the reputations of many politicians, compared to the kind of public support they enjoyed just after the March 26 elections.

Also, Yermolaev said, many of Ukraine’s current economic problems are going to become more obvious in the fall when, in particular, energy tariffs increase again, demanding a resumption of gas talks with Russia. This will therefore be a better time to return to the idea of a broad governmental coalition, he said.

A recent study has also indicated that consumer confidence has dropped in connection with ongoing bickering between Ukraine’s leading political camps and their failure to form a coalition.

A quarterly survey conducted by GfK Ukraine (the Ukrainian affiliate of the international market research firm GfK-Group), and Kyiv-based International Center for Policy Studies (ICPS), found that the Consumer Confidence Index, a measure of the population’s confidence in the future, dropped by 6.6 points to 97.1 between February and June.

The fact that the CCI value is below the 100 mark indicates that negative consumer confidence prevails in Ukrainian society, according to the study, which notes that “consumer confidence in Ukraine deteriorated due to the political uncertainty that has prevailed in the country for more than half a year.”

Some may ask what will happen to public trust in Yushchenko if the Our Ukraine party forms a coalition with the Party of Regions.

Analysts agree that in this case, Yushchenko is likely to suffer a further loss in his popularity. However, popularity figures never change too rapidly.

According to Andrey Yermolayev, significant changes in public opinion are more likely to be observed within several months after a coalition is formed.

Doniy believes an “Orange” coalition, including Yushchenko, Tymoshenko and Moroz, is more probable than one between Yushchenko and Yanukovych.

In the latter case, Our Ukraine will lose part of its electorate, with the most politically aware members deserting to Yulia Timoshenko. He said that Tymoshenko’s flamboyant personality has long since started to overshadow Yushchenko’s.

“This is natural. Her position is much more consistent and still much more aggressive,” Doniy said.

But Democratic Initiatives Foundation’s Kucheriv is not so sure about Yushchenko’s popularity dropping.

“Our Ukraine swore more than once that it would never be with the Party of Regions. Of course, if they now break their promise, they will lose some electoral support,” Kucheriv said.

“But as to Yushchenko himself, his popularity rate is difficult to predict, because he is not positioning himself as an active participant in the coalition talks. So, even if Our Ukraine goes with the Regions, trust in Yushchenko is more likely to remain generally the same.”

Source: Kyiv Post