Top Opposition Parties Nearing Agreement

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s two most popular opposition parties are nearing an agreement on backing single candidates in majority districts ahead of October 28 vote, posing a challenge to the ruling Regions Party.

Valentyn Nalyvaychenko

At stake are 225 seats in the 450-seat Parliament that will be decided in the majority districts across Ukraine and where Batkivshchyna and Udar have often competed against each other, benefiting the Regions Party.

The parties, in talks since January, already agreed on 185 districts and are yet to agree on the remaining 40 districts, before announcing the agreement.

“With the help of primaries and opinion polls we will figure out who could be a single candidate in those districts,” Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, a senior member of the Udar party, told Kommersant daily.

The agreement, which calls on the opposition groups to withdraw a weaker candidate and throw greater support behind the remaining candidate in each majority district, may be a game changer.

The failure to agree on single candidates has led to Batkivshchyna and Udar losing several important local elections to the Regions Party earlier this year.

Batkivshchyna has signed a similar agreement with Svoboda, a nationalist opposition party, on candidates running for seats in western regions of Ukraine to eliminate unnecessary rivalry.

But the agreement with Udar, which has strong presence across Ukraine, including key battleground regions in central parts of the country, will be much more important.

A candidate in the majority may withdraw from the race 12 days before the election, which gives Batkivshchyna and Udar 11 days to finalize the agreement.

“Everything will be announced when the agreement is reached,” Rostyslav Pavlenko, a member of Udar party, told Channel 5 television on Thursday.

“Everyone of our candidate understands that if necessary, if a Regions Party candidate may win and if Batkivshchyna candidate has a chance, then our candidate may withdraw from the race.”

A half of Ukrainian Parliament is elected in majority districts and another half is elected on party lists.

The Regions Party increased popular support to 28.1% in August from 27.6% two months ago, according to the poll conducted by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Center and by the Razumkov Center.

Batkivshchyna’s support was unchanged at 25.6%, while Udar’s support rose to 11.5% in August from 9.7% in June, according to the poll.

The Communist Party, an ally of the Regions Party, rose to 8.2% from 7.1%, according to the poll.

The Forward Ukraine party, which is thought to be loyal to the government and has recently recruited soccer striker Andriy Shevchenko, lost to 4% from 4.6%, while the nationalist Svoboda party gained to 3.8% from 3.1%, according to the poll.

A party needs to score at least 5% in order to win seats in Parliament.

The poll was conducted between August 10 and August 15 among 2,009 respondents with margin of error at 2.3%.

Source: Ukrainian Journal