A woman casts a ballot during a parliamentary election at a school gym in the village of Semenivka near Slavyansk, eastern Ukraine. (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

Waning Enthusiasm For Elections in Ukraine, Explained

The turnout for Ukraine’s crucial parliamentary elections on October 26 has failed to live up to expectations.

by Devin Ackles, Hromadske International

What You Need to Know:

✓ Ukraine’s parliamentary elections were held on Sunday, October 26

✓ According to exit polls, ‘pro-European’ parties have won a large majority of seats for the party list elections

✓In many areas of the country’s most populated region of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces people had no opportunity to cast their ballots

✓ Voter turnout was the lowest it has been in recent years

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Peaceful Elections for a new Wartime Parliament

As the polls closed for the Ukrainian parliamentary elections on Sunday, many were anxious to see which new and old faces were going to be representing them its the 8th convocation. The early elections were one of the key demands of The Maidan Revolution which brought President Poroshenko to power and drove the politicians from former ruling Party of Regions into opposition.

These elections were not without their own incidents or criticism. Many politicians from the former ruling parties (the Party of Regions and the Communist Party of Ukraine), whose votership was largely drawn from Crimea and east and south-east Ukraine, complained that their constituents would not be represented in the upcoming elections due to the ongoing conflict.

KYIV, UKRAINE — OCTOBER 26: A military service soldier of the Ukrainian National Army casts his vote for parliamentary elections at a polling station on October 26, 2014 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Record Number Of Internal Refugees

Overall voter turnout for the elections was slightly lower than it has been in previous parliamentary elections. Just as much as the war itself, population displacement appears to have played some role in the parliamentary elections.

The UN Refugee Agency recently stated that it there were upwards of 800,000 total refugees due to the conflict in east Ukraine, with an estimated 430,000 residing in Ukraine and 387,000 now residing in Russia. Besides those who stayed in the region despite the fighting, many more are now returning as the fighting calms down in some areas.

Ongoing fighting in the east, and the resulting breakdown of basic services, continues to drive more people from their homes. The need for humanitarian aid is increasing particularly around Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv, and in the Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzia regions. Estimates as of yesterday (Thursday 23 October) are that Ukraine’s internally displaced population has risen to 430,000 people, some 170,000 more than at the start of September. (UNHCR Briefing Notes October 24, 2014)
The IDPs picture has changed since the beginning of September, climbing an additional 170,000 people according to the UNHCR

And what about those who could not return home? At the beginning of October the Ukrainian government gave internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Luhansk and Donetsk regions the right to register to vote according to a simplified procedure, basically extending the law that was established for IDPs from Crimea. The new procedure would allow them to vote in the parliamentary elections with a minimum of documentation and bureaucratic red tape, but only for the party list elections, not the single member districts.

Ukraine Votes

UKRAINE, Kyiv : An woman uses a magnifying glass to read her ballot while voting at home in the village of Gornostaypol, some 80 km north of Kyiv, on October 26, 2014, during Ukraine’s parliamentary elections. AFP PHOTO / ANATOLII STEPANOV

Invasion, Occupation and The War

In addition to the 10 districts not participating in the annexed Crimea, 15 of 28 districts in the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces were unable to participate in the elections due to the fact that they were either under separatist or Russian control or located in the war-torn zone. According to Ukrainian civil society organization OPORA, these territories account for approximately 5.3 million of 36 million potentially eligible voters.

Elections in Mariupol, Ukraine’s last stronghold in the conflict-torn East

Eastern Ukraine Mostly Stayed Home

Some eligible voters in Eastern Ukraine, who were able to participate, were not particularly interested in doing so. Many were more preoccupied with their own personal affairs as they try to rebuild their lives and patch up their broken homes. Others in the Ukrainian-controlled territories seem to have lost confidence in the political system altogether, as this Hromadske report shows filmed in the area around Slovyansk, once a separatist stronghold:

Elections in eastern Ukraine. Green = able to vote
Yellow: partially able to vote
Red: not able to vote

In the Luhansk province, according to the Central Election Commission, only 28% of all eligible voters (or roughly 500,000 people) would be able to participate in the elections. In the Donetsk province the CEC says that 45% of eligible voters (approximately 1.5 million people) had the chance to vote.

Ukrainian National Guardsmen look over the lists of candidates in Sunday’s parliamentary elections before casting their votes at a polling station in Mariupol. With hostilities ongoing in the war-torn east of the country, many troops were unable to vote in the contest. IMAGE: MASHABLE, EVGENY FELDMAN

The Consequences of Lower Turnout

The Donbass has long been home to Ukraine’s nominally ‘pro-Russian’ political forces, and the low voter turn-out in these war-torn regions, for better or worse, have shifted the political landscape in Ukraine — perhaps forever. The ‘two Ukraines’ that has long been a staple of any conversation about Ukraine’s internal sociological dynamics appears to becoming more and more of a reality, though the Russian influence much more open and direct now.

Christopher Miller, Senior Correspondent @Mashable

The ‘pro-European’ parties, which include the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko, People’s Front, Samopomich, Batkivshchyna and Svoboda, will dominate the new parliament if exit poll numbers hold true. Both Svoboda and Batkivshchyna are barely above the 5.0% threshold needed to enter parliament, but it appears that ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko’s party will squeak by and make it into the new parliament.

Regardless, their aim is to drive Ukraine westwards through an intense period of reform and restructuring.

All #UkraineVotes exit polls in one place

The former Opposition Bloc, the sole remnant of the Party of Regions to enter parliament, will be a small minority and will have no other parties to ally with. Its only hope now is to secure as many allies from single member districts as it can, which comprise the other half of the seats in parliament, to create an opposition.

Ian Bateson, Hromadske International anchor and @KyivPost reporter

An Engaged Citizenry in Central and West Ukraine

While the overall voter turnout was indeed lower than the previous parliamentary elections, voters showed up en masse in western and central Ukraine to make their voices heard in the next parliament. Some of the highest levels of voter turnout were reported there. Although the question of how representative this new parliament will be and whether or not it will fulfill the mandate of its constituents remains open.

Get more analysis on the voting day from our special The Sunday Show election edition:

Also, all you need to know about 2014 Ukraine Parliamentary Elections. The Ultimate Guide. Turned out as one of our most popular explainers on the web, ever:

Over half of new Ukrainian parliament will be filled with fresh faces.
Our friends from Hromadske investigative team did a small background check. Check it out:

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