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Experts think Sunday's election will not change Ukrainian-Russian relations

October 26, 2012, 19:07 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

Ukrainian citizens go to the polls this coming Sunday to vote in a parliamentary election, which is unlikely to produce any sensational results, analysts say.

Moscow is watching the election to the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s national parliament, with an explicit quiet, and the majority of political experts in both Russia and Ukraine believe the relationship between the two nations will scarcely see any dramatic change regardless of a concrete layout of forces the Sunday voting will bring about.

Deputies of the Verkhovna Rada will be elected upon a mixed pattern – 225 MPs will get their mandates on party tickets and another 225, in single-mandate precincts. Latest opinion polls show that list of parties with the biggest chances to get over the 5% qualification barrier includes the Regions Party, which supports President Viktor Yanukovich, the Batkivshchina /Fatherland/ party of the former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, who is currently serving a jail term for reported occupational abuses, a five-party alliance teaming up with Batkivshchina, the Communist Party of Ukraine, the All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda, and the UDAR reformist democratic alliance led by the boxing champion Vitaly Klichko.

President Viktor Yanukovich’s political prospects, including a possibility of winning the next presidential election in 2015, will depend to a big degree on the Regions Party’s showings in this election.

Opinion polls prove the party’s chances are bright enough, as it is in the lead versus all other competitors, and still a skyrocketing growth of popularity of Vitaly Klichko’s UDAR and the internal squabbles among various factions of the opposition infuse the election with intrigue.

“The main intriguing question is whether or not the Regions Party is destined to retain control of the majority of seats in the Rada,” Dr. Vladimir Zharikhin, a deputy director of the Institute for the Studies of the Commonwealth of Independent States told Itar-Tass.

“In most probability, it will, although forecasts say the Communist Party is like to get a weighty increment of votes this time by winning over the electorate falling off Regions Party,” he said.

The second intriguing question is who will emerge as number two out of the race – the nationalists or Klichko’s party, which unites both nationalists and centrists.

Most supporters of this party “are the individuals who didn’t find a place for themselves either in the ranks of the opposition or within the ruling party and they use Klichko as a battering ram.”

Konstantin Dikan, an expert at the Olexander Razumkov Center is quoted by Nezavissimaya Gazeta as saying the opposition will not be able to get a majority in the new convocation of the Verkhovna Rada either.

“All the regional governors and chiefs of district state administrations are Yanukovich’s appointees and it’s quite understandable they’ll do everything in their power so as to ensure the victory of representatives of the ruling party in single-mandate precincts,” Dikan said.

“Add to this the first place the Regions Party is bound to get on the party tickets and the alliance with the Communists they will likely form in the Rada,” he said. “They have all the chances to get 300 seats in parliament, which makes up a constitutional majority.”

The RBC Daily quotes Vyacheslav Nikonov, the president of the Politika Foundation who believes the next convocation of the Rada will consist of five or four party factions.

The biggest novelty of this electoral campaign is the success gained by UDAR, which has every opportunity now to outdo even the oppositionist bloc, Nikonov says.

“The Regions Party will get the first place and the Communists will pick up the votes of the people in the country’s West who are disappointed with the Regions Party’s performance,” he said.

An important question is whether the ultra-nationalists prove able to make their way into the Rada, Dr Nikonov said. “If they do, this will be a legislature minded rather nationalistically towards Russia,” he said.

In terms of foreign policy, the current election does not seem to have any special significance. According to Vladimir Zharikhin, Moscow is watching quietly the progress of the election race.

“There’s nowhere for Ukraine to go to, as no one is looking forward to meeting and greeting them within ten or so years to come and the EU has grown insensitive to Ukraine’s demarches on the problem of Russian natural gas pricing and transits,” he said.

Andrei Klimov, a deputy chairman of the Duma committee for international affairs recalled the existence of ‘objective reality’.

“As long as we have natural gas pipelines and they /Ukraine/ have a huge number of people speaking Russian and having relatives in Russia, as long as they go to Russia to earn for a living, whoever comes to power there he or she will be compelled to treat us as a strategic partner,” Klimov said.

Who wins this election is not a matter of principle for Russia right now, the Ukrainian political scientist Vladimir Fesenko believes. “First and foremost, this isn’t a presidential election by any means,” he said. “Second, no sensations are expected. Third, political practice has shown one can cooperate fruitfully enough with the Ukrainian opposition, too.”

Ukraine will be drifting closer and closer to Russia irrespectively of who will get votes in the election and how many votes, political scientist Mikhail Pogrebinsky said. “/Ukraine’s/ Trade with Europe is shrinking and the government is accumulating debts and Russia is the only place and a promising market where one can hope for getting support from.”

“Ukrainian industries and the Ukrainian economy generally depend on Russia as a partner and as a market to a much greater degree than Russia needs Ukraine,” Pogrebinsky said.

“Along with this, Ukraine’s final departure towards the EU wouldn’t satisfy Moscow in the geopolitical sense,” he said. “People in both countries understand this perfectly well and that’s why bargaining continues but rather lackadaisically.”

MOSCOW, October 26