Understanding the Ukrainian Crisis: Part IV – The Parties
This issue of “Understanding the Ukrainian Crisis” will differ somewhat from previous installments in that it will not be a chronological recount of events. Instead, this issue will deal with the current Ukrainian government and the parties it is formed of. The three major parties are
3. and Vitaly Klitschko’s Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform.
We will begin with Svoboda. In Ukrainian, Svoboda translates to “Freedom”. Founded 23 years ago as the Social-National Party of Ukraine, Svoboda has a bit of a checkered past. Until the 2012 General Parliamentary Elections, it had never held a seat in parliament (it took 10% of the vote). It’s fascist and anti-semitic tendencies had led it to be criticized by the media, and it earned condemnation from several other parties.
It wasn’t until 2004, when current leader of the party Oleh Tyahnybok was elected head of the party, that Svoboda began to clean up its act. The party made efforts to expel Neo-Nazi elements from its ranks and revamp itself. This may be seen to be a “watering down” of the nationalism of its early years, but to mistake them for giving up their nationalist tendencies would be incorrect.
There exist numerous allegations against Svoboda, among them that Svoboda was caught handing out translated Nazi leaflets in the first decade of the new millenium. Other accusations against the party include anti-semitism and neo-nazism. While these allegations have been, of course, disputed by the party, the stain remains.
Oleh Tyahnybok, head of the party, possesses a slew of diverse and interesting opinions. Foremost of these opinions is the intense belief that Russia is the Ukraine’s greatest threat. Among other things, he is pro-NATO, EU-skeptic, and wants the Ukraine to regain its status as a nuclear power.
Led by the famed Yulia Tymoshenko, of political prisoner fame, Batkivshchyna is incredibly difficult to spell. It is also a major party in the current coalition government. Unlike Svoboda, Batkivshchyna has been represented in parliament since it’s founding by Mrs. Tymoshenko in 1999. The party is immensely popular with Western Ukrainians and draws the majority of it’s support from them (see photo). The party has no set ideology, it seems. It’s main emphasis appears to lie in a desire to, one, join the European Union, and two, improve the standard of living in the Ukraine. Like most parties, they also seek to streamline government and the like. What seems to set Batkivshchyna apart from other parties though, is it’s charismatic leader.
Mrs. Tymoshenko has been the leader of opposition for nearly a decade now. Her imprisonment in 2011, the result of a (possibly) corrupt gas deal, served to increase her popularity in the West, as she was seen as a political prisoner. After her release in 2014, she was cleared of all charges and returned to her duties.
Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform
Headed by Vitali Klitschko, a former professional boxer and celebrity in the Ukraine, the UDAR has been a force for European integration since it’s inception. Founded in 2010 as the legal successor to “Political Party ‘European Capital'”, UDAR won 40 seats in the 2012 election. It has its foundations in a political coalition from Kiev, led by Klitschko, called the Vitali Klitschko bloc.
Like Batkivshchyna, UDAR tends to stray away from sensitive topics, instead focusing on corruption, empowerment of the average Ukrainian, education, and European integration.
Bonus Party: United Russia
Straying from purely Ukrainian politics for a moment, let us learn about the Russian powerhouse party, United Russia. This party, headed by Dmitry Medvedev (Vladimir Putin’s right hand man), currently controls 52% of the Russian parliament, and, quite unlike most parties in the world, holds no coherent or planned ideology. Instead, UR is a catch-all party for politicians and voters loyal to the current administration.
United Russia’s massive success in a multi-party system is largely believed to be because of it’s former leader, the charismatic Vladimir Putin, current president of Russia. Both he and the party are credited with Russia rapid return to the world stage following the dissolution of the USSR. The massive increase in GDP, job growth, etc., has made the party immensely popular.
Debate exists though as to whether or not the monumental growth in GDP for Russia is the result of the UR policies or simply due to the transition from a planned to a mixed economy. While the party does have its detractors, the true measure of any party is its popularity, and in that regard, UR is quite the example.
Coming up in the next issue of “Understanding the Ukrainian Crisis”: The secession and annexation of Crimea.