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Ukraine’s accelerated parliamentary election in July likely to benefit newer parties, complicating government formation

28 May 2019
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On 21 May 2019, Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelenskyi signed a decree dissolving the Verkhovna Rada (VR), the Ukrainian parliament, and announcing an early election on 21 July 2019.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi  takes oath at the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev, Ukraine on 20 May 2019. (Arda Kucukkaya/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images #1145160057)Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi takes oath at the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev, Ukraine on 20 May 2019. (Arda Kucukkaya/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images #1145160057)

  • During his inauguration speech on 20 May, Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelenskyi announced his intention to dismiss parliament and bring forward the 2019 election. This move was widely expected: the incumbent parliament had opposed him in the March–April presidential election. Zelenskyi used the formal absence of a majority ruling coalition since February 2016 as the procedural basis for dissolution. The election has been brought forward to 21 July from its previously scheduled date of 27 October.
  • Zelenskyi also proposed to cancel the election of MPs in single constituencies, and to reduce the threshold for parliamentary entry under proportionate voting from the current 5% to 3% of the vote, but this initiative was opposed by parliament on 22 May. As a result, the new parliament will be elected using the current mixed system, with 50% of the 450 MPs elected under a proportional voting system and the remaining 50% by a first-past-the-post majority system in single constituencies. Further attempts by the new president to push for changes to the electoral system remain likely ahead of the July vote.
  • The early election is likely to benefit newer parties, some of which only were established earlier this month, with more-established groups likely to lose a significant number of seats. One of the biggest winners is likely to be the Servant of the People (Sluha Narodu, SN) party of President Zelenskyi, which currently enjoys 39% support of decided voters, according to opinion polls. While the party was formally established in 2017, it remains a virtual entity, with no active members, formal senior leadership or defined programme. However, it appears likely to do well following Zelenskyi’s landslide win in the presidential poll.

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