20 Years of Leading Analysis
  • Ukraine Election Countdown: 5 Days Remaining

    Posted by: Yuliya Bila, Isaac Webb October 21, 2014

    With less than a week left until the Ukrainian parliamentary elections, there is growing uncertainty about whether the new parliament will provide a boost to President Petro Poroshenko's flagging reform agenda and attempts to manage the extremely fragile situation in the east. 

    Cleaning House in Kyiv

    Ukraine’s controversial lustration bill, signed by President Petro Poroshenko last week, is having an immediate effect on governance in Kyiv and beyond. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has already announced that 39 top Ukrainian officials will lose their jobs. “These are heads of central executive agencies, first deputy ministers, deputy ministers, members of national commissions and one head of a regional state administration," said Yatsenyuk. In a mid-September speech, the prime minister claimed that upwards of one million officials might be affected by lustration based on their former affiliation with the KGB, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, or the administration of former President Viktor Yanukovych. The law does not apply to elected officials such as members of parliament or the president himself, but is expected to pose particular challenges for government bureaucracies like the Prosecutor General’s office and the Ministry of Interior. The Kharkiv Human Rights Group estimates that 95 percent of management-level figures in law enforcement agencies could be affected. The imminent dismissal of civil servants in such numbers raises troubling questions about how effectively Ukraine’s badly troubled state institutions will be able to cope with their responsibilities while short-handed.

    Showdown Over Parallel Elections in the Donbas

    Shunning the national parliamentary elections, the authorities of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) plan to hold separate elections on November 2 to elect a “head of state” and new regional parliament. The separatists have largely rejected the law on “special status” for certain territories of the Donbas that President Poroshenko pushed as part of the September 5 Minsk ceasefire and are opposed to holding local elections on December 7 as mandated by the legislation. DNR “Vice Premier” Andrei Purgin has suggested that the vote in early November will be used to elect representatives who will negotiate the exact terms of the region’s status with Kyiv. Following a series of consultations with President Vladimir Putin and European heads of state at the Asia-Europe Meeting in Milan, President Poroshenko declared that the “fake elections” would not be recognized by Ukraine, Europe, or Russia.

    Disenfranchisement in the Donbas

    The Central Election Commission announced on Friday that it will not have access to 14 of 32 single-member electoral districts in Donetsk and Luhansk regions where pro-Russian separatists are in control. (This is in addition to the 12 districts in Crimea that will not send representatives to the new parliament.) By some estimates, more than half of the population of the Donbas will be unable to vote in the election. Apathy about the election in the region is an additional headache for the Poroshenko government. A Rating Group poll conducted from October 1 to 8 suggests that a mere 13 percent of Donbas residents plan to vote. This lack of participation in the election is likely to continue the country’s deep regional divide and aggravate fears in the conflict zone that the views of the Donbas will not be adequately represented in Kyiv. Serhiy Tigipko’s “Strong Ukraine” and the Opposition Bloc are trying to take the place of the collapsed Party of Regions and Ukrainian Communist Party in catering to Russophone voters not sympathetic to the central government, but polls show that both groupings are barely over the 5 percent needed to enter the Rada via party list.

    Joining Forces Against the Competition

    Fear of fratricide among pro-reform candidates is causing last-minute changes in highly-contested single mandate districts across the country. (N.B. Half of the parliament’s 450 seats will be filled through head-to-head races in such districts.) On October 11, several pro-European parties announced their decision to back a single candidate to prevent Yanukovych-era candidates from winning seats in the parliament. The Poroshenko Bloc, which consistently polls at least 20 percentage points above all other political parties, has announced that it will withdraw candidates from 20 districts where other pro-reform candidates appear competitive.

    Votes For Sale

    Ukraine’s current electoral system lends itself to corruption on almost every level. Cynics argue that winning a seat in parliament can be as simple as buying one’s way on to a party list or bribing voters in a single-member electoral district. Civil society groups allege that candidates in some districts have purchased votes for as little as 200 hryvnia (approximately 15 dollars). Vote buying was the focus of the October 17 edition of “Shuster Live,” Ukraine’s most popular political TV program. A poll of the live studio audience revealed that 25 percent had been offered money or gifts in exchange for their votes in the 2012 election and that 34 percent would consider taking a bribe during the current political campaign. On Monday President Poroshenko toughened the penalties for bribing voters, but with the election less than a week away it appears unlikely that such efforts will have a material effect on campaign tactics.

    Yuliya Bila and Isaac Webb are junior fellows in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Russia and Eurasia Program.

  • A Hereditary Disease

    Posted by: Mikhail Krutikhin Tuesday, October 21, 2014

    The old Soviet “enemies-are-everywhere” mentality frequently leads Russian decision makers to losses and defeat.

  • Paying for Ukraine

    Posted by: Dmitri Trenin Monday, October 20, 2014

    If Ukraine is allowed to become a failed state, the consequences for Europe will be serious, even dire. Making sure that Ukraine keeps itself warm this winter is an absolutely necessary step.

  • For Russia, Asia Is No Substitute for the West

    Posted by: Akio Kawato Thursday, October 16, 2014

    Facing Western sanctions, some Russian pundits are rushing to find an easy way out through increased cooperation with Asia. However, nothing can replace the West for Russia.

  • East or West, Home Is Best

    Posted by: Mikhail Krutikhin Wednesday, October 15, 2014

    Moscow’s most recent, failed attempt to cooperate with China on the Altai gas pipeline shows that its political ambitions are not compatible with elementary arithmetic.

  • The West Should Not Reject Russia’s Assistance in Afghanistan

    Posted by: Petr Topychkanov Tuesday, October 14, 2014 1

    If common sense prevails and the West resumes its cooperation with Russia, the consolidated response to security threats in Afghanistan will be far more effective than the current disjointed efforts by various countries.

  • Indian Summer: Ukraine Before the Elections

    Posted by: Balázs Jarábik Monday, October 13, 2014 1

    Forthcoming elections give Ukraine a feeling of hope. However, for most Ukrainians the optimistic political advertisements contrast sharply with their own experiences. The war in the Donbas and the worsening economic and social situation are likely to bring more people to the parliament with no appetite for dialogue.

  • Why Is Turkey Still So Reluctant to Join the Coalition Against the “Islamic State”?

    Posted by: Bayram Balci Friday, October 10, 2014 2

    Turkey hesitates to fully embrace the U.S.-led coalition’s actions against the Islamic State. Ankara’s most crucial hesitation relates to the Kurdish issue which plays such a central role in Turkish policy in the Middle East.

  • Chechen Mysteries in Donetsk

    Posted by: Thomas de Waal Thursday, October 09, 2014

    Memorial’s new report documents the involvement of Chechen fighters in the conflict in Donbass. Their presence there is all about Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and a gesture of loyalty to Moscow.

  • Hong Kong Turmoil: Unintended Consequences for Russian Companies

    Posted by: Alexander Gabuev Wednesday, October 08, 2014 1

    For Russian business interests who use Hong Kong as a base for operations in mainland China or the Asia-Pacific region, or are listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx), prodemocracy demonstrations were bad news.



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