“Ukraine – Looking to the Future” panel discussion was held in London

9 October 2007

BUS panel discussion on the Ukrainian elections was held in Church House, Westminster on October 9th and was sponsored by KPMG.

The Presidential election in two years’ time was very much the backdrop for this year’s parliamentary elections, and as a result analysts’ attention has been focused on it even before a government was formed.

Who is involved in the new government – a decision the president Viktor Yushchenko is central to – will influence the outcome of the Presidential election in January 2010.

This was one issue that a diverse group agreed on during a panel discussion on the Ukrainian elections in London just nine days after the voting and before the government was finally formed.

They agreed that the next election – for a new president – was likely to see many of the same players getting the headlines as Yulia Timoshenko, the incoming prime minister, and Viktor Yanukovich, the outgoing premier, are expected to contest the positon and Yurii Lutsenko could also play a role.

The role of Russia and the West which was so much in evidence during the vote two years ago was much more muted or disguised this time round, the panel believed. There were of course some political advisors from Washington in evidence but little evidence of Russian interest, except for the occasional unguarded comment from the Russian ambassador to Kyiv.

Outside agencies such as Ukraine’s relationship with the European Union or NATO of course were factors in the election. Gwendolyn Sasse noted that voters responded positively to references to the EU but negatively to NATO.

Despite the interest of the electorate evident in the reasonable turnout one of the panellists Valerii Chalii said much of the population in reality did not have a genuine choice of candidates available to them.

The Ukraine Ambassador to Britain, Ihor Kharchenko, compared the way in which the voting and the counting were carried out this year with Soviet times. There was a significant improvement in the validity of the process especially when contrasted with the artificial results of former years, he said.

The parties’ platforms, Oleksei Solohubenko, pointed out were different in a number of ways from previous elections even though some of these changes were more subtle nuances rather than dramatic alterations. Mr Yanukovych no longer spoke of federalism for instance, he said.

Turning their minds to the future the panel debated the need for the new government to establish its independence over the coming months and years. British MP Stephen Byers who chaired the discussion said the elected members would have to gain political experience in building and running a meaningful and productive government.

The many issues raised by the audience included where the oligarchs stood in relation to the election results, the current and future status of the Crimea and the likely constitutional settlement reintroducing balance between parliament, president and judiciary.


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