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In November 2013 massive protests broke out in Kyiv’s central square after President Yanukovych abandoned a trade agreement with the European Union, favoring closer ties with Russia. The protesters occupied the square, the Maidan, for months and took control of several government buildings. Clashes between protesters and the police intensified and came to an apogee on 18 February 2014, when riot over 70 protesters were killed. A truce between the government and the protesters the days before was to no avail. In the political turmoil that followed, President Yanukovich fled the capital for Russia and was removed from power by the parliament in Kyiv. An interim government was appointed and Presidential elections were set for 25 May. Businessman Petro Poroshenko won those elections and got installed as the new president of Ukraine.

In the wake of the ousting of President Yanukovych, pro-Russia forces took control of government buildings and strategic military complexes in the autonomous region Crimea on 27 February, spurring fears of a Ukrainian break-up. Tensions between Russia and the West rose sharply over what the West saw as Russian expansionist aggression in Crimea. On 6 march, Crimea’s parliament voted for secession from Ukraine and to joint Russia, a referendum to approve the parliamentary vote was set for 16 march, in which an overwhelming majority voted to join Russia. The west claimed the referendum to be illegal and posed sanctions. Meanwhile, clashes starting to occur in Eastern cities in Ukraine between pro-Kyiv and pro-Moscow protesters. Developments are continuing to unfold.
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Political system
Ukraine has a parliamentary presidential system, which means that the country elects on national level a head of state, the president, and a legislature. The president is elected for a five-year term directly by the people. The president needs a majority of the votes in the first round to be elected. Otherwise a second round is held, in which only the two candidates with the highest amount of votes (in the first round) can compete.

The parliament (Verkhovna Rada) has 450 members, elected for a four-year term. Until 2005, half of the members were elected by proportional representation and the other half by single-mandate constituencies. Starting with the 2006 parliamentary election, all 450 members were elected by proportional representation, but after a change in 2011 the parallel system of proportional representation and single-member constituencies was restored. From that moment on, candidates can be elected through party lists or self-nomination.

The constitution prescribes that the governmental parties must have a majority in parliament. Thus, minority coalitions are formally no option for government coalitions. Representative bodies and heads of local government throughout Ukraine are elected simultaneously with the Verkhovna Rada.

Latest political issues
Massive protests broke out in Kyiv’s central square after President Yanukovych abandoned a trade agreement with the European Union, favoring closer ties with Russia on 21 November 2013. The protesters occupied the square, the Maidan, for months and took control of several government buildings. Clashes between protesters and the police intensified and came to an apogee on 18 February 2014, when riot over 70 protesters were killed. A truce between the government and the protesters the days before was to no avail. In the political turmoil that followed, President Yanukovich fled the capital for Russia and was removed from power by the parliament in Kyiv. An interim government was appointed and Presidential elections were set for 25 May. Businessman and former Minister Petro Poroshenko won those elections and got installed as the new president of Ukraine.

In the wake of the ousting of President Yanukovych, pro-Russia forces took control of government buildings and strategic military complexes in the autonomous region Crimea on 27 February, spurring fears of a Ukrainian break-up. Tensions between Russia and the West rose sharply over what the West saw as Russian expansionist aggression in Crimea. On 6 march, Crimea’s parliament voted for secession from Ukraine and to joint Russia, a referendum to approve the parliamentary vote was set for 16 march, in which an overwhelming majority voted to join Russia. The west claimed the referendum to be illegal and posed sanctions.

Political unrest spread from the capital to the eastern parts of Ukraine. Ethnic-felt threatened by what they perceived as an attempt by Western Ukrainians to repress them – this was fired up by Russian media – and took to the streets. The Ukrainian government responded by sending troops which tried to disperse the pro-separatists. Thousands of civilians are on the run to escape the violence. The Ukrainian official stance against the pro-Russian separatists intensified after the election of Petro Poroshenko as new President of Ukraine on 25 May. In his victory speech, Poroshenko vowed to stop the war in the east. He stated “the first steps of my team will focus on ending the war, the chaos, the unrest and bring peace to the land of Ukraine”. He promised amnesty to all non-violent protesters in eastern Ukraine. But as pro-Russian separatists attacked the Donets airfield, the government stance hardened. A government official stated all separatist positions were being appraised and would be attacked using “special high-precision” weapons if the separatists did not surrender.

Critics claim the fighting in eastern Ukraine has turned more violent than before. Vladyslav Seleznyov, spokesman for the Ukrainian ‘anti-terrorism operation’ put the number of Separatists killed since April 2014 at 300. Developments are continuing to unfold.

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Presidential elections 2014
The elections were held in Ukraine on Sunday 25 May as former president Yanukovych was ousted by the EuroMaidan revolution on 22 February. Poroshenko has become president of a country in chaos. Two eastern regions declared independence and are plagued by violence as the country faces bankruptcy. The new president of Ukraine will be tasked with restoring peace and order in the country.

Runner-up is former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, candidate for the Batkivschyna All-Ukrainian Union, with 12.82 per cent of the votes. Radical Party leader Oleh Liashko surprisingly became third with 8.32 per cent of the votes. Liashko is well known for his television appearances.

Poroshenko claimed the victory at his Kyiv headquarters on Sunday evening 26 May. He spoke in Ukrainian, Russian and English saying “The first steps of my team will focus on ending the war, the chaos, the unrest and bring peace to the land of Ukraine.” Poroshenko promised leniency towards non-violent separatists in eastern Ukraine “For those people who don’t take [up] weapons, we are always ready for negotiations to guarantee them security, to guarantee their rights, including speaking the language they want.” He is also committed to end the conflict with Russia and wants to start negotiations the replace the Budapest Memorandum. He said “Without Russia it would be much less effective or almost impossible to speak about the security in the whole region.”

Many of the people in the eastern part of the country were not able to vote. The Kyiv government has lost control in large parts of the Donbas region were separatists do not allow people to vote. In the city of Donetsk, home to one million Ukrainians, not a single polling station was opened. With the rise of armed groups, the increasing paramilitary activity and a population that distrusts Kyiv, voter turnout in the eastern regions of Ukraine was very low. In other parts of Ukraine the voter turnout was very high. The elections were seen as the most important since Ukrainian independence. Mykola Hosovskiy, of the General Prosecutor’s Office stated “For the first time in the history of election processes in Ukraine, there were no complaints [...] about the use of administrative resources.”

Petro Poroshenko
Petro Poroshenko is one of the richest men in Ukraine. He has made his fortune by producing and selling chocolate and is known as the ‘Chocolate King’. As oligarchs grabbed control of former state-owned assets during the fall of the Soviet-Union, Poroshenko was credited for building his Roshen confectionary empire by himself. Also, Poroshenko has extensive experience in Ukrainian politics. He has been National Security Council Chief, Minister for Trade and Minster of Foreign Affairs and he is known to be a pragmatist. Poroshenko was a vivid supporter of the EuroMaidan protests and has worked closely with liberal acting Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk. Poroshenko announced his intention to hold early parliamentary elections as soon as the political chaos in the east has been resolved.

Election results

Candidate Party Votes Percentage
Petro Poroshenko Independent 9,857,308 54.70
Yulia Tymoshenko All Ukrainian Union "Fatherland" 2,310,130 12.82
Oleh Lyashko Radical Party 1,500,377 8.32
Anatoliy Hrytsenko Civil Position 989,029 5.48
Serhiy Tihipko Indepedent 943,350 5.23
Mykhailo Dobkin Party of Regions 546,138 3.03
Vadim Rabinovich Independent 406,301 2.25
Olga Bogomolets Independent 345,384 1.19
Petro Symonenko Communist Party of Ukraine 272,723 1.51
Oleh Tyahnybok All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda" 210,476 1.16
Dmytro Yarosh Right Sector 127,772 0.70
Andriy Hrynenko  Independent  73,277 0.40
 Valeriy Konovalyuk  Independent  69,569 0.38
 Yuriy Boyko  Independent 35,928 0.19
 Mykola Malomuzh  Independent 23,771 0.13
 Renat Kuzmin  Independent 18,689 0.10
 Vasyl Kuybida People's Movement of Ukraine 12,391 0.06
 Oleksandr Klymenko  Ukrainian People's Party 10,545 0.05
 Vasyl Tsushko  Independent 10,434 0.05
 Volodymyr Saranov  Independent 6,232 0.03
 Zoryan Shkiryak  Independent 5,021 0.02
 Invalid/blank votes   244,659 1.35
 Total votes   18,019,504 100
 Registered voters/turnout    29,625,200  60.19

Parliamentary elections 2012

After he won the presidential elections of 2010 from now detained Yulia Tymoshenko, the parliamentary elections of 28 October 2012 should have been the first democratic test for President Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions. The suspicions about possible election fraud and the jailing of major representatives of the opposition led to condemnation of the result by various international observers and cast a shadow over the victory of the Party of Regions. Besides the victory of the Party of Regions, the delay in vote counting, the impossibility of announcing election results in five single-seat constituencies and the rise of the far-right “Svoboda” party put their mark on Ukraine’s recent elections. 

Changes of election legislation

Before the October 28, 2012 parliamentary elections, the old parallel voting system was restored following a June 2011 proposal. It established 225 local single-member districts elected (in one round) by a first-past-the-post vote; and the remaining 225 parliamentary seats elected nationwide in a proportional party-list system with a 5% threshold, excluding political blocs from all elections. The option “Vote against all” was abolished (according to a November 2012 opinion poll by Research & Branding Group 17% of the voters would have voted “against all” in the 2012 elections). Although the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe advised against a return to the old system, the law was signed by President Yanukovych in December 2011. This satisfied the major opposition parties Batkivschyna and Front for Change, but was condemned by the core party of Our Ukraine–People's Self-Defense Bloc, Our Ukraine: the opponents and some analysts accused the Party of Regions of “rewriting the law so that the president could secure a majority in the next Verkhovna Rada.”

The trial and imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko (see below) put their mark on both the aftermath of the presidential elections of 2010 and the run-up to the 2012 parliamentary elections The international attention on Ukraine during the Euro 2012 Football Championship was accompanied by criticism concerning a lack of democratization in the country (of which Tymoshenko’s imprisonment became a symbol). Most complaints of the OSCE and other international observers concerned the campaigning. The elections were characterized by a tilted playing field, the international observers concluded in a statement released a day after the elections. This was primarily the result of abuse of administrative resources, as well as a lack of transparency in campaign and party financing and of balanced media coverage.       

On 8 November the Central Election Commission (CEC) released all results of the party lists and constituencies, but refused to establish the first-past-post results in 5 constituencies. The tallying, lasting for over a week, involved brawls at polling stations, use of tear gas in an election district and the storming of an election commission by riot police. The CEC finalized the vote count on 12 November but simultaneously ordered - upon a Verkhovna Rada recommendation - repeat elections in the 5 troubled single-mandate constituencies. The total voter turnout in was 57.99 %, average for parliamentary elections in Ukraine.

Keeping in mind the international condemnation concerning campaign transparency, it is remarkable that two new parties managed to pass the 5% threshold. One of them, the pro-European Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms (UDAR), was led by former boxing world champion Vitali Klitschko (the acronym UDAR/УДАР translates to “strike” or “punch”). UDAR obtained 42 seats (8.89 %). Even more remarkable is the entrance of the ultra-nationalist All-Ukrainian “Svoboda” party (37 seats or 8.44 %), the successor of the Social-National Party of Ukraine. Although most of its radical points vanished from the official election program that the party filed with the CEC and its leader Oleh Tyahnybok is seen as a “pragmatic force” within the party, Svoboda’s (“Freedom” in English) victory has raised concern over de rise of (institutionalized) racism and anti-Semitism in the country.

Notwithstanding these newcomers, Yanukovych’ Party of Regions remains largest (185 seats or 41.56 %). Tymoshenko’s All-Ukrainian Union “Batkyvschina” (“Fatherland”) was runner up (101/22.67 %). The Communist Party obtained 32 seats (7.11 %). Because of the mixed system three small parties and 43 unaffiliated politicians also made it into parliament, of whom 38 would join or work together with the Party of Regions faction.

Elections results 2012


Seats proportional lists

Seats single-mandate constituencies

Total seats

% votes total

Party of Regions





All-Ukrainian Union "Fatherland" (incl. United Opposition)





UDAR (Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform)





All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda"





Communist Party of Ukraine





United Centre





People’s Party





Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko










Independent single constituencies





Voter turnout 57.99%


Opposition reaction and street protests
On 12 November, immediately after the official results of the elections were announced, the united opposition (including Batkyvschina, Svoboda and UDAR) in a joint statement grudgingly accepted the results of the disputed October 28 election. The opposition's bold move, in which they swore to defeat "the regime of Yanukovych ", raised the political temperature on the eve of a possible resumption on 13 November of Tymoshenko’s second trial. "These parliamentary elections are an important stage towards the overthrow of the criminal regime of Yanukovych. […] We reserve the right to take proper actions, all constitutional methods and means of the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary struggle, including the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine […] and the holding of early parliamentary and presidential elections," the statement read.

Starting right after the elections and continuing with a rally on November 6, around 1,500 people reportedly gathered near the CEC headquarters in Kiev to protest the alleged vote rigging. Opposition Batkyvschina activists set up tents in the area, where police forces were already deployed. Svoboda's Tyahnybok said riot police had attempted to disperse the protestors and tried to pull down their tents.

OSCE report
As mentioned above, most complaints of international observers concerned the campaigning period. “Considering the abuse of power, and the excessive role of money in this election, democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine,” said Walburga Habsburg Douglas, the Special Co-ordinator who led the OSCE short-term observation mission and the Head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation. “One should not have to visit a prison to hear from leading political figures in the country.”

Start of the seventh convocation
Ukraine's new parliament convened for the first time on December 12 with an opening session marred by protest and a fist fight. Batkyvschina MPs arrived wearing black sweaters with Tymoshenko’s portrait on the front and the phrase “Freedom to Political Prisoners” on the back. Opposition MPs met representatives of the government with the screams: “Shame and a fist fight started when opposition MPs chanting "No to defectors!" attacked two deputies who had been elected on the opposition ticket but were suspected of trying to defect to the Party of Regions. As a result, Oleksandr Tabalov and Andrei Tabalov, father and son, were pushed out of the assembly hall and were thus prevented from taking the official lawmaker's oath. The opposition later insisted that without the oath the two could not serve as MPs. The next day the Rada re-elected Mykola Azarov as prime minister for a second term, with 252 out of 450 votes. Another member of the Regions Party, Volodymyr Rybak, was elected parliament chairman with 250 votes.

Tymoshenko trial
In May 2011 Yulia Tymoshenko was found guilty of abuse of power while signing a natural-gas agreement with Russia in 2009 and was sentenced to seven years in prison. On the day of her imprisonment in a Kharkov penal colony, President Yanukovych signed a decree to cancel the official commemoration of the Orange Revolution anniversary. Tymoshenko had pleaded not guilty and called her sentence a political vendetta by Yanukovych. Her supporters call the allegations about her part of a propaganda campaign to sideline her from politics as Yanukovych’s top rival.

The US and EU have condemned Tymoshenko’s prosecution as politically motivated. The EU was working on a new Association Agreement (AA) with Ukraine, but declared that it should not be signed while the opposition is in jail. In the run up to the 2012 parliamentary elections the EU warned Yanukovych to ensure they would comply with international standards, with the full participation of the opposition political figures, including those behind bars.


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Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU)
The Socialist Party of Ukraine was founded in 1991. It called itself the successor to the Communist Party of Ukraine, but chose to form its own programme and develop a new emphasis in its political activities. After the return of the Communist Party and the creation of the Progressive Socialist Party in 1993, the SPU lost its leftist monopoly It also lost its ideological vestiges of the past and opted for reform. The new programme underscored the need to carry out privatisation, implement changes to the tax and criminal codes, fight corruption and introduce a pro-European foreign policy. The SPU calls itself democratic socialistic, but shows signs of social democracy.

Ater the Orange Revolution, which it supported, the SPU ran independently in the 2006 parliamentary elections. It received 33 seats in the Verkhovna Rada, and was part of the governing coalition. In the 2007 parliamentary elections, however, the party did not pass the threshold of 3 %, winning only 2,86 % of the votes. Analysts say this loss could perhaps be explained by disagreement within the potential SPU-electorate concerning the coalition-participation of the SPU after the 2006 elections. The fact that the SPU changed sides, leaving the Orange Revolution partners to join the coalition of Prime Minister Yanukovych (Party of Regions), was used by Tymoshenko to portray the SPU and its leader as unreliable traitors.

On 17 and 18 December 2011 several minor parties joined the SPU: Farmer’s Party, All-Ukrainian Party ‘Children of War’, ‘Children of war National Party of Ukraine’ and the Kozak Fame party. The parties stopped their individual existence and continued as part of the SPU. Nonetheless, the party won 0.46 % of the national votes in the parliamentary election of 2012 and no constituencies and thus failed again to pass the electoral threshold.

Party leader: Petro Ustenko
The SPU is a consultative member of the Socialist International.

Ukrainian Social Democratic Party (USDP)

The USDP was formed in 1998 following a split in the first Social Democratic Party of Ukraine when a part of it joined the Party of Human Rights and became the USDP. Since November 2006 Yevhen Korniychuk is the chairman of the party. During the parliamentary elections in 2006 and 2007 the party was part of the Yulia Tymoshenko Electoral Bloc. In the 2007 elections the bloc won 156 out of 450 seats, eight of which went to USDP. These eight were the only Social-Democratic MPs in parliament.
In August 2011 Korniychuk voluntarily resigned from his post in connection with a criminal investigation against him. The leadership of Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc had accused him of working together with arch-rivals Party of Regions. Former member of All-Ukrainian Union "Fatherland" Natalia Korolevska was elected party leader on 23 December 2011.[1]

Party leader: Natalia Korolevska

Ukrainian Social Democratic Party (USDP)

The SDPU was originally founded in 1890 and re-established in 1990, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the 2006 elections the party was part of the "Lazarenco Bloc", which only gained 0.30 %, and therefore did not make it into parliament.

The SDPU is in favour of supporting democracy in the former Soviet Union and hopes Ukraine will be a member of the EU in the future.

Party leader: Yuriy O. Buzdugan
The SDPU is an observer member of the Socialist International. 

United Left and Peasants

On 17 December 2011 the unification on the basis of the Justice Party took place. The parties in question included the Justice Party, Popular Power, Ukrainian Farmer’s Democratic Party and All-Ukrainian Patriotic Union. The coordination council consisting of representatives of all five parties approved the political agreement and the new party was called United Left (‘socialists, farmers, social democrats, children of the war – for justice’). Stanislav Nikolaenko was elected leader of the new party. United Left positions itself as a modern socialist, social democrat party of a European type.

(Simultaneously the above named unification under the flag of the Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU) took place.)

Party leader: Stanislav Nikolaenko

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Party of Regions
The Party of Regions was created in March 2001 from the unification of five parties. Three quarters of the party’s members are from the Donbas region. During the 2002 parliamentary elections the party joined the pro-Kuchma ‘For a United Ukraine’ bloc. The party’s leader, Viktor Yanukovych, ran for president in 2004, with a strongly pro-Russian and regionalist agenda. After he lost those elections as a result of the Orange Revolution, the party moved into the opposition where it was one of the most visible parties. It frequently criticised the post-Orange Revolution government for its alleged preference for the Western parts of Ukraine and it gladly exacerbated the internal struggles in the government. This paid off in the 2006 parliamentary elections, which the party won. However, after the elections, the Party of Regions was excluded from coalition negotiations with the other parties and blocked the Verkhovna Rada for several weeks. After the blockade was lifted the party managed to turn the tables and became the senior party in a broad governing coalition.

However, the political crisis of early 2007 caused the breakdown of the broad governing coalition and new elections were held on 30 September 2007. The Party of Regions managed to stay the biggest party in parliament. It, however, did not have an obvious majority-coalition partner. For this reason, the Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence Bloc and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc formed a majority coalition before than the Party of Regions. After Yanukovych won the presidential elections in 2010 and the parliament ousted Prime Minister Tymoshenko 's ruling coalition, Yanukovych formed a new majority coalition centred around his party. After the parliamentary elections of 2012, the party remained the biggest in parliament with 209 seats (including faction changes after the elections).

The Party of Regions campaigned especially on issues like the status of the Russian language (calling for Russian as additional official state language) and socio-economic development (promising more jobs, a focus on industry and economic growth). The powerbase of the party lies fully in the eastern part of Ukraine.

Parliamentary leader: Oleksandr Yefremov

Batkyvschina (All-Ukrainian Union "Fatherland" (incl. United Opposition)  
As the core party of the former Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT), Batkyvschina has been in parliament since the 2002 parliamentary elections. After the November 2011 banning of the participation of blocs of political parties in parliamentary elections, the party became a major force in Ukrainian politics independently. In the 2012 parliamentary elections the party also added "United Opposition" to its name, aligning several other parties under its colours. As of December 2012 these parties are considering merging.

The Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) was named after its leader and founder of the Fatherland Party (1999) Yulia Tymoshenko. After she was forced to step down in 2001, the Fatherland Party began to oppose presidential policies and Tymoshenko led the united opposition in 2001, creating the National Salvation Forum. The main goal of the forum was to form an electoral bloc aiming to oust President Kuchma. In November 2001 the bloc was renamed Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc. It consisted of the Fatherland Party, Sobor Party, Social Democratic Party, Republican Party, Conservative Republican Party, Christian Democratic Party, and Patriotic Party.
The bloc gathered 7.2  % in the 2002 elections. BYuT cooperated with Our Ukraine in the 2004 presidential elections, supporting Viktor Yushchenko’s candidacy. Once Yushchenko was appointed president after the Orange Revolution, Tymoshenko became prime minister. However, the cooperation faltered and finally resulted in Yushchenko sacking Tymoshenko on accusations of corruption. BYuT then ran independently in the 2006 parliamentary elections and became the second largest party, beating Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine. However, it went into opposition.

In the 2007 parliamentary elections, BYuT managed to stay the second biggest party in parliament, almost closing the gap with the Party of Regions. Shortly after the elections, it was announced that BYuT and the Our Ukraine – People’s Self Defense Bloc formed a coalition. Yulia Tymoshenko became the new prime minister.

After Yanukovych won the presidential elections in 2010 and the parliament ousted Tymoshenko 's coalition in a no-confidence vote, Tymoshenko went into the opposition again. In order to obtain a majority in parliament, Yanukovych needed the support of several extra MPs. Eventually, some BYuT MPs joined his coalition.
Tymoshenko is currently in jail, after being found guilty of abuse of power and being sentenced to 7 years in prison. She has other lawsuits running against her as well, connected to her time as prime minister.

After participation of blocs of political parties in parliamentary elections was banned in 2011, Batkyvschina became the umbrella party with its election list including members of Reforms and Order Party, People's Movement of Ukraine, Front of Changes, For Ukraine, People's Self-Defense, Civil Position and Social Christian Party. In July 2012 members of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People joined this list. This list named themselves United Opposition “Fatherland”. Because of the imprisonment of Tymoshenko, Front for Change leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk headed the election list and is still the party's leader in parliament. The party remained the second largest in parliament after the 2012 elections (101 seats or 22.67 %).
Tymoshenko has been allied with the European People’s Party (EPP).

Party leader: Yulia Tymoshenko

UDAR (Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform)
The “Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform of Vitali Klitschko” is a political party headed by Ukrainian professional heavyweight boxer and the current world heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko. Legally it is the successor of the "European Capital" party which was registered in March 2005. In its current form the party was founded on April 24, 2010, on the basis of the Vitali Klitschko Bloc, a local political alliance in Kiev. The party has an anti-corruption and pro-European platform.

During the 2010 Ukrainian local elections the party gained about 400 representatives in municipalities and Oblast Councils (regional parliaments). Since March 2010 the party's popularity in opinion polls has reached a level almost twice as high as the election threshold of 5%. The party’s election list was a mixture of candidates who used to represent parties from all over the political spectrum of Ukraine.

In July 2012 party leader Klitschko stated that his party will not cooperate with the Party of Regions in the new parliament. In the 2012 parliamentary election UDAR won 13.97 % of the national votes and 6 constituencies and thus 40 parliamentary seats.

Party leader: Vitali Klitschko

All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda"
The All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda” (“Freedom”) was formed in February 2004 with the arrival of Oleh Tyahnybok as party leader. The party is the successor of the Social-National Party. Svoboda is a Ukrainian nationalist party that often voices opposition to perceived Russian influences in Ukraine. The party is known for its anti-Communist stance, and several party activists over the years have been accused of trying to destroy Communist-era statues. The party views the dominating role of Ukraine's oligarchy as "devastating". While oligarchs have typically played a major role in the funding of other Ukrainian parties, Svoboda claims to receive no financial support from oligarchs, but rather from Ukraine's small and medium-sized businesses.

The party has been accused of racism and anti-Semitism, which it denies. Party leader Tyahnybok stated in November 2012 that “Svoboda is neither an anti-Semitic nor a xenophobic party nor an anti-Russian party. Svoboda is also not an anti-European party. Svoboda is simply and only a pro-Ukrainian party”. This “pro-Ukrainian” element can be seen in Svoboda's political program; the party wants to ban adoptions by non-Ukrainians of Ukrainian children, wants to abolish Crimean autonomy and is in favor of criminal prosecution for “Ukrainophobia”.

Svoboda went up from a marginal regional party to a power represented in the parliament within only a few years. Its national success was preceded by a local success, which analysts explain as a result of the policies of the Azarov government, who were seen as too pro-Russian by the electorate. Moreover, Svoboda's increasing exposure in the Ukrainian media has contributed to its recent successes. As of 2011, Svoboda has factions in eight of Ukraine's 25 regional councils, and in three of those it is the biggest faction.

In the run up to the October 2012 parliamentary elections various opinion polls predicted the national vote (in a parliamentary election) of the party to sixfold or sevenfold, which would make it possible that the party would pass the 5 % election threshold But the party’s results in the elections where much higher then that with 10,44 % (almost a fourteenfold of its votes compared with the 2007 parliamentary elections) of the national votes and 38 out of 450 seats in the Ukrainian parliament. At the 116 foreign polling stations Svoboda won most votes with 23,63 %. In Kiev it became the second most popular party, after Fatherland, and voting analysis showed it was the party most popular among voters with a higher education (about 48% of its voters had a higher education).

Party leader: Oleh Tyahnybok

Communist Party of Ukraine
The Communist Party is the successor of the Soviet Communist Party. Its main supporters are elderly and pensioners. Between 1991 and 1993 the party was temporarily forbidden. With the country’s economy in decline, it grew in popularity and re-emerged during the 1994 parliamentary elections. The CPU received a lot of protest votes, however analysts predicted a decline because of aging of their electorate and the outdating of their Soviet nostalgia. In the 2002 elections they were cut by half winning just 65 of the 450 seats in parliament. After the 2006 elections, it had only 21 seats, but in the 2007 elections, the party regained some seats, winning a total of 27 seats in the Rada. In 2010, the Communists joined the governing coalition of President Yanukovych, after signing an agreement with the Party of Regions and the Lytvyn Bloc.

The communists are loosening their Soviet style arguments and argue for respect for private business, freedom of religion, a multi-party system and foreign investments. According to their leader Petro Symonenko state policy should be based on balancing real incomes and expenditures, with the surplus spent on services like education and healthcare. They are against Ukrainian NATO membership.

While being in opposition to the Kuchma government, the post-Orange revolution government lead by Yushchenko was not after the Communists taste either. Symonenko accused the first government lead by Yushchenko of “obediently fulfil[ing] commands of their foreign masters, selling property that has been constructed for years by our long-suffering people”.

Party leader: Petro M. Symonenko

People’s Party
The People’s Party, formerly known as Lytvyn’s Bloc, is centred around former Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Volodymyr Lytvyn. The People’s Party is a continuation of the former Agrarian Party. The party officially supported Prime Minster Viktor Yanukovych during the 2004 presidential elections. Party leader Lytvyn, however, did keep the parliament open during the protests when the legislature refused to accept the official results. Lytvyn's parliamentary faction tripled after the Orange Revolution, as moderate supporters of former president Leonid Kuchma gathered under the People’s Party’s umbrella raising its support base to about 60 seats. However, the party did not clear the electoral threshold in the 2006 parliamentary elections. In 2007, the Lytvyn’s Bloc managed to win 3,96 % of the votes, and 20 seats in parliament. In 2010, the party signed a governing coalition agreement with the Party of Regions and the Communist Party.

Party leader: Volodymyr Lytvyn

Our Ukraine - People's Self Defense Bloc
The Our Ukraine Bloc was officially formed in February 2002 and united ten nationalist and centre-right parties that emerged during the time Ukraine gained independence. The gathered parties historically all had an anti-communist rhetoric and their goals broadly were to keep distance from Russia and strengthen Ukraine’s statehood. The bloc’s priorities are a significant increase in the wellbeing of the majority of Ukraine’s citizens; a strong economy and effective social protection; a just society and the establishment of a moral and honest government. The bloc supports the integration of Ukraine into the EU and NATO.

In 2004 the Our Ukraine bloc and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc united forces in the presidential elections, both backing Yushchenko’s candidacy. On 26 December 2004 Our Ukraine’s leader Viktor Yushchenko, was elected as president. On 5 March 2005, parts of the Our Ukraine Bloc consolidated into a new party, the Our Ukraine People's Union. For the 2007 parliamentary elections, the Bloc changed its name into Our Ukraine – People’s Self Defence Bloc, merging with the People’s Self Defence Party.
After Yanukovych won the presidential elections in 2010 and the parliament ousted Tymoshenko's ruling coalition, several MPs of the Tymoshenko bloc decided to join the new governing coalition of Yanukovych. Then outgoing President Yushchenko only obtained 5.45% of the votes in the first round, not even coming close to the second round of the presidential elections. In the 2012 parliamentary elections, the party didn’t manage to pass the 5 % threshold.

The following parties are part of the Bloc: People's Union "Our Ukraine" (Narodnyi Soyuz Nasha Ukrayina); Forward, Ukraine!; People's Movement of Ukraine (Narodniy Rukh Ukrayiny); Ukrainian People's Party; Ukrainian Republican Party Assembly (Ukrayins'ka Respublikanska Partiya Sobor); Christian Democratic Union (Khristiyans'ko-Demokratichnyj Soyuz); European Party of Ukraine; PORA; Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (Kongress Ukrayinskych Natsionalistiv); Motherland Defenders Party.

Viktor Yushchenko remains the leader of the party. The party tries to transform its image from right wing nationalist to liberal.

Our Ukraine has an observer status at the European People’s Party.

Party leader: Viktor Yushchenko


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petro_poroshenko.jpgPetro Poroshenko
President of Ukraine since 25 May 2014

Petro Poroshenko was born on 26 September 1965. He is a Ukrainian billionaire businessman, and got elected as the fifth and current President of Ukraine. Poroshenko served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2009 to 2010, and as the Minister of Trade and Economic Development in 2012. From 2007 until 2012, he headed the Council of Ukraine's National Bank.

Outside politics, Poroshenko owns, along with a number of other companies, a large-scale confectionery business, which has earned him the nickname of 'Chocolate King'. He was elected president on 25 May 2014, capturing more than 54% of the vote in the first round, thereby winning outright and avoiding a runoff.

Poroshenko is married to Maryna Perevedentseva since 1984. The couple has four children.


yanukovych.jpgViktor Yanukovych
Former President of Ukraine

Victor Yanukovych was born on 9 July 1950 in the Zhukovka village, near Enakievo, Donetsk region, to a working class family. He graduated from the Donetsk Polytechnic Institute in Engineering and Mechanics in 1973, and in 2001 received an MA degree in International Law from the Ukrainian Academy of External Trade.

In 1967, at the age of 17, he was convicted for robbery and moderate assault and served 18 months of his three year prison term. In 1970 he was convicted again, for assault, and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment.

He started his professional life in 1969, as a mechanic at a local metal factory. After taking evening courses and graduating from the Polytechnic Institute, he was appointed chief manager of a transportation company and admitted to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He then went on to occupy various managerial positions in Donetsk and in 1996 was appointed first deputy head of the Donetsk oblast administration. Between 1997 and 2002 he was governor of the Donetsk region, and chaired the regional council of Donetsk.

On 21 November 2002 President Leonid Kuchma appointed Yanukovych as prime minister, and in April 2003 he became chair of the Party of Regions. In July 2004 he was put forward by his party as presidential candidate. He was officially pronounced the winner of the elections. However, according to observers, his campaign enjoyed powerful sponsoring and financial aid, as well as the use of administrative resources. Mass demonstrations followed, now known as the Orange Revolution. In the resulting repeat elections he lost to his rival Victor Yushchenko. He then disappeared from the political arena for some time.

In the spring of 2006 the Party of Regions (still lead by Yanukovych) gained the majority of votes in the parliamentary elections and Yanukovych again became PM. After the early elections of 2007 Yanukovych’s bloc lost its majority. After the formation of a new coalition Yanukovych was relieved of his duties and replaced by a new prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.

He won the 2010 presidential elections from his main rival, Tymoshenko. In 2014 he was ousted after the EuroMaidan protests.

Viktor Yanukovych is married with two children (sons). The younger son, Victor, is a member of parliament.

azarov.jpgMikola Azarov
Former Prime minister of Ukraine

Mikola Azarov was born in 1947 in the city of Kaluga, in Soviet Russia. He graduated in 1971 from the Moscow state university in geology and geophysics. He received a PhD in 1986, and became Professor in 1991.

Azarov started his professional life as department head and chief engineer at the Tulaugl coal factory. He occupied various leading positions in the industrial and research sectors, including Deputy Director and later Director of the Ukrainian State Scientific Research and Project-Designing Institute of Mining Technology, Geomechanics and Mine Surveying of the Ministry of Coal Industry of Ukraine (1984-1995). In 1995 he successfully ran for parliament, and remained MP until 1998. Between 1996 and 2002 he was head of the State Tax Administration. During that time, and along with other high-ranking politicians, he was implicated in the ‘Melnichenko tape scandal’ in which Melnichenko, a presidential bodyguard, taped several conversations between President Kuchma and his allies, revealing controversial activities and corruption.

In 2001 Azarov was elected chairman of the Party of Regions but resigned a year later. In 2003 he was elected chairman of the political council of the party. From 2002 to 2005 he was the first deputy prime minister and minister of Finance. In late 2004-early 2005 he was acting prime minister between Yanukovych’s resignation and Tymoshenko ’s instalment. In 2006 he was again elected to parliament and headed the budget committee and the committee on finance and banking. In 2009 he became Yanukovych’s campaign manager in the presidential election campaign. In March 2010, after Yanukovych’s victory, he was appointed PM. In December 2012, he was re-elected after the parliamentary elections two months earlier.  

Azarov is married and has one son.


ustenko1.jpgPetro Ustenko
Leader of the Socialist Party of Ukraine

Petro Ustenko was born on August 4, 1960 in the village of Maksaky, Mena region. He began his career as a mechanic, in 1979 in the city of Chernihiv. In 1984 he graduated from the Kyiv Automobile and Highway Institute and started to work as a mechanical engineer for road construction and machines. Later, he worked as a senior research fellow at the Department of Theory of machines and equipment at the Kyiv Automobile and Highway Institute and a senior engineer of the Research Institute of electromechanical devices in Kiev.

In October 1984 he was elected secretary of the Komsomol committee in the Kyiv Pechersk district. From 1986 to 1988 he served in the Armed Forces and participated in the liquidation of the Chernobyl accident. In the 1998 parliamentary elections he was elected MP in a single-mandate constituency in Chernihiv.

Ustenko joined the ranks of the Socialist Party in February 2005. In 2005-2006 he headed the Crimean local faction of the SPU. In 2006-2007 he was assistant of SPU parliamentary faction Chairman Oleksandr Moroz. In November 2011, he was elected first vice-chairman of the SPU. On 28 April 2012 during the XVIII Congress of the Socialist Party, Ustenko was elected the new chairman of the Socialist Party of Ukraine, succeeding Moroz. 


timoshenko.jpgYulia Tymoshenko
Leader of Batkyvschina

Yulia Tymoshenko was born in 1960 in Dnepropetrovsk. In 1984 she graduated from the Dnepropetrovsk State University, faculty of Economics. After graduation she worked as an engineer-economist in a machine-building plant in Dnepropetrovsk.

After that she went into private business and together with her husband or separately built and/or headed several commercial enterprises, including oil and gas trade. The latter grew into a multi-million enterprise and was in trouble with the tax authorities by 1996. Tymoshenko claimed the authorities were harassing her because of political reasons.

In 1997 Tymoshenko became first deputy to the leader of the All-National Movement Hramada, Pavel Lazarenko and entered parliament for the first time in 1998. Both harshly criticised the Kuchma Presidency. In November 1998, however, she unexpectedly called for a dialogue with Kuchma, and left Lazrenko motivating this by his authoritarian rule of Hramada. She then created her own political force, Bytkyvshina.

In 2001 Tymoshenko, while president of United Energy Systems of Ukraine, was relieved of her position and arrested under charges of forging customs documents and smuggling gas between 1995 and 1997. After her release she called on Yushchenko to head the opposition movement.

In 2004 Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko and Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine announced the creation of the Force coalition to support Yushchenko’s candidacy in the 2004 presidential elections. As a result of repeat elections after mass demonstrations (dubbed ‘Orange Revolution’) Yushchenko became president and Tymoshenko PM. She left after seven months because of a bad relationship with the president’s administration, and automatically became the main opposition leader. The relationship between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko was bad, and deteriorated even further over years among squabbles and power struggles. She ran for president in the 2010 election as the main rival to Victor Yanukovych, losing the Presidency by 3 % of the votes.

Tymoshenko has just been released from jail after being found guilty of abuse of power and being sentenced to 7 years in prison. She has other lawsuits running against her as well, connected to her time as prime minister. Tymoshenko pleaded not guilty and called it a political vendetta by Yanukovych.

Yulia Tymoshenko is married and has a daughter

Oleh Tyahnybok

Leader of The All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda”

Oleh Tyahnybok was born on 7 November 1968 in Lviv, Western Ukraine. After school he enrolled into the Lviv Medical Institute but after the second year was drafted to the army. After the return to the Institute he initiated the creation of the Medical institute Student Brotherhood - the first step in his life of a civil activist. Tyahnybok graduated from the institute in 1993 as a qualified surgeon.

In October 1991 Tyahnybok became a member of the Social-National Party of Ukraine. From 1994 till 1998, he served as a member of the Lviv Regional Council. In 1998, he was first elected to the Parliament as a member of Social-National Party. In 2002, he was re-elected as a member of Victor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine bloc. On July 20, 2004, Tyahnybok was expelled from the Our Ukraine parliamentary faction after he made a speech in the Carpathian Mountains at the gravesite of a commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. In the speech, aired on TV in the summer of 2004, he mentioned Ukrainian Insurgent Army as an example of those who armed up against "Russians, Germans, Jews and other enemies who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state".

Since February 2004 Tyahnybok has headed the All-Ukrainian Union "Freedom". In April 2005, he co-signed an open letter to President Yushchenko calling for a parliamentary investigation into the "criminal activities of organized Jewry in Ukraine."

During the 2010 Ukrainian local elections his party won between twenty and thirty percent of the votes in Eastern Galicia where it became one of the main forces in local government. In the 2012 parliamentary election Tyahnybok was (re-)elected as top candidate on his party list into the parliament, when his party won 38 seats.

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Flag of Ukraine Ukraine

Last update: 10 June 2014
Author: -

Population: 44,291,413 (July 2014 est.)
Prime Minister: Acting Prime Minister Arseniy YATSENIUK (since 26 February 2014)
President: President Petro POROSHENKO (since 25 May 2014)
Governmental type: Republic
Ruling Coalition: Alliance for European Integration
Last Elections: Presidential, 25 May 2014
Next Election: Parliamentary elections, Fall 2014
Sister Parties: Social Democratic Party of Ukraine, SDPU (consultative)

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Sources Sources

Central Election Commission
Central Europe Review
Committee to protect Journalists
EU External Relations
EU Institute for Security Studies
Freedom House – Nations in Transit 2005
Glavred info
Government Portal
International Herald Tribune
Kyiv Post
Mirror Weekly
NATO – Ukraine
OSCE/ ODIHR Election Reports
Rada portal
The Guardian
The Telegraph
Transitions Online
Ukrainian Government Portal
UA Monitor
Ukraine info
Ukrainian Monitor
Ukrainian Weekly
Ukrayinska Pravda
Unian News from Ukraine
US Department of State

Special thanks to
Oleh Kyriyenko
International Secretary of the SPU, Vitaly Shybko

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