What do the Ukrainian local elections tell us about the future of the country’s politics? Natalia Shapovalova, associate fellow at FRIDE, explains that politics is increasingly fragmented and diverse at the local level, though oligarchs retain much of their influence. The divide between pro-EU and pro-Russia regions is also less definite than it once was. Shapalova notes:
Judging from exit-poll data, it seems that the elections are likely to bring important changes to Ukraine’s politics. In the 2010 local elections, the Party of Regions led by former president Yanukovych secured absolute majorities in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine and the pro-European opposition won mainly in the western regions. In 2015, the East-West divide of Ukraine into Russia-oriented and Europe-oriented regions has been blurred …The results point to greater regional diversity: there are not only two or three Ukraines, but many.
There is also a clear separation between local and national politics, with parties from the ruling coalition running against each other in the local elections. While the central government’s power weakens and fractures, oligarchs retain their presence on the political landscape. Media moguls Rinat Akhmetov and Ihor Kolomoyskyi are the most striking examples, as Shapovalova explains:
Akhmetov, who controls major enterprises and media outlets in the east, preserves his influence in [the eastern] part of the country through the Opposition Bloc and loyal mayors. Relying upon vast campaign resources and a TV channel, Ihor Kolomoyskyi succeeded in garnering support for Ukrop far beyond his home city of Dnipropetrovsk. He is also believed to support the Revival Party, which won in Kharkiv.
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