Five lessons from the local elections in Ukraine

Turnout was low, but respectable

The official participation rate for Ukraine’s local elections was 46.5 per cent. This may sound low, but was not much lower than the turnout for the parliamentary elections last October, which was 52.4 per cent, and for the presidential election in May, which 59.5 per cent. And these were local elections after all.

The real danger in these elections was not low turnout across the board, but rather differential turnout – i.e. a significantly lower turnout in eastern and southern Ukraine. In the 2014 presidential election, turnout in the western city of Lviv was 78.2 per cent, while in the eastern Kharkiv it was 47.9 per cent and in war-torn Donetsk it was only 15.1 per cent. In the October parliamentary elections, Lviv managed 70 per cent, Kharkiv 45.3 per cent and Donetsk 32.4 per cent.

This time round, turnout was 56.3 per cent in Lviv, 44.4 per cent in Kharkiv and 31.7 per cent in Donetsk – lower in the east, but not by as much. Most probably, turnout was kept at a low level because of general discontent with the progress of reform and the state of the economy, rather than by an ominous existential gulf between engaged voters in the west and alienated ones in the east.

Turnout in Donetsk region was also negatively affected by the failure to hold a proper vote in the besieged port city of Mariupol and further north in Krasonarmiisk – after governor Pavlo Zhebrivsky campaigned against the vote, which seemed likely to favour candidates backed by oligarch Renat Akhmetov.

To read the full article, please visit the website of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

(Photo: (c) Volodymyr Petrov/The Kyiv Post)



Andrew Wilson of the European Council on Foreign Relations

Andrew Wilson is a senior policy fellow at ECFR. He is a permanent Reader in Ukrainian Studies at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES), University College London. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. He has published widely on the politics and culture of the European neighbourhood, particularly on Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, and on the comparative politics of democratisation in the post-Soviet states, especially its corruption by “political technology”. His recent books include Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship (2011) and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (2005). He is a frequent contributor to global media debates on Russia and Ukraine and his views and commentary have appeared in outlets such as the Independent on Sunday, Al Jazeera, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian, and the South China Morning Post.