Kyiv Local Elections: Five More Years of Klychko (UDAR-EPP) on the Horizon

On 25 October, the first round of municipal elections will be held all over Ukraine. The previous Ukrainian local election occurred in 2015, with Poroshenko’s party ‘Solidarity’, known today as YeS (EPP), leading with 19.4% nationwide, followed by Batkivshchyna (EPP) with 12% and the pro-Russian OPPZh (~S&D) with 11.5% of the vote.

According to the latest polls President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Servant of the People (Sluha narodu, ~RE|S&D|EPP|ECR) party will likely emerge as the winner of this year’s Ukraine’s local elections with 23%. President’s party will likely be followed by YeS (EPP) with 18.5% and OPPZh (~S&D) with 14%.

In Ukraine, local elections are known to be more pluralistic compared to the national parliamentary elections. Many local extra-parliamentary parties—those outside Ukraine’s national parliament, the Rada—regularly manage to gain seats and representation on a local level. Among those parties, we can name UDAR (EPP), Doviriai Dilam (*) and ProPoz (*), parties that were formed around mayors of major cities like Kyiv, Odessa and Dnipro.

Portraying a concise and accurate yet detailed summary of the geographically wide nation of 40 million people is, however, borderline impossible. Hence in this article a spotlight is placed on the capital city of the country, Kyiv.

What are the electoral procedures and who are the candidates for Kyiv’s mayoral election?

In 2019, the parliament adopted a new electoral system for the local elections. The capital city Kyiv is divided into ten districts, and Kievites will vote on two different levels. First, residents will have to vote for an open list of candidates from one party in their voting district. Second, voters will have to choose one candidate for mayor and finally vote for one closed list on the city level, which may or may not include the candidate for mayor itself.

To win the election, the candidate for mayor needs over 50% of the vote. If no candidate manages to obtain an absolute majority in the first round, a second-round will take place on the 15th of November with the two candidates with the plurality of votes.

The incumbent mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klychko (UDAR-EPP), is seeking reelection and will run against 19 other candidates. Here are short presentations of the highest polling ten of them:

1. Vitalii Klychko: UDAR’s (EPP) candidate and the incumbent mayor. Before his political career, he was a well-known box champion. He was elected first in 2014 after the Maidan Revolution after he renounced his candidacy for president. Prior to his election, Klychko was an opposition leader in parliament. He then got re-elected in 2015 against Boryslav Bereza, with 66.5% of the vote. Klychko campaign’s main promises included the construction of new subway stations and bridges as well as school renovations, the closing down of Soviet stores and the end of illegal constructions.

According to the website Slovo i Dilo (Word and action), mayor Klychko fulfilled 48% of his promises while breaking 32% of them and the rest are still in process. Despite numerous scandals regarding the constructions of illegal buildings that hasn’t stopped, the city logistical problems including the absence of metro stations in the Vynohradar neighbourhood and the failed reparation of crucial city bridges, Klychko is leading in every single poll with 38 to 49% of the vote, meaning that he might potentially win the election in the very first round. The candidate does not have an official program, however, he publicly stated that he wants to develop the social infrastructures as well as the public transports, that he wants a more eco-friendly city and that he will renovate old constructions. 

2. Serhii Prytula: Holos’ (~ EPP) candidate. Prytula is a famous TV host that ran as a candidate for parliament in 2019 from the very same party, but eventually was not elected due to his position as the 30th candidate in the list and only 20 managed to win seats. He announced that he would run for mayor in August, thus quitting his job with the ‘Variety Show’ and officially ending his entertainment career. Numerous polls suggest that Prytula might get to the second round, with an average of seven to ten per cent of vote intentions, according to ‘Rating’s’ polls. While a Prytula victory is unlikely, Holos party is popular in Kyiv and is projected to enter the city council, quite possibly becoming coalition partner for Klychko’s UDAR if numbers so require. His main campaign promises include investment in new public transport, the reduction of traffic in the city, cleaning of the Dnipro river and the participation of the civil society in the city’s budget and activities. Prytula wants a more inclusive city and promises to build facilities for the disabled which the city lacks

3. Iryna Vereshchuk: candidate from Servant of the People party (~RE|S&D|EPP|ECR). Vereshhcuk is the only woman on this top ten candidate list. She has been a member of parliament since 2019 and, prior to this, was mayor of the little town neighbouring Poland, Rava-Ruska. She surprisingly managed to win the internal primary within her party and polls suggest that she might win from five to nine per cent of the vote. SN performed very well in Kyiv in the 2019 elections, winning every single-mandate constituency in the city, but since then its popularity has critically dropped. Polls suggested that had the mayoral elections occurred in 2019, the SN candidate would have won the election against Klychko. Today, that scenario is very unlikely.

Vereshchuk campaign promises include the construction of new roads, subway stations and finally (and most interestingly) the establishment of a trash recycling factory.

4. Andrii Palchevskyi: candidate from Peremoha (*). Palchevskyi is a TV host and the founder of the Eurolab clinics. The 2020 election is the first one in the showman’s career. He is a candidate from his own party, a party that is exclusively centred around Palchevskyi’s mayoral campaign. He is seen as a moderately pro-Russian candidate, and it was recently revealed that Palchevskyi possessed a Russian passport. According to Nikolai Davidiuk, a Ukrainian political scientist, one-quarter of Palchevskyi’s electorate support is drawn from the OPPZh party. Like the two previous candidates, polls suggest that Palchevskyi may face a run-off against Klychko in the second round, polling from five to eight per cent but since he is viewed as a pro-Russian candidate, seeing him winning the election in Kyiv is virtually impossible. His main campaign promises include the construction of new modern hospitals in every single district of the city, the development of e-services and the end of corruption in the building sector.

5. Oleksandr Popov: candidate from OPPZh (~S&D). Popov was Kyiv’s mayor from 2010 to 2013. He is a former member of the infamous Party of Regions and is known for violently repressing the Euromaidan student protest in November 2013. The candidate is known for multiple corruption scandals, his aforementioned handling of the Euromaidan protests, and his close ties with the ex-president Yanukovych, who escaped from Ukraine in February 2014 and is responsible for the killings during the 2014 revolution. However, Popov polls around four to six per cent. Nevertheless, he is strongly disliked by Kievites and has virtually no chance of even getting to the second round. The candidate has no official programme, however, he recently stated that he would renovate the apartments of more than 400,000 residents that live in old USSR buildings.

6. Oleksii Kucherenko: candidate from Batkiv. (EPP). Kucherenko is a long-time member of parliament and served as minister of housing under president Yushchenko from 2007 to 2010. He was also the chief of the regional council of Zaporizhzhia, a city in southern Ukraine, back in the 2000s. He is currently polling from two to six per cent and has no real chance of winning the election. The party, however, will most likely keep its representation in the city council. His campaign promises include the renovation of social infrastructures and of public transportation.

7. Ihor Smeshko: candidate from SiCh (~RE|EPP). Smeshko is an ex-official from the Ukrainian secret services (SBU) and was a candidate for president in 2019, in which he ended up on the sixth place with six per cent. He is currently polling around one to two per cent. The candidate does not have an official programme.

8. Boryslav Bereza: candidate from the Eko Partiya (*). Bereza is the ex Right Sector (*) party speaker. He was elected to the Ukrainian parliament in 2014 and ran in 2015 for mayor against Klychko. He eventually lost in the second round and worked since then in his constituency, Troieshchyna, on fighting criminality in the district. The candidate polls around per cent and has no official programme. However, Bereza publicly stated that he would make Kyiv a safer and greener place.

9. Oleksandr Omelchenko: candidate from the Yednist (*) party. Omelchenko was the ex-mayor of Kyiv from 1999 to 2006. He ran for president in 2004 and for Kyiv’s mayor again in 2008 and 2014, as well as for a member of parliament on various occasions, every time unsuccessfully. He is currently polling on average around three to four per cent. The candidate does not have an official programme.

10. Andrii Illienko: candidate from Svoboda (~NI). Illienko is an ex-member of parliament from 2012 to 2019. He already ran for Kyiv’s mayor in 2014, unsuccessfully, winning only 2.52% of the vote. Svoboda currently has 14 seats out of 120 in the city council and is projected to lose most of them. The candidate is polling around one per cent, on average. He does not have an official programme. 

What will the election results look like?

It is clear that Klychko is the most popular candidate in the race, and by far. There are two questions, however: will he be able to win the election in the first round? If not, who will he be facing in the second round? Palchevskyi, Prytula, Vereshchuk and even Kucherenko might get second place, but polls show very inconsistent and differing figures, so it is hard to predict.

The latest trusted poll from ‘Rating’ suggests that Prytula will win 10% of the vote and face Klychko in the second round. Another pollster, ‘Interfax-Ukraina’ suggests that Vereshchuk will win 8.5% of the vote and face Klychko in the second round. New party Holos is projected to enter the local council as well as the pro-Russian OPPZh, whereas Svoboda and Self-Reliance (Samopom.-EPP) are set to lose representation.

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