Brian Mefford

  • The Savchenko Effect

    The release from a Russian prison and return of helicopter pilot Nadiya Savchenko to Ukraine has ignited speculation about her future political plans. Elected as the first candidate on the party list of Yulia Tymoshenko’s bloc in the October 2014 parliamentary elections, Savchenko immediately entered politics upon her return to Ukraine.

    Savchenko’s initial speeches focused primarily on the war in the Donbas. About her personal ambitions, she went as far as to state, “Ukrainians, if you want me to be president—well, I’ll do it.” She appeared at a press conference at the Fatherland Party headquarters soon after returning, and promptly joined the Fatherland faction in parliament.

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  • A Saakashvili Party Comeback? Not in Georgia but Maybe in Ukraine

    Odesa Oblast Governor Mikheil Saakashvili is preparing for the launch of his political party later this year in Ukraine, but this has not prevented him from pondering a return to politics in his native Georgia. Georgian voters go to the polls on October 8 to elect a new parliament in a contest viewed as a referendum on the performance of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgia Dream coalition, as well as a barometer of the public’s desire for Saakashvili to return to power.

    In the October 2012 parliamentary elections, following eight years of Saakashvili’s rule, Ivanishvili assembled a wide coalition of Saakashvili’s opponents to compete. Due to constitutional changes initiated by Saakashvili, most powers of the presidency had shifted to the prime minister following the 2012 election. This move was designed to allow Saakashvili to skirt the two-term limit for presidents and continue to rule. However, the move backfired and resulted in Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition winning a...

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  • Ukraine’s Parliament Is Getting a Facelift, but Will It Make a Difference?

    The newly elected Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Andriy Parubiy, wasted no time in announcing a series of internal reforms for the Ukrainian parliament, which has long been the most hated institution of public life. In the latest International Republican Institute (IRI) poll, 88 percent of Ukrainians viewed the institution unfavorably. Contributing factors to this negative view include parliamentary immunity, parliamentarians’ habit of voting for other members, and an overall perception of massive graft and corruption.

    In an effort to clean up the institution’s image, Parubiy announced three reforms. First, he advocated increasing the number of plenary meetings from two sessions to three sessions per month. Plenary sessions are the equivalent of voting meetings and typically occur on four consecutive days. With an...

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  • Let’s Do the Numbers: What Would Ukraine's Parliament Look Like if Elections Were Held Today?

    Ukraine will likely avoid early parliamentary elections this year. Some analysts feared that early elections would bring populists to power, while others reasoned that they might bring more reformers into parliament. Barring a collapse of the thin parliamentary majority that made Volodomyr Groisman Ukraine’s prime minister on April 14, he has one year to perform before he can be dismissed. This timeframe means that there won’t be parliamentary elections until the summer of 2017 at the earliest. However, that has not stopped Ukraine’s politicians from jockeying and preparing for future elections.

    Based on an average of the four latest polls asking members of the public who they would support if parliamentary elections were held today, the numbers show that Yulia...

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  • Moldova’s Presidential Election Pits Pro-Europe Candidates Against Pro-Russia Ones

    Moldova’s presidential elections are shaping up to divide the electorate between pro-Europe and pro-Russia candidates even before campaigning officially gets underway.

    On April 1, Moldova’s Parliament voted to hold direct presidential elections on October 30. It put off the official start of the election campaign until July 30 to allow Parliament time to pass electoral legislation and fill vacant seats in the Central Election Commission. The vote in Parliament followed a surprise Constitutional Court decision on March 4 that struck down a 2000 amendment, which required a supermajority of sixty-one out of 101 members of Parliament to select a President. The political consensus required to obtain such a supermajority turned out to be more difficult than anyone had expected.  In fact, a failure to achieve a supermajority led to a 900-day period between September 2009 and March 2012 when Moldova lacked an elected President.

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  • What If Parliamentary Elections Were Held in Ukraine Today?

    With Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s government surviving a no-confidence vote on February 16 and the parliamentary coalition splintering the next day, early parliamentary elections are now possible this year. New elections could be triggered by three scenarios: first, if the current majority coalition in parliament collapses and a new majority isn’t formed within thirty days; second, if Yatsenyuk resigns early, or is dismissed in the next session of parliament (which starts in late August), and parliament can’t agree on a replacement; or third, if parliament votes no confidence in the prime minister. In all cases, the President has the right (though not the obligation) to dismiss parliament and call new elections.

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  • Making Sense of Ukraine’s Local Elections: Voters Put Multiple Parties in Office

    As the ballots are counted in Ukraine's November 15 runoff elections, the preliminary results show no national mandate or overarching themes. Instead, in a positive step for the country's democratic development, voters dispersed power widely and put multiple political parties into office. Here's a quick rundown of the big races and the big surprises:

    Kyiv: Incumbent Vitaly Klitchko defeated Boryslav Bereza 64 to 32 percent. Bereza, an independent MP known for his reportedly white supremacist views, narrowly defeated Samopomich's candidate to make the runoff. While there was never any doubt that Klitchko would ultimately triumph, the real loser is the city of Kyiv for propelling Bereza into the runoff and giving him a surprising 32 percent. The Kremlin propaganda machine just received an early Christmas gift from the residents of Kyiv.

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  • Will Saakashvili’s Defeat in Odesa Be His Ukrainian Waterloo?

    Odesa Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov trounced Solidarity Party's Sasha Borovik by 53-26 percent in Ukraine's local elections October 25. Observers reported carousel voting, multiple voting lists, exit poll workers agitating for candidates, and a suspiciously slow vote count.

    The race for Odesa mayor was a proxy war between Oblast Governor Mikheil Saakashvili and oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, who has deep business interests in the city. Saakashvili initially campaigned for Borovik, while Kolomoyskyi backed Trukhanov.

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  • Ukraine Goes to the Polls: Kolomoyskyi Is King Again

    As the ballots are counted in Ukraine's October 25 local elections, early returns and exit polls indicate some surprises. The big story is that oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi came out on top. Kolomoyskyi, former governor of Dnipropetrovsk who was dismissed in March by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for his overreach, backed candidates who look set to win in Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, and Odesa. If successful, Kolomoyskyi will control the mayor's office in the country's three largest cities outside Kyiv, and gain bragging rights in his ongoing war with Poroshenko.

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  • Ukrainians Eager to Go to Polls

    In less than a week, Ukrainians go to the polls to elect mayors, city councils, and regional councils, and they're eager to do so. A recent poll carried out by the International Republican Institute found that 75 percent of Ukrainians are very likely or somewhat likely to vote on October 25. A new law requires a runoff election if no mayoral candidate receives a majority in cities with more than 90,000 people, which adds an element of suspense. Runoff elections are slated for November 15, and analysts expect second rounds in approximately 35 cities, including Kyiv, Odesa, and Dnipropetrovsk. Here's the latest on races in Ukraine's five largest cities holding elections:

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