After protests that forced a change in leadership in Ukraine, the country is poised to vote in a parliamentary ballot this month. Its result is being tipped as a foregone conclusion in favor of the president's party.
'via Blog this'
As fighting in eastern Ukraine continues despite the formal cease-fire, the country is gearing up for parliamentary elections on October 26. It is the new beginning that demonstrators were calling for last winter, and marks the third time parliamentary elections have been brought forward since 1994.
This early ballot is of vital importance, according to Viktor Samjatin of Kyiv's Razumkov Centre for Economic and Political Studies. "It is a question of whether Ukraine can survive as a state," he told DW.
There are a total of 29 parties trying to win 450 seats - although half of those seats will be filled via party lists and direct mandates.
President in the fast lane
With just three weeks to go until the ballot, polls suggest the president's electoral alliance, aptly named Petro Poroshenko's Bloc, and formed at the end of August to replace his "Solidarity" party, is likely to garner a third of the vote.
Given that "Solidarity" never achieved parliamentary representation, the billionaire president's political ascent has happened in record time. And he appears determined to work his popularity to his advantage. Under the terms of the constitution, parliament and the government have more power than the president, which is why, observers say, he is at pains to secure a majority parliament.
Return of the Yushchenko generation
Having failed to get incumbent Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on board, the Poroshenko bloc's top candidate is former boxing world champion and current mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko. His UDAR party has already become a pillar of the alliance.
Besides Klitschko and former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, the bloc includes politicians from pro-Western former President Viktor Yushchenko's era, as well as two names that have caused a fair bit of excitement: Mustafa Nayem and Sergey Leschenko - who are known nationwide for their investigative journalism, and were involved in the opposition protests from the outset.
Viktor Samjatin said there are a number of reasons explaining why Poroshenko's alliance is doing so well in the polls.
"Firstly, many voters associate Poroshenko with a peaceful solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine," he said. "His 'strategy 2020' reform program has also been well-received." One of the goals of the program is to secure Ukraine's membership in the European Union.
Criticized over eastern Ukraine
But the president's decision to grant greater autonomy to the separatists in the east of the country could cost Poroshenko's bloc votes. Oleh Lyashko, leader of the "Radical Party" and an unapologetic patriot, has accused the president of capitulation. His own party is in second place in the polls, and looks set to gain more than 10 percent of the vote. His electoral list includes celebrities such as the singer and Eurovision candidate Zlata Ognevich.
"Those who vote for Ljaschko today, voted for the 'Svoboda' (Freedom) nationalist party in 2012," Samjatin explained, adding that Svoboda has lost popularity and might not secure any seats in parliament.
Tymoshenko and Yatsenyuk go their separate ways
Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is positioning herself and her "Batkivshchyna" (Fatherland) party as Poroshenko's opponent. Her party is not likely to pick up as many votes as it did in 2012, when current Prime Minister Yatsenyuk took over at the helm while she was in prison, charged with abuse of power.
This time the two are going their separate ways. The prime minister has formed his own "People's Front" alliance, and several politicians from the Tymoshenko camp have joined it.
Followers of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych have formed their own alliance, calling themselves the "opposition bloc." But whether they will make it into parliament is debatable given that many of their followers live in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, where the ballot will not be held. The same applies to the Communist party.
Against that backdrop, there is likely to be a broad pro-Western majority for the first time. But Samjatin says it is an illusion to speak in terms of a new beginning given the lack of competition in terms of ideas being put forward.