Coming into the Final Stretch of Ukraine’s Election, Polls Point to Tight Race

October 23, 2012
Party of Regions Managing to Hold Onto Narrow Lead
James George Jatras
Deputy Director, American Institute in Ukraine

As in the United States – where political election predictions are discussed in terms usually reserved elsewhere for bets on sporting events – the last-minute polls regarding Ukraine’s parliamentary elections are being scrutinized for clues to the likely results. (Or, they would be scrutinized if they were being publicized in Ukraine. Like many countries, Ukraine imposes a ban on campaign and polling data publication in the days preceding the vote. In America, however, campaigning goes on right on through Election Day itself. And the day after, we start campaigning for the next election.)

Perhaps of greatest interest is any indication of a late shift -- like the one that appears to be happening in the U.S. in Governor Mitt Romney’s favor. In Ukraine, last-minute polling results seem to point to a slight, though significant, move in favor of Party of Regions (PoR), which had already been maintaining a slim lead over the opposition.

An FOM-Ukraine poll conducted on October 10-17 (2,000 people, with a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percent) indicated the following preferences (with all other parties under the five percent threshold), among all persons polled:

Party of Regions 24.9
Batkivshchina 15.4
UDAR 14.2
Communists 8.4
Svoboda 5.0

Among likely voters, the results for the same parties are as follows:

Party of Regions 38.0
Batkivshchina 23.7
UDAR 21.8
Communists 13.0
Svoboda 7.6

If accurate, these numbers suggest the following conclusions in light of other recent polls:

  • PoR has held onto a consistent level of support and perhaps even gained a bit and held onto supporters who may have been tilting toward the Communists. This advantage may be considerably magnified among likely voters, as opposed to preference of all citizens, many of whom might not vote. (The FOM-Ukraine poll indicates likely voter turnout at 65 percent.)
  • Batkivshchina may have partly stanched its leakage of support to UDAR, having marginally regained a slight lead as the major opposition party. Whether, and to what extent, this reflects Vitaly Klitschko’s rebuff of Arseny Yatseniuk’s appeal for UDAR to support a joint opposition list is unclear.
  • Svoboda’s future continues to be uncertain but among likely voters appears to be above the threshold.

With these results, the likely allocation of Rada seats elected by party percentages would be roughly equal for a prospective PoR-Communist coalition or an opposition coalition. However, it is necessary to take into account the other half of the Rada that will be elected by individual mandates, and where most observers believe the edge will go to the PoR-led bloc.

To sum up, barring any earthquake in the final days, the odds of a narrow but clear PoR victory appear to be strong and growing. As Taras Kuzio, a respected Western expert, has predicted (on a site that is anything but pro-PoR), “Party of Regions Will Win the 2012 Elections.” While not necessarily agreeing with all the reasons Mr. Kuzio puts forth for his prediction, it is hard to project an alternative scenario based on the available data.