Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Gambling with the outcome: New law to reduce number of Presidential hopefulls

The new law on the Presidential elections is expected to reduce the number of candidates nominating for the Presidential elections scheduled for January 17, 2010.

The most notable change is the requirement for candidates to lodge a deposit of 2.5 Million UAH which is only refunded to the two highest polling candidates that progress to the second round of voting. All other candidates will forfeit their deposit.

The higher deposit is expected to make a few "would be candidates" think twice before nominating. According to public opinion polls there are only three candidates that have the possibility of progressing to second round. Viktor Yanukovych, Yulia Tymoshenko and an outside chance Arseniy Yatsenyuk. All other candidates including incumbent President, Viktor Yushchenko, are expected to lose their deposit.

There is growing concern that Victor Yushchenko's intended nomination will take votes away from Arseniy Yatsenyuk leaving Viktor Yanukoych and Yulia Tymoshenko as the two highest polling candidates.

Under Ukraine's "first-past-the-post" two-round voting system supporters of minor candidates are effectively disenfranchised as their vote will not count in deciding who will progress into the second round run-off ballot. Some commentators have suggested that Yasteniuk may bow out of the race under pressure in support of Viktor Yushchenko. However all polls show that a repeat race between Yushchenko and Yanukoych would see Yanukovch win.

In order for Yushchenko to be a serious contender he would have to out poll Yulia Tymoshenko, which is unlikely, giving credence to speculation that Yushchenko may be forced to stand down to support Yatseniuk before nominations close. Much of Yushchenko's decision will be determined following the President's expected challenge to the new law in Ukraine's Constitutional Court. If the President loses the challenge he may have to stand aside as his backers will not want to place a bet on a lame horse.

The election deposit requirement is common in most western democracies. The higher deposit aims to limit the number of minor candidates who do not stand a chance of winning the election.