The choice of Kharkiv: how the region voted in the I round
Voting in Kharkiv region is not only the will expression of 2.1 million voters (and the bigger amount of voters is only in Dnipropetrovsk and Kiev), but also a kind of marker. The first region after the Donbass in the “risk zone”, front-line and bordering Russia, with the traditionally strong pro-Russian sentiments, with the Kernes-Poroshenko “hybrid coalition” – the results of the 2019 elections should have shown to what extent Kharkiv is in solidarity with the political course that the president has been conducting over the past 5 years. Spoiler – Kharkiv is not in solidarity, and Boyko’s threefold advantage over the result of the current president is a vivid confirmation of that.
The first thing it is necessary to pay attention to is a high voter turnout. Traditionally, Kharkiv region was one of the outsiders in voters’ activity, and turnout here was always (!) lower than the average in Ukraine. On March 31, the situation became the opposite for the first time: 63.5 % turnout in Ukraine as a whole and 64.5 % – in Kharkiv region (with 66.8 % in Kharkiv itself, which is also surprising, because the region is always more active than the city). At the last presidential elections, in May 2014, the turnout in Kharkiv region was 47.9% (a difference of about 300 thousand votes).
Voter turnout of the Ukrainian elections 1991-2019 (blue line corresponds to the voter turnout level in Ukraine generally, red line corresponds to the voter turnout level in Kharkiv region)
Developing parallels with the elections that took place five years ago, one can be surprised by the striking similarity of numbers with the difference of names.
Detailed by the districts, the results of elections-2019 in Kharkiv region are the following.
The map of Zelensky results by districts and cities of regional significance. Hereinafter, for all candidates, territorial units are divided into three equal blocks: the most favorable in terms of candidate’s support are marked green, the areas with the lowest support percentages are red, the intermediate one is marked in yellow.
The winner of the first round scored 36.40 % in Kharkiv region, with a result of 30.24 % generally in Ukraine. In the internal “rating of regions” of the candidate Kharkiv region is in the 7th place: and if better results in Dnipropetrovsk (45.34 %) or Odessa (41.26 %) areas are predictable, then the “defeat” from Zakaprattya (38.35 %) is not at all…
However, by virtue of its size in absolute terms, Kharkiv region will still be a priority for the majority of candidates – to Zelensky, Kharkiv region brought 482.3 thousand votes, the bigger amount of votes he got only in his native Dnipropetrovsk region.
It is possible to agree with the opinion that among today’s voters of Zelensky there are many ones who voted for Poroshenko in May 2014. In general, Zelensky does not fit well into the binary tracing of confrontation between the “pro-Maidan” and “anti-Maidan” forces – he is a real “electoral hybrid”, among whose voters there are enough voters of the “blue” as well as “orange” groups.
The surprising “territorial homogeneity” of the candidate’s results is the fact that can be confidently stated: within the framework of a separate region, this trend is evident even more – the coefficient of variation of the array from Zelensky’s results for cities of regional importance, the districts of the region and Kharkiv is only Cv = 0.06 (for comparison, Boyko – 0.17; Poroshenko – 0.20; Vilkul – 0.29; Tymoshenko – 0.23; Lyashko – 0.54).
Significant “skew” Zelensky has only at the precincts where students voted: with an aggregate 36.4 % in Kharkov, the TOP-5 precincts of Zelensky (631147 – 72.53 %, 631262 – 70.78 %, 631111 – 68.19 %, 631435 – 64.99 %, 631253 – 62.79 %) – these are all students’ dormitories.
Boyko won his “intraspecific struggle” in Vilkul, gaining 3,5 times more votes, despite the fact that the latter candidate was supported by the reputable Kharkiv people’s deputies (Murayev, Dobkin, Shentsov). Kharkiv region brought the candidate the most votes in absolute terms (352 thousand out of all 2,2 million), and as a percentage, was the third after the Luhansk (44 %) and Donetsk (36.9 %) regions.
Boyko’s today’s result is identical to the Dobkin’s indicator in 2014: the same 26 % and almost the same “skew” in the districts. It is quite possible to admit that practically the same voters who later supported Dobkin now voted for Boyko. Moreover: in 2014, precinct № 176 (with its center in Chuguev) turned out to be the only one in Ukraine, where Poroshenko did not win, but other candidate (Dobkin) gained the biggest support – now the 176th became distinctive once again with the Boyko’s winning over Zelensky.
Traditionally, the north-eastern part of the region is more favorable for the “blues” (so called “anti-Maidan” forces), as well as the triangle of the cities of Chuguev (especially) – Pervomaisky – Balakleya. Actually, in these territories, Boyko with a small margin went around Zelensky. The least favorable for Boyko is the “western belt” of the regions bordering Poltava and Dnepropetrovsk regions (the only eternal “blue oasis” there is Krasnograd).
5 years ago, Poroshenko personified a national consensus that was crucial for Ukraine and Kharkiv region. His idea of “unity for peace” in those elections was supported by 35 % of voters in Kharkiv region – the 2019 vote recorded a decrease in support for Poroshenko to 8.5 %, and “consensus” is the last word which the current president is associated with today.
8.5 % is the third result from the end within the regions: the worse situation (in relative terms) is only in Luhansk (6.58 %) and Dnipropetrovsk (8.32 %). However, it could hardly have been otherwise – all the ideological content of the Poroshenko’s campaign spoke unequivocally about the stake on the right bank Dnipro voters, and for the majority in the southeast, the guarantor naturally became “alien”. To solve this problem, a “hybrid alliance” was needed with the mayors of million-cities – Kernes, Trukhanov, Filatov, which only the minority of Poroshenko “pro-Maidan” supporters was able to accept.
The headquarters of the president had reasonable hopes for the heads of the newly-formed united territorial communities, which, as part of decentralization, received a multiple increase in budgets. Certainly, the support of the regime in the southeast was to be a vertical of state administrations. After all, if it was so possible to win the elections in the UTCs, then why the “success recipe” cannot be transferred to the presidential campaign?
It turned out that it is impossible. Previous local victories by local teams were got not owing to to, but in spite of identification with the president and his party. The following example is indicative: in the elections to the regional council of 2015, the highest result among the candidates from “Solidarity” obtained Anatoly Rusetsky – 62 % (town of Andreevka, Balakliysky district). It should be mentioned that in the elections to the regional council there was no self-nomination, and the system of “bound vote” worked, that is, the voters of even the popular candidate had to automatically vote for his party.
Now Poroshenko’s result on this territory is about 5 %, and this is also a kind of marker. Keeping in mind the peripeteia of the headquarters, it can be assumed that the “locals” chose not to be too zealous for the benefit of the guarantor (although, of course, to admit this publicly is not the time yet).
Perhaps comparing the attitude in the region to the president and head of the regional administration Yulia Svetlichnaya, the team of Rainin-Svetlichnaya is already considering options for future projects – for example, their own party with a regional accent and aspiration for local elections 2020 (like Gerega’s party “For concrete activities” in Khmelnytsky region, “Trust the activities” party of Trukhanov or the party “Cherkashchane” by the head of the local regional council Kovalenko).
Anyway, the current president gained 10 % in Kharkiv and about 7 % outside the regional center. Inside the city, a center-peripheral pattern can be traced: Poroshenko’s results within the precincts, as a whole, decrease with distance from the center. The most favorable were traditionally the more “pro-Maidan” Shevchenkovsky (13 %) and Kyivsky (11.7 %) districts of the city.
As for the region, when the administrative-patronage machine works, it is probably incorrect to talk about some kind of electoral-geographical patterns – it all comes down to the degree of efforts made by local “bosses”. For example, the best result in the region was recorded in Pervomaisky district (9.81 %), but out of 800 votes for Poroshenko, there are 214 in the special precinct 631071 (this is the colony where 82 % voted for the president) …
With a high probability, half a year ago the recognition of the candidate from the “Opposition bloc” Oleksandr Vilkul in Kharkiv region did not exceed 20 %. If to evaluate the final result from this point of view, the 4th place in the region and the collected 7.47 % is a good result. In the internal “ranking of regions”, which gave Vilkul the highest percentages, Kharkiv region – in 5th place.
On the other hand, the “intraspecific competition” is lost, the nationwide result is less than the 5 % barrier, and in the minds of many “anti-Maidan” voters Vilkul has a reputation of a man who let Poroshenko to go in the 2nd round instead of Boyko. Admitting the possibility of another unification on the “blue” field on the eve of parliamentary elections, it must be admitted that the positions of the “Akhmetov wing” have worsened compared to the situation of six months ago.
Vilkul is an “urbanized” candidate: his percent in cities of regional importance is higher than in surrounding areas. The maximum result is in the Zmiyevsky district (14.5 %), which can be considered the domain of people’s deputy Evgeny Murayev who supported the member of the “Opposition bloc” (in the 176th district of Dmitry Shentsev, the result is also above average).
Tymoshenko almost exactly repeated her five years ago result, gaining 7.35 %. The same as for the current president, for her Kharkiv region was one of the most unfavorable regions – a lower percentage of support was recorded only in Donetsk (3.61 %) and Luhansk (4.89 %) regions.
It can be said that after the rating ups of the autumn of 2018, the leader of “Batkivschyna” was left alone with his “core” of voters, yielding “protest” voters to Zelensky. The maximum result Tymoshenko gained in the rural “western belt” of the region (up to 14 %). As was predicted, in all cities of regional significance the result was slightly worse than in the surrounding areas.
As a matter of fact, the example of the Pervomaiskaya colony could lead to an erroneous judgment that the entire vertical of the penitentiary service worked on the result of the current president – this is not correct. In most parts of Kharkiv, Yulia Tymoshenko scored 6-7 % of the vote, but her record result (up to 47%) fell on special precincts (Alekseevskaya, Dikanevskaya and Kachanovskaya colonies, jail and colony №43).
Kharkiv residents, like all Ukrainians, will receive the answer to the main question in the second round. And it is far from being as obvious as sociology and electoral arithmetic speaks about it – a factor of (not) fullness of commissions, a battle with debates and many other things that can prejudge the outcome of the confrontation. Three months ago, no one (except Kolomoisky in an interview with Sonya Koshkina) could predict Zelensky’s success with confidence – with 3-week predictions one also has to be careful. This is Ukraine, and here “everything is possible”.
In Kharkiv, the first round was held according to the principle “you can take a horse to the water, but you cannot make it drink”: despite the enormous effort of Kernes to promote Lyashko in “Kharkiv news” – he received 1.4% in the city, and is completely at risk of repeating the trajectory of “Svoboda” party of the sample of 2014 at the next parliamentary election. That is because he is the “stranger”, and despite any try to introduce him into to the southeast field with a help of a tour around the factories in a helmet and a “Shakhtar” t-shirt – this alienity cannot be eradicated.
Regarding Poroshenko, regrettably for his former and current supporters, this is also true, and this is the fault of those strategists who filled the image of the president with the Middle Ages, who wanted to play the language split again to mobilize the voters, who decided to rely on fear. It is not surprisingly now that Kharkiv, like most of the country, chose an alternative and saw in the “postmodern pig in a poke” a new national consensus.
Certainly, the specificity of such an electorate lies in its mobility and inclination to quickly become disillusioned – if Poroshenko’s rating before the parliamentary elections-2014 managed to fall 2.5 times, then Zelensky risks even more. However, at the moment, the winner of the first round is required not to disappoint his voters just during 16 days.
And obviously, among other things, the results of Poroshenko in Kharkiv should become a science for all future presidents who, with agreements set, drive themselves into the status of Kernes’s electoral hostages.
Anton Avksentiev, PhD in Political Science
Center for Political Analysis “Observatory of Democracy”