Dr. Olexiy Haran

Head of Research, Professor of Politics 

Biography: shorturl.at/CLSU9

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31 October 2020

Olexiy Haran: Voter turnout and Zelensky’s poll

Source: BMB Ukraine

Local elections in Ukraine traditionally see lower voter turnout than parliamentary or presidential races, but the 2020 elections marked a record low — 36.88% compared to 46.5% in 2015. 

According to political scientist Olexiy Haran, there were two main factors that contributed to low turnout this time around: the coronavirus pandemic and, he thinks more importantly, political fatigue. Compared to the enthusiasm seen during last year’s elections, the Ukrainian population is “frustrated with politics,” he says.

While fear of contracting COVID-19 may have given many a reason to avoid the polls, Haran argues that on the other hand, it worked in favor of incumbent mayors and the existing local authorities.

Following the central government’s unpopular lockdown, local governments were “forced to take responsibility for the pandemic.” This in turn led many voters to the dual conclusions that local governments have handled the problem better than Kyiv and that they’re also better at protecting local interests.

As a result, those who did vote supported the powers that be. “It was the local government that found itself in the role of [defending] ordinary citizens and local communities from the central government. [...] And given the results of the Servant of the People party, the central government’s capacity will remain limited after the election,” Haran explains.

He also stresses that the low voter turnout overall provides another reason to call the results of Zelensky’s poll into question — on top of the fact that it was never a representative survey to begin with. “This poll was not representative of Ukraine as a whole, or even of those who voted in the local elections, because a large number of people boycotted it,” he points out.

“It was a show and, unfortunately, it definitely distracted Ukrainians from the real choice — ‘who should we vote for?’ This survey showed once again that the government cares about ‘gimmicks’ and not about substance,” Haran concludes.