Party of Regions
The Party of Regions (Ukrainian: Партія регіонів, romanized: Partija rehioniv, pronounced [ˈpɑrt⁽ʲ⁾ijɐ reɦiˈɔn⁽ʲ⁾iu̯]; Russian: Партия регионов, romanized: Partija regionov) is a pro-Russia political party of Ukraine created in late 1997 that then grew to be the biggest party of Ukraine between 2006 and 2014. Since the February 2014 Ukrainian revolution, the party has not competed in elections and most of its representatives have left the party to continue their careers in other parties. Best known former party members are former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych; both fled to Russia in February 2014.
|Executive secretary||Borys Kolesnikov|
|Founded||26 October 1997|
|Youth wing||Young Regions|
The party was created on 26 October 1997, just prior to the 1998 Ukrainian parliamentary elections, under the name of Party of Regional Revival of Ukraine and led by Volodymyr Rybak. Throughout its existence the party has contained different political groups with diverging ideological outlooks.
The party was reorganized later in 2001 when it united with several others. According to the party's leadership in 2002, from the creation of the party to the end of 2001 the number of members jumped from 30,000 to 500,000. The party claims to ideologically defend and uphold the rights of ethnic Russians and speakers of the Russian language in Ukraine. It originally supported president Leonid Kuchma and joined the pro-government For United Ukraine alliance during the parliamentary elections on 30 March 2002.
Its electoral and financial base has always been located primarily in the east and south-east of Ukraine, where it got wide popular electoral support. In the eastern Ukrainian Donetsk Oblast the party claimed in 2010 to have over 700,000 members. The party was supported mostly by people older than 45 years.
During the 2014 Ukrainian revolution on February 20, 2014, several party members called for the disintegration of Ukraine and a union with the Russian Federation. Oleksandr Yefremov, leader of the Ukrainian parliamentary faction in full support of these proposed actions, and Vladimir Konstantinov, chairman of the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea went to Luhansk to support these decisive actions. On 23 February 2014 the Party of Regions condemned and disassociated itself from Victor Yanukovych for corruption, "criminal orders", his escape, and "cowardice". The following months more than 120 MPs left the party's parliamentary faction.
The party did not participate in the 2014 parliamentary elections. In the following months, the majority of its representatives continued their political careers predominantly with Opposition Bloc, Revival or Our Land.
Party of Regional Revival of Ukraine
The founding congress of the Party of Regional Revival of Ukraine was held on 26 October 1997 in Kiev. The first leader of the party was the mayor of Donetsk, Volodymyr Rybak. On 6 November 1997, the Party of Regional Revival of Ukraine was registered at the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice. On 27 November 1997 there took place the 1st Party Congress, which adopted the electoral party list and platform for the next elections. Already on 13 January 1998 a parliamentary faction was created in the parliament of Ukraine, the Party of Regional Revival of Ukraine (head of coordination council – Gennadiy Samofalov).
During the 1998 parliamentary elections the Party of Regional Revival of Ukraine won 0.90% of the votes. A single party representative was elected to the Ukrainian Parliament by winning one constituency at the regular elections. The party was among the top 10 in Chernivtsi and Donetsk Oblasts. Volodymyr Rybak was the winner of constituency number 45 in Donetsk Oblast.
During the 2nd Party Congress that took place in two stages during the spring of 1999 it was decided to support the presidential candidate Leonid Kuchma for the next presidential elections. It was recommended that the candidate include in his election campaign propositions of the Party of Regional Revival of Ukraine, including one on granting the Russian language official status. In the summer of 1999, the party entered the electoral bloc "Our choice - Leonid Kuchma", consisting of 23 parties and led by Yevhen Kushnaryov, who endorsed incumbent President Leonid Kuchma in the presidential election of 1999.
Creation of the Party of Regions
On 17 November 2000, the 3rd Extraordinary Party Congress adopted the merger of five political parties, For Beautiful Ukraine (Leonid Chernovetsky), All-Ukrainian Party of Pensioners (A. Kapusta), Party of Labor (Valentyn Landyk), Party of Solidarity of Ukraine (Petro Poroshenko), and Party of Regional Revival of Ukraine (Volodymyr Rybak), into a new one under the name of Party of Regional Revival "Labor Solidarity of Ukraine". The co-leaders of the new political polity became Valentyn Landyk, Petro Poroshenko, and Volodymyr Rybak. Also, prior to the merger the Party of Solidarity of Ukraine was completely abandoned by its base party of Serhiy Dovhan, the Peasant Party of Ukraine, which dissolved its union with Solidarity. On February 21, 2001, the Ministry of Justice registered the newly established Party of Regional Revival "Labour Solidarity of Ukraine".
On March 3, 2001, at the 3rd Party Congress, the party changed its name to Party of Regions. At the congress Mykola Azarov, who at that time was chairman of the State Tax Administration of Ukraine, was elected the party leader, but soon resigned in December 2001, being replaced by his deputy and at that time Vice Prime Minister Volodymyr Semynozhenko. In an interview with the newspaper Den (Ukrainian: День) on 6 March 2001, Azarov said that he agreed to become the chairman for a brief period "until the party nominated a leader who will claim the office of the President of Ukraine in 2004". In December 2001 the Party of Regions member Ihor Yushchko was appointed Minister of Finance of Ukraine. On 21 March 2001, the Ministry of Justice re-registered the party under the number 939 with the older date of registration.
Regions of Ukraine was the parliamentary wing of the Party of Regions; it was created at the end of March 2001 after several deputies defected from their original faction. Critics claimed the deputies were "lured away" from those other factions by pressure and analysts claimed most of them had nothing to do with the new party. Nine out of seventeen members of the faction had their political and business roots in the Donetsk region. In July 2002 the party had a faction of 24 people (one deputy left the faction later).
On 20 March 2001, Solidarity announced it would "be as a single bloc". (Eventually the (Solidarity) party became part of the Viktor Yushchenko Bloc Our Ukraine during the 2002 parliamentary elections.)
The party shifted its political ideology to the left and became much more populist in nature before the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election and, as a result, Yanukovych won over a large part of the Communist party's electorate in eastern Ukraine. The party announced support for making Russian a second official language in Ukraine, a pro-Russian foreign policy, and increased social spending. It also advocates the regionalist ideology, and many members support making Ukraine a federation.
The Party of Regions moved to opposition after its candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, lost the 2004 presidential election. The party leader first claimed an electoral victory, but strong allegations of electoral fraud triggered a series of events commonly known as the Orange Revolution. In the re-run of the presidential election ordered by the country's Supreme Court, Viktor Yanukovych lost the election to Viktor Yushchenko.
The Party claimed to be a victim of a political persecution campaign organised by the new government, also because Borys Kolesnykov, the head of the regional party branch and of the Donetsk regional council, was arrested in April 2005 and charged with criminal extortion. The Party of Regions claimed this was an act of political repression, while the authorities believed that Kolesnykov had links to organised crime and his arrest was a purely criminal matter. The Council of Europe called the investigation "in full compliance with European standards". Kolesnykov has since been cleared of charges and released from pre-trial detention.
2006 Parliamentary Election results
At the parliamentary elections on 26 March 2006, the party gained 32.14% of votes and 186 (out of 450) seats in the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian Parliament), forming the largest parliamentary group. On 6 July 2006, the Socialist Party of Ukraine abandoned the "Orange Coalition" between Our Ukraine and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc following the failure of each bloc to reach agreement on the formation of a governing coalition.
On 10 July 2006 a new parliamentary majority titled the "anti-crisis coalition", led by the Party of Regions and including the Socialist Party and the Communist Party, was formed, nominating Viktor Yanukovych to the post of prime minister.
The coalition remained in office until the special parliamentary elections held in September 2007.
2007 Parliamentary Election results
At the parliamentary elections held on 30 September 2007, the party won 175 seats (losing 11 seats) out of 450 seats with 34.37% of the total national vote. The party received the highest number of votes, with a swing of +2.23% in comparison to the 2006 vote.
Following the formation of a governing coalition between Our Ukraine and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc and the election of Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister on 18 December 2007, the Party of Regions formed the parliamentary opposition.
On 13 March 2009, Victor Yanukovych stated the Party of Regions was ready to unite into a coalition with its archrivals the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT). He noted that: "We are ready to unite, but only on the base of the program on struggle with crisis". The previous day the deputy leader of the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko faction, Andriy Portnov, said that the union of his political force with the Party of Regions was highly improbable, but that the union of the BYuT and the Party of Regions could be possible after the next Ukrainian presidential elections. Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko stated on 17 March 2009 that her bloc was ready to join efforts with the Regions Party to pass certain bills in the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada). "You are a representative of the Regions Party, [and] I represent the BYuT. It's time to join efforts for the benefit of the country," Tymoshenko said. On 30 March 2009 Victor Yanukovych stated he did not believe in the possibility of forming a coalition with the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc in the current parliament. At the same time he added that "it would be necessary to agree on main issues" concerning amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine involving local self-government reform, judicial reform and clear division of authority among President, government and parliament. According to Yanukovych, talks with the BYuT were still ongoing in late May 2008.
In early June talks to build a national unity government to address the economic crisis collapsed, and Yulia Tymoshenko accused Yanukovych of betrayal: "He unilaterally, without warning anyone, quit the negotiation process, making a loud political statement, killing the merger and the chances for Ukraine".
In September 2009 Member of Parliament Vasyl Kiselev was expelled from the party and the political council of the Party of Regions. Kiselev was expelled "for violation of provisions and demands of the charter of the Party of Regions and harming the reputation of the party".
In September 2009 Mykola Azarov announced the creation of the Anti-Fascist Forum of Ukraine, the chairmen of which were the member of parliament Dmytro Shentsev (Kharkiv) and the head of the Luhansk Region State Administration, Valeriy Holenko.
The Party of Regions endorsed Viktor Yanukovych as their candidate for the 2010 presidential election. The party intended to create a new coalition in the Verkhovna Rada and form a new government if Yanukovych won the 2010 presidential elections. Yanukovych was elected President of Ukraine on 7 February 2010. On 19 February the Ukrainian parliament terminated the powers of Ukrainian Member of Parliament (MP) Yanukovych, in his place #179 on the electoral list of the Party of Regions at the 2007 early parliamentary elections. Tamara Yehorenko was registered as an MP by the Central Election Commission of Ukraine on 26 February. On 3 March Ukrainian President Yanukovych suspended his membership in the Party (Yanukovych was barred by the Constitution from heading a political party) and handed over leadership in the party and in the parliamentary faction to Mykola Azarov. Nine days later Azarov handed it to Oleksandr Yefremov. On 11 March 2010, together with Bloc Lytvyn and Communist Party of Ukraine, the party joined the first Azarov Government.
Seven extra deputies (four Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko (BYuT) members) joined the Party of Regions faction in October 2010. In March 2011 five more former BYuT deputies joined the faction. By late November 2012 the Party of Regions faction consisted of 195 lawmakers (20 more than the 175 elected in September 2007).
During the 2010 Ukrainian local elections the party won majorities on most regional and city councils as well as most of the mayoralties (except in western Ukraine), and in the 2010 Crimean parliamentary election (where it won over 70% of the seats). It was the only party that won representatives in all Ukrainian Oblasts where elections were held, and it won the most votes in all but four of those Oblasts (the four Oblasts where it did not were situated in Western Ukraine).
In September 2010, the party was planning to sign a memorandum on cooperation with China's Communist Party. On 14 October 2010, the Party of Regions formed a co-operative arrangement with the Socialists and Democrats European parliamentary group.
President Yanukovych and the Party of Regions have been accused of trying to create a "controlled democracy" in Ukraine and as a means to this of trying to "destroy" the main opposition party BYuT, but both have denied these charges.
2012 Parliamentary Election results
In August 2011 Strong Ukraine and People's Party announced that both parties aimed to merge with the Party of Regions. The merger between People's Party and Party of Regions did not materialise. Strong Ukraine and Party of Regions merged on 17 March 2012. (Former) Strong Ukraine leader Serhiy Tyhypko was unanimously elected Party of Regions deputy chairman and member of the Party of Regions political council the same day. Party of Regions parliamentarian Olena Bondarenko had stated (early March 2012) that Party of Regions, Strong Ukraine party and "another party" planned to hold a unity congress on 17 March 2012. No additional third party merged with the Party of Regions on 17 March 2012; according to Ukrainian media Tyhypko had personally prevented a merger of United Centre with the Party of Regions in March 2012.
In late 2011, the party's popularity dropped in opinion polls below 20%, mainly because the party was losing votes to the Communist Party of Ukraine.
In April 2012, the top PR consultancy Burson-Marsteller was hired to represent the interests of the Party of Regions, "to help them communicate its activities as the governing party of Ukraine, as well as to help it explain better its position on the Yulia Tymoshenko case", as explained by Robert Mack, a senior manager at Burson-Marsteller.
In the October 2012 parliamentary elections the party won 72 seats and 30% of the votes under party-list proportional representation (falling from 34% in 2007 and 32% in 2006) and another 115 by winning 115 simple-majority constituencies (it had competed in 204 of the 225 constituencies); this sum gave them a total of 187 seats and 41,56% of the 450 seats in the Ukrainian Parliament. The party had lost about 2 million voters compared with the previous election. On 12 December 2012 the party formed a parliamentary faction of 210 deputies. On 31 December 2013 this faction was 204 votes strong.
At least 18 Party of Regions deputies have criminal ties, according to Hennadiy Moskal, deputy head of Parliament's Committee on Organized Crime and Corruption.
In June 2013, 148 people's deputies of Ukraine signed a letter to the Polish Sejm asking to recognize the Volhynian tragedy as a genocide (uk:Звернення депутатів від Партії регіонів і КПУ до польського Сейму). A total of 119 of those parliamentarians were members of Party of Regions, while other 23 were from the Communist Party of Ukraine.
On 22 February 2014, during the "Maidan revolution", the Verkhovna Rada voted to impeach the honorary chairman of the party, Viktor Yanukovych, as President of Ukraine. Out of the 38 PoR deputies present, 36 voted in favor of ousting Yanukovych, while two did not take part in the vote. Simultaneously both Yanukovych and former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov fled to Russia.
In a written statement the next day, the party denounced Yanukovych, stating they "strongly condemn the criminal orders that led to human victims, an empty state treasury, huge debts, shame before the eyes of the Ukrainian people and the entire world."
Late January 2014 the party's symbol and activities were banned in the Chernivtsi, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk regions. Although there was no legal basis for these bans since in Ukraine only a court can ban the activities of a political force.
The Party of Regions faction in Zhytomyr announced its dissolution on 19 February 2014, in connection with the crisis of the preceding three months.
On 24 February 2014 faction leader Oleksandr Yefremov declared that the party was moving into the opposition. 77 of its MPs had left the faction over the past few days.
On 28 March 2014 Yanukovych asked the Party of Regions to exclude him. The next day, at a party congress, the party nominated Mykhailo Dobkin as its presidential candidate for the 2014 Ukrainian presidential election. The congress expelled from the party Yanukovych, Azarov, former First Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov, ex-chairman of the Ministry of Revenue and Duties Olexander Klimenko, former Energy Minister Eduard Stavitskyi, ex-governor of the Donetsk region Andrew Shishatskiy and Valery Konovalyuk.
On 3 June 2014 twenty PoR deputies left the party's parliamentary faction. Thus the faction's strength was reduced from (at its highest point on 12 December 2012) 210 deputies to 80 deputies on 6 June 2014. A by-product of this was that it became the second biggest faction in parliament, after the faction of Batkivshchyna with 85 members. On 2 July 2014 the 32 member strong new parliamentary faction For Peace and Stability, composed mostly of former Party of Regions MPs, was formed.
Criminal case against deputies
On September 17, 2014, amidst the ongoing war in Donbass, a group of 24 people's deputies of Ukraine from the Party of Regions and the Communist Party of Ukraine, who are members of the Ukrainian parliamentary group For Peace and Stability, met with Sergei Naryshkin, the chairman of the Russian State Duma. On September 25, 2014, the Central Investigation Administration of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs opened a criminal case against those deputies charging them with infringement on the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
2014 Parliamentary Election and disintegration
On 14 September 2014 Party of Regions chose not to participate in the 2014 parliamentary elections; the party deemed the election as lacking legitimacy because the residents of the Donbass could not vote in the election. Many individual members of Party of Regions ended up as candidates of Opposition Bloc.
By the summer of 2015 most representatives of the party in 2014 were members of Opposition Bloc, Revival or Our Land. Others continued their political careers in other parties (mostly Petro Poroshenko Bloc); according to Ukrainian media research of February 2016 22% of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc representatives in regional councils and 12% of this party parliamentary deputies were former members of the Party of Regions.
Party's electoral results
2 / 450
|2002||For United Ukraine bloc||6/225||25/225||
31 / 450
186 / 450
175 / 450
185 / 450
0 / 450
|Presidency of Ukraine|
|Election year||Candidate||First Round||Second Round||Result|
In 2012 Taras Kuzio claimed the electorate of the party was very loyal to them. According to a poll by the Kyiv International Sociology Institute, the number of voters ready to go to polling stations to vote for the Party of Regions dropped from 38% in June 2010 to 13.9% in April 2011.
Recent issue stances
The party asserts it has a pragmatic approach to Ukrainian EU membership with respect to the country's foreign economic interests; it supports "to walk the path of European integration and the implementation of respective standards in the social and economic spheres". Yet, given the European financial crisis, the party sees the issue of Ukraine's accession to the EU as "purely theoretical."
The party accepts Ukrainian as the only state language in Ukraine, but also claims to promote "both the development of the state Ukrainian language and languages of other nationalities residing on the territory of Ukraine".
The Party of Regions supports the cancellation of a number of benefits for deputies of the Ukrainian parliament. Leading party members have stated the party "would mercilessly expel corrupt officials from its ranks".
In November 2013 Party of Regions MP Oleh Tsariov demanded a criminal investigation into the activities of United States Department of State lead TechCamp in Ukraine because he believed it was engaged in "preparations for inciting a civil war" because during training "instructors share their experience of Internet technologies, which are aimed at shaping public opinion and enhancing the protest potential and which were used to organize street protests in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Syria".
The Party of Regions has lost much of its influence amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. 72 deputies have left the party, and remaining deputies either supported key opposition demands like impeaching Yanukovich, firing Zakharchenko and the General Prosecutor or did not vote.
On 23 February, the party faction of Verkhovna Rada published a statement blaming everything wrong on ″Yanukovych and his inner circle″, accusing him in particular of giving out ″criminal orders″ and lamenting that the whole party had been ″in effect hostage of one corrupt Family″.
On 7 April 2014 the party presented its new economic doctrine that consisted of minimal taxes and fees, maximum investor protection, increasing investment attractiveness, as well as deregulation and simplification of licensing procedures, the establishment of a transparent tax system and tax cuts (a reduction of income tax to 12.5%, reducing the income tax rate to 14%), decreasing the inspections of small and medium-sized businesses to not more than once in 5 years, maintaining a 15-year preferential tax system in agriculture, the introduction of effective direct subsidies to farmers to compete on the world market, a compensation of 50% of new fixed assets in crop and livestock in creation of new industries.
On the question of European integration, different views exist within the party. On the one hand, President Viktor Yanukovych, who is a member of the party, has repeatedly underlined his pro-European stances. On the other hand, experts have described the Party of Regions as eurosceptic. The Party's official stance is for increased European integration, but within a framework that is favorable to Ukraine.
The party supports affordable housing through state mortgages with a 3% annual percentage rate, social contracts with employers, financial aid for newborns (to be doubled in 2017), perinatal centers in each region and the upgrading of maternity homes.
The party supports at least 75-percent placement in higher-educational institutions, a minimum-wage student stipend, a minimum 20-percent annual raise in educator salaries and universal Internet access. In labor, the party supports fully subsidizing employers of the disabled, orphans, single mothers and workers over age 50; training the unemployed for occupations with labor shortages; providing internships to students; giving young professionals their first job, and a median salary of ₴8,000 by 2017.
The party supports a median salary of ₴8,000 for physicians and ₴5,500 for other medical personnel, reducing basic-medicine prices by 30 percent, providing access to medicines to patients with cancer, heart disease, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, mobile medical facilities in all rural areas, treatment and rehabilitation for people with limited physical abilities and new pools, stadiums, ice arenas and sports fields in all regions.
The party supports comfortable, affordable housing; security for senior citizens; the repayment of all deposits in the Sberbank of the USSR up to ₴5,000 by 2017; a minimum pension 20 percent over the poverty threshold, and significant pension increases for military and law-enforcement personnel. In the environmental sector, the party supports the completion of the Shelter Project for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant by 2015, the installation of 20,000 centralized water-purification systems and recycling plants in each region.
- Modern economy
- Main goals: GDP growth (at least 5% annually), stability of national currency
- Implementation through: gradual reduction of corporate income tax (16% before 2014), introduction of tax holidays for IT and innovation projects for period of 10 years, providing domestic manufacturers with affordable bank loans
- Effective power generation, energy independence
- increase the extraction of domestic coal, oil and shale gas
- begin developing the shelf gas fields
- enhance the use of solar, wind and hydropower
- modernizing power plants for efficient use of domestic coal and other fuels
- Rural policy
- creation of 1,500 agricultural cooperatives
- construction of new elevators, vegetable and fruit storage
- establishing prices for land share (no less than 20,000 hrv/ha) and rent (no lower than 1,000 hrv/ha)
- development of social infrastructure in rural areas (auto roads, hospitals and schools, gas supply)
- Infrastructure policy
- construction of modern automobile roads (with ability to travel from west to east of Ukraine in 14 hours)
- new speed rail link between the capital and regions
- affordable aviation transportation for each Ukrainian
- construction and redevelopment of airports, sea and river ports, rail stations
- construction of new metro stations and development of commuter transportation
Government and society
Effective nation: responsible government and open society
- Civil policy
- intellectual freedom
- freedom of speech
- equal opportunities for women and men in all spheres of life
- legislative support for the native language
- granting to the Russian language the status of the second state language
- Regional policy
- increased role of local government
- 60% of consolidated state budget to local councils
- Law enforcement and military policy
- contract army
- abolition of compulsory conscription from January 1, 2014
- Foreign policy
- preservation of the non-aligned status of Ukraine – safety guarantee for every citizen
- gaining associate membership in the European Union, creation of free-trade zone, removal of visa barriers between Ukraine and the EU
- strengthening economic cooperation within the free-trade zone framework with countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States
- strategic partnership with Russia, United States, China
- opening to Ukraine the markets of "Big Twenty" and of developing countries
- realization of competitive advantages of the country for the right to host sporting and cultural events at European and world levels
The Party of Regions publishes a nationwide newspaper called Время Регионов (English trans. Time of the Regions). The newspaper is based and published in Kiev. It is released weekly, every Thursday, in Ukrainian and Russian. The newspaper was launched on 24 August 2008. It is available online in PDF format.
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